Integral Yoga Institute, New York
227 West 13th Street (212-929-0586; integralyogaofnewyork.org)
Cost: $13 per class.
The Scene: Self-help types sit Indian-style on the carpeted floor discussing their thoughts and concerns as a trained guru leads them through the various forms of meditation.
Pros: No question goes unanswered. The room is sunny and comfortable.
Cons: The earnestly interactive format—students are expected to share—may make curious skeptics uncomfortable; the school’s focus on the teachings of its founder, Satchidananda, can feel limiting.
Tibet House U.S.
22 West 15th Street (212-807-0563; tibethouse.org)
The Scene: Sophisticated yoga grads and Buddhist converts listen as a seasoned teacher discusses the history of meditation and leads them in a simple group meditation.
Pros: Relaxed and nonthreatening; the instructor doesn’t take herself too seriously.
Cons: The packed house means latecomers are relegated to chairs or cushionless seats on the floor.
Olive Leaf Wholeness Center
145 East 23rd Street (212-477-0405; oliveleafwholenesscenter.com)
The Scene: Frazzled midtown types sit on hard black chairs in an unadorned room as a psychologist leads them in group meditation.
Pros: The small class size encourages interaction between students and the fawning instructor.
Cons: It’s hard to concentrate in a setting this uncomfortable.
Shambhala Meditation Center of New York
118 West 22nd Street, 6th floor (212-675-6544; ny.shambhala.org)
Cost: Suggested donation of $10.
The Scene: Curious neophytes surrender their shoes and sit cross-legged in a brightly decorated, clean room as a teacher lectures.
Pros: Clean and comfortable.
Cons: It’s billed as a Learn to Meditate class, but the teachers spend only ten minutes on technique, using the rest of the hour to plug their “real” classes and seminars.
377 Park Avenue South, 2nd floor (212-447-9642; now-yoga.com)
Cost: $150 for six sessions.
The Scene: Serious students (just four of them on my visit) sit in quiet contemplation on the floor of a yoga studio as a relaxed, studied instructor clad all in white teaches techniques and fields questions.
Pros: Rigorous but calming. The soft-lit space is relaxing and comfortable and seems perfectly suited for meditation study.
Taoist Arts Center
342 East 9th Street (212-477-7055;taoist-arts.com)
Cost: $20; $90 for eight sessions.
the scene: In the cozy basement of a Tai Chi studio, students learn about breathing methods from slipper-clad New Age types.
Pros: The soothing atmosphere and nonjudgmental instructors make beginners feel comfortable.
Cons: The emphasis is on relaxation more than meditation, and the space is a little shabby.
Linda Tilton, director of wellness at the New York Open Center, on how to make the most of your meditation training.
1. Don’t settle on just any class. When you’re working on something so personal, the specific class you choose is very important. If the belief system or instructor doesn’t resonate with you, trust that feeling.
2. Experiment with different types of meditation. The three general focusing tools are mantra, breathing, and guided visualization. Not all will work for everyone, so figure out what’s most effective for you.
3. Five to ten minutes of practice a day is enough. Sometimes you do something for five minutes and it feels like an hour; other times, you take an hour and it feels like five minutes has passed. Meditation should be like the former—it should have the impact of an hour.
4. Create a ritual for yourself. Have a symbol for your routine that works even when you’re traveling, whether it’s lighting a candle or incense, or drinking tea. What’s important is that it be quick and easy.
5. Don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t work at once. It’s like learning to walk: It may be a while before you get it down, but once you do, it can take you on some great journeys.