If 2017 has taught us anything so far, it’s that the time for introspection is now. And while meditation is a powerful tool to harness solo, those moments of quiet reflection and mindfulness can feel that much more powerful among others. From guided meditation classes to mass meditations like the new movement The Big Quiet, going bigger-than-you has become an increasingly popular way to promote positivity, connectivity and even change. Research backs it, too. Recent findings show that group meditation can improve feelings of wellbeing and reduce psychological distress and anxiety, among other health benefits. Free your mind, and the rest will follow, as En Vogue once sang.
For those totally new to meditation, following a teacher’s lead can help you reach a meditative state more easily than if you were to wander the dark corners of the mind on your own. It might also allow you to hone key interpersonal skills like compassion and openness (often absent when we’re in stressed-out states), according to a study in the Journal of Psychosocial Nursing and Mental Health Services.
“People feel crazier, sadder and angrier…and need relief.”
Based on study author Mary Jane Ott’s findings, daily meditation “fosters development of a profound inner calmness and non-reactivity of the mind, allowing individuals to face, and even embrace, all aspects of daily life…” The act of being, and not doing, also encourages compassion, less hasty decision-making and being “open to new possibilities, transformation and healing,” writes Ott.
Then there’s the whole accountability thing. As Los Angeles-based Reiki master and meditation teacher Kelsey Patel puts it: “A structured class brings a sense of commitment to a student that they may or may not have when meditating at home.”
Exploring New (Head) Spaces
The merits of group meditation, and the growing need for dedicated spaces to think, connect and decompress, are a big impetus behind the recent boutique meditation boom.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), mental disorders have increased roughly 50 percent globally from 1990 to 2017, with depression, anxiety disorders, phobias and PTSD at an all-time high. “People feel crazier, sadder and angrier…and need relief,” write Susie Ellis and Beth McGroarty in their 2017 Wellness Trends report from the Global Wellness Summit.
So maybe it’s no surprise that people are shelling out more money on mental wellness than ever before. And your sources for chill vibes — especially if you reside in a large, ommm-inclined city like New York City or Los Angeles — continue to multiply.
But which spots are worth your pretty penny, and what can you expect? From the life-size zen garden at Ceremony Meditation in Venice, CA to the dome-shaped sanctuary of New York City’s Inscape, here are a few meditation studios making it easier to clear some headspace.
5 Meditation Studios to Stop and Feel the Zen
Location: Venice, CA
“Our greatest hope is to remind people we’re all connected…”
Good vibrations come easy at this breezy beachside outpost that’s only two months old. The Venice studio features two places for reflection: a quiet, tucked away loft, and a sunny backyard complete with a giant zen garden made of sand. “We wanted to create an environment where you have the most ability to feel stillness, to be, and to heal,” says founder and meditation instructor Travis Majick.
And the perfectly Instagram-able backyard? It isn’t just aesthetics. “We knew the space needed to charm the mind, so you can forget the story you came in with,”says Majick. “Our greatest hope is to remind people we’re all connected, and tap into the bigger story we’re all a part of, whatever that may be.”
Beginners can try the free intro class to help demystify the practice (asking questions and sharing observations encouraged). The studio also offers reiki healing, sound baths, drum circles and, if you’re feeling adventurous, a “Detox Balancer” hand and foot bath.
Location: New York, NY
What do you get when you combine the history of ancient monasteries, state-of-the-art technology and the vibes from the temple at Burning Man? Inscape, a sprawling 5,000-square-foot Manhattan space, which opened its doors last November.
Founded by meditation-minded entrepreneur Khajak Keledjian, Inscape sets out to make meditation a more accessible, modern and immersive experience. It features two studios: a giant wooden dome softly lit to mimic the horizon and a relaxation-focused space complete with large-scale art installations. The 33- to 44-minute sessions cover everything from focus meditation to visualization to (our favorite) deep rest. The Inscape meditation app is another way to stay tuned in when you’re off the clock or traveling.
3. The DEN
Location: Los Angeles, CA
“Come as you are, leave feeling better.”
Enter The DEN, and your first interaction will likely be a hug. Maybe that’s from Patel, who teaches reiki healing and meditation, or maybe it’s from a new wellness retreat-going friend. “I love The DEN because not only is it where I started the reiki healing circle class, but it also has such a welcoming, open and easy vibe to it,” Patel says.
If the cozy living room feel (picture warm brick walls, plush ottomans and perfectly steeped mugs of tea) doesn’t keep you around, the 30-plus classes offerings will. A few of our favorites: Lunchtime Detox (a 30-minute mental tune-up) and #CTFO (yup, just chill the f*ck out). As founder Tal Rabinowitz says, “Come as you are, leave feeling better.” No pretentiousness, just good vibes.
Locations: West Village and Upper East Side, NYC; Williamsburg, Brooklyn
By now we’re used to sold-out spin bikes — and the meditation cushions are going fast here, too. But you can thank the co-founders of MNDFL for gifting mindful millennials with two gorgeous new studios this year.
In the same vein as the original West Village location, the Upper East Side and Williamsburg outposts are both set in charming townhouses, feature lush, living walls and have skylights overhead. “Our studios are meant to feel like home. Or, at least, the spacious home you’d love to have in New York,” the website states. Sign up for Breath, Emotions, Sound or Heart — the focus is just as simple as that. Sometimes a little breathing room, and a friendly guide, is all you need.
Location: Austin, TX
Dry Bar, Genius Bar, the local Bar-Bar… If you’ve been hitting ‘em all up like they’re going out of style, Meditation Bar encourages you to make a pit stop for the mind. The theme here is community and inclusiveness. And the main mission: “to make Austin ‘The Most Mindful City in America,’” says co-owner Lauren Foreman. In fact, when the studio opened in November 2015, the four all-female founders invited the entire city of Austin (teachers, students and mayor Steven Adler included) to come take classes free for the first two months.
The studio offers 30- to 45-minute guided meditations that are independent in belief (read: secular). They also have a broad appeal (clientele ranges from tech company execs to endurance athletes to busy moms and dads). Visitors have a dozen classes to choose from, including sessions that focus on breath work, aromatherapy and mantra-based chanting. And let’s not forget the “Happy Hour” session, designed to leave you “feeling happier, without the hangover,” Foreman says.
360 Degrees of Wellness
If a space solely dedicated to the meditative arts doesn’t get your chakras going, a hybrid approach to calming the mind might be more your style. The most straightforward example of that is yoga, which is a moving meditation after all. New studios, like Woom Center in Lower Manhattan, also take these mind-body flows one step further with LED light installations, sound therapy and live instrumentation. At Miami’s Love Life Wellness Center, meditation creeps its way into Vinyasa — with massage, acupuncture and nutritional counseling offered under the same roof. Then there’s NTM Healing, where sound baths lead to deeper introspection. And the Chelsea spa Naturopathica offers a meditation lounge with 360 degrees of lush, glowing landscapes that surround your restoration session.
The bottom line: Feeling overwhelmed or out of step is normal. But these studios normalize the notion of taking a moment, just for you.