On a recent Tuesday morning in Bryant Park, dozens of New Yorkers gathered to sit on folding chairs, close their eyes and meditate.
During the next 30 minutes, Ziva Meditation representatives guided participants through a series of actions, such as mentally listing what they're grateful for and inhaling in and exhaling out of opposite nostrils.
Carving out time in one's day for an intentional relaxation routine can seem unrealistic in the city that never sleeps. But meditation is becoming more common in the city, from outdoor parks to yoga studios to museums.
Just last month, the biggest mass meditation in Central Park's history took place in Rumsey Playfield, with 1,500 tickets distributed for the June 20 event dubbed The Big Quiet. Organized in part by the City Parks Foundation, the free event aimed to introduce the practice to busy New Yorkers of all levels.
So what is meditation, exactly? It can take on various forms, but in general, the practice focuses on breathing awareness and mindfulness for anywhere from 15 to 90 minutes.
The quiet practice can have several advantages.
"The benefits are sometimes summed up in the ABCs: greater awareness, balance and connection," said Sharon Salzberg of New York Insight Meditation Center, who is leading a meditation series at the Rubin Museum of Art starting next month. "We tend to have more perspective and be more responsive rather than reactive to all the ups and downs of our day."
Emily Fletcher, founder of Ziva Meditation, said that meditation can aid people with certain medical issues.
"There's a long list: insomnia, depression, anxiety, migraines, ADD, PTSD. Those are the biggies," she said.
Felicia Newsome, a licensed massage therapist who incorporates breathing techniques into her practice, cites reduced stress, lower blood pressure and boosted immunity as potential health benefits.
Attaining a competitive edge in the workplace is another perk that this is drawing more people to the practice, Fletcher said.
What isn't meditation? The goal is not, as many assume, to stop oneself from thinking, said Fletcher.
"People often think that meditation isn't working, [but] dropping expectations around benefits are helpful ways to avoid this," said The Big Quiet founder Jesse Israel.
Newsome advises that first-timers jump right in and practice every day.
"Find where you're comfortable at: home, on the MTA, seated, lying down," she said. "Be kind to yourself. There is no right or wrong way."
Intro meditation classes for beginners
Want to join the meditating massess Here's where you can get practicing in NYC from morning to night every day of the week:
A weekly summer series in the park led by Ziva Meditation focuses on breathing, sense and observation. Tuesdays from 11-11:30 a.m. now through Aug. 25, FREE; Fifth Avenue Terrace of the New York Public Library
The High Line
Beginners are encouraged to attend this weekly outdoor guided meditation session, featuring members of the Integral Yoga Institute, Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center and the Interdependence Project. Wednesdays from 8:30-9:30 a.m. now through September (canceled in the event of rain), FREE; 22nd Street seating steps
Rubin Museum of Art
The museum's Mindfulness Meditation Lunchtime Series will be led by master teacher Sharon Salzberg and others from the New York Insight Meditation Center. Wednesdays from 1-1:45 p.m. in August and September, $15 (free for members); 150 W. 17th St., 212-620-5000
Upper West Side Yoga and Wellness
Its 30-minute classes are good for beginners, with instruction provided throughout the entire session. Tuesdays-Thursdays at 7:30 a.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8:50 p.m., Sundays at 7:20 p.m., donation-based; 75B W. 85th St., 212-595-2221
US The cultural center hosts a two-hour introduction to meditation every week geared toward beginners. Tuesdays from 7-9 p.m., $10 (suggested); 22 W. 15th St., 212-807-0563
Sivananda Yoga Vendata Centre
The yoga centers offers free 90-minute group meditation classes twice a week in the evenings, on Wednesdays at 7:45 p.m. and Sundays at 6:15 p.m. It is also hosting an intro course on Aug. 3 from 6-7:30 p.m. ($80, $64/members). 243 W. 24th St., 212-255-4560
3 types of meditation practices
New to meditation No one practice is the same. Here's a quick rundown of some popular methods you might encounter as you explore what works for you:
Satsang: This practice places an emphasis on the group dynamic and commonly features group discussions and self-inquiry sessions.
Nadi Suddhi: This form focuses on a specific breathing technique that allows the mind to concentrate on inhaling and exhaling.
Vedic: Ideal for particularly busy people, a defining feature of vedic meditation is its use of a singular mantra to help the mind to calm down and focus.