I. Need. To. Relax.
December 17, 2015 2:25 PM   Subscribe

Looking for guided meditation apps for my iPhone or downloadable MP3s. I've been doing meditation in the morning and it helps me focus my day. Usually something like 5-20 minutes, general themes like calmness, gratitude, body scan, the usual. I've read the other questions, tried a few that have been okay, and have a few picky requests...

Ones I have tried:

Calm (warning, autoplaying nature sounds) - like the meditations a lot but relentless upselling makes me hate it. Do not want to subscribe.
Stop, Breathe & Think - like the funny stickers and telling how you're doing, sort of dislike the gal's voice & in-app purchases
ZenFriend - like the recordkeeping aspect, very few free guided meditations
These from UCLA - they are fine and if it turns out a set of MP3s is the answer, I'm okay with that

Would like ones with a few options but don't mind using the same ten over and over again. Specific request: I don't care if they are free or cost money (if worth it) but in-app purchases are a no go and harsh my already-precarious mellow. Can't tell if paid versions of some of the apps still have things for sale. Will not subscribe to anything (apps or podcasts but happy to download a lot of audio). Not looking for videos or anything streaming (needs to work with no internet). I am great at Googling, I am looking for personal suggestions from people who use these things to save me from some trial and error. Thank you.
posted by jessamyn to Health & Fitness (31 answers total) 172 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I really like the Insight Timer app. It includes a bazillion free guided meditations. I've really only used the ones by Tara Brach, but I like them very much.
posted by OrangeDisk at 2:28 PM on December 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

Audiodharma has a ton of dharma talks and a lot of guided meditations covering a variety of topics. The main teacher, Gil Fronsdal, is really good. I've been listening to him for about 7 years now and have learned so much from him. I also like Andrea Fellas and Ayya Anandabodhi from there as well.
posted by dawkins_7 at 2:29 PM on December 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Have a look at the Insight timer, which has a basic timer as well as many guided meditations. I believe it's totally free to use.

On preview, seconded.
posted by theantikitty at 2:30 PM on December 17, 2015

I have used the Insight Timer app and never found/noticed any free guided meditations? It felt very old school to me, like a website from the early aughts. I might try it again if I can find the guided meditations.

My favorite guided meditations are "podcasts" I've downloaded from Meditation Oasis as mp3s. No upselling in these. I have not tried any of their apps. Meditations 3, 4, 10 and 11 are among my favorites.

Watching this thread with interest.
posted by purple_bird at 2:40 PM on December 17, 2015

Here is a random offering from Andrew Johnson, a lovely Scottish man who is apparently a hypnotherapist but I generally don't pay any attention to that. He does lovely guided breathing and relaxation and "body scans" and will also talk on subjects if you prefer such as reducing panic, stopping smoking or whatever. My main love with him is how permissive he is, often using phrases like "if it feels comfortable, close your eyes" etc.

Now, to your format question. The mp3s on YouTube are free of course, you can but his mp3s on iTunes, and he also has apps, ranging from free to pay and offering stuff like customized timers, do you want to wake up or drift off when he has done etc. One of these, and I am not sure which, has in-app purchases to unlock specific content which you can otherwise buy as stand-alone apps. I think it's Relax+ while Infinite Relax is similar but you can't buy extra "programs" it's just regular general relax.
posted by Iteki at 2:44 PM on December 17, 2015 [7 favorites]

Best answer: I really reccomend the Buddhify app. You have to pay for it but it's so so worth it. Lots of different people leading the mediations, all for different situations in life. Also it's very nicely designed and laid out
posted by stevedawg at 2:44 PM on December 17, 2015 [7 favorites]

Not exactly what you asked about, but going to someplace like this a few times might really upgrade your meditation experience by creating a sort of "muscle memory" of deeeeep relaxation.

I've recommended Mindifi here before. At first it's effective, eventually you get bored of it. I think it's $20 for the whole series, but the free sessions are perfectly serviceable.
posted by jbenben at 2:45 PM on December 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

No way! I actually know Andrew Johnson, Iteki, and have been to see him. He IS a lovely man, I didn't know he had a YouTube channel.
But that's not what I came back to say - I wanted to mention that the Buddhify app has around 20 different categories with 5 or so guided meditations within each category. This app has changed things for me this year which is why I'm protelsysing about it so much.
posted by stevedawg at 2:55 PM on December 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

I like Stop Breathe Think too, but also have mixed feelings about her voice.

I think you're really like Headspace. It's a similar format, cute, has short videos sometimes, and the voice is male and British (and cute! haha).
posted by jrobin276 at 2:57 PM on December 17, 2015 [3 favorites]

Seconding Headspace. You can try the free sequences before you commit to a subscription.
posted by trixie119 at 3:08 PM on December 17, 2015

I use buddhify and it works great for me. Many different "activity" options like waking up, feeling upset, walking in the city, etc with several options for each. I don't remember how much I paid for it but I have let it go and redownloaded and various points and it's always been helpful. The sleep ones knock me RIGHT OUT.
posted by rubster at 3:10 PM on December 17, 2015

I also like headspace. It's not woo-woo. I've done the free sequence and it's great. I don't know what you mean by subscribe but there are subscriptions you can get within the app, although they aren't at all in-your-face.
posted by pintapicasso at 3:39 PM on December 17, 2015

I like Andrew Johnson's stuff too, as well as Meditation Oasis. Both are kind and non-judgmental and relatively straightforward.
posted by darksong at 3:50 PM on December 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: If non-American accents are ok check out the Smiling Mind program. There's an app (iphone and android) and web program. It was developed to roll out to schools but there are options for different age groups.
posted by Trivia Newton John at 4:01 PM on December 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Seconding Meditation Oasis. I realized the sound of the voice and the music were what really calmed me down. I resonated with both, and that is important. You can also adjust your own time and playlists.
posted by Vaike at 4:10 PM on December 17, 2015

Seconding Smiling Mind. I've used it to varying success in my classrooms for senior students, but have used it more for personal use at home before I go to sleep. It has an adult program, small "bite-size" (5-10 min) meditations, and longer, less guided 20-45 minute meditations. The voice is Australian, but incredibly calming and relaxing.
posted by chronic sublime at 4:54 PM on December 17, 2015

Thirding Meditation Oasis. Mary Maddux's voice and the pacing of the music is what does it for me (cuz I'm stupid picky about those things). Meditation Oasis is one of the few things that can help me fall asleep when I'm having a bout of insomnia.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 5:46 PM on December 17, 2015

Love love love Meditation Oasis. So good.
posted by somedaycatlady at 6:03 PM on December 17, 2015

Headspace! I'm a convert, after trying most of the other apps suggested above. Headspace is perfect. There are some free meditations, and then if you like them you can pay for a subscription but you don't have to do in-app purchasing.
posted by Stacey at 6:38 PM on December 17, 2015

Came in to say a friend has gotten a lot out of Headspace and talks almost evangelically about its value to her.
posted by gingerbeer at 7:10 PM on December 17, 2015

Best answer: As well as writing very nice books on mindfulness, Mark Williams has just about the most soothing voice I've ever encountered. It was listening to his mp3s (found here) that I realized how much more helpful I find it to have a voice guiding me through breathing and body scans. There is a bit much "now let's be seated" at the beginning, but I just keep coming back to him over and over.
posted by mittens at 7:42 PM on December 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

I could have written this post. Thirding Buddify, which has really great different topics and themes and different voices so it doesn't feel repetitive, and there are varied lengths and styles. I feel the same as you about Calm.
posted by Miko at 7:59 PM on December 17, 2015

Just here to add to the Headspace chorus. Also, this is outside your question about meditation apps per se, but I've been doing breathwork based on the Wim Hof method, and I've found it very useful. It definitely is a different kind of experience from the sort of westernized mindfulness meditation most of us have been exposed to. I think there's definitely a place for both.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 5:21 AM on December 18, 2015

I like Andrew Johnson's recordings very much. I find the "sleep" one especially useful for when I am feeling anxious enough that it's keeping me from sleep.
posted by ocherdraco at 5:48 AM on December 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Just recommending Headspace again - it really is fantastic. Do the free 10 day program first, and then buy the subscription if you like it (completing the program nets you a 10% off voucher iirc if you check the email you register with after completion - no IAPs thereafter!). I've tried a lot of the other apps, and I reckon Headspace is the best at actually teaching meditation, with the most content and variety of themed programs as well.
posted by MonsieurPsychosis at 5:53 AM on December 18, 2015

N'thing Headspace.

Tara Brach also has gazillions of free downloads, varying in length and focus. Her website is a bit old-school but I looked her up after hearing her interviewed on a podcast.
posted by Happy Dave at 6:26 AM on December 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you all very much. I've downloaded buddhify, Smiling Mind, and Insight Timer and the guided meditations from Audiodharma and Meditation Oasis. Headspace looks terrific but it's the subscription/IAP model that I'm trying to avoid, though if I change my mind on that front it seems to be the one people really prefer. Appreciate you all taking the time to share your experiences.
posted by jessamyn at 7:03 AM on December 18, 2015 [5 favorites]

Considering the answers thus far I'm not sure if this is what you're aiming for, but London Insight has a few downloadable mp3's that might work for you, and on the longer side a youtube channel has some of Joseph Goldstein's guided mediations, like this one that might be helpful.
posted by squeak at 7:07 AM on December 18, 2015

There are a few great suggestions here already, but it's worth mentioning The meditation podcast.

+1 for Headspace. It's not free but it is high quality and gets me to meditate consistently.

For quiet meditation I really like Samsara, an iOS meditation timer.
posted by aeighty at 9:11 AM on December 18, 2015

I really like Simply Being. There aren't topic options, but you can choose the length of your meditation and adjust the volume of both the music and the voiceover (so you can choose no music if you want). I pick the 20 minute option most times, and I find it really relaxing. Looking at that iTunes page, it seems like they also have a "Relax & Rest" app that you might like too since it has different topics like "breath" or "whole body."
posted by meggan at 11:04 AM on December 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

Mod note: Final update from the OP:
Hey it's a year later and I meditated nearly every day of 2016. It was a big game changer for me. I changed it up a bit from time to time but here's the year in review

- someone gifted me a Headspace membership for three months and that helped me learn the techniques well. Particularly useful for me was noting feelings without getting stuck to them, and curiousity about my mental state without controlling it. And, of course, breathing.
- Buddhify was awesome for situational meditation like walking meditation and traveling meditation but ultimately I used it all up and I like trying new things. I still use it sometimes for their waking/sleeping meditations. Worth the $$
- Smiling Mind was incredible but they changed the model partway through the year, upgraded the app, lost all my things and were bad on support. No big deal, I rolled with it, but am now done with it. Very good options there for younger meditators.
- I still go back to Stop, Breathe and Think for a few guided meditations that I really like from Mind Body Awareness Project. Micah Anderson has the voice I want to listen to when I meditate.
- Lately I've gone back to trying out Insight Timer and just doing meditations to peaceful music now that I can do a lot of the techniquey stuff on my own. There's a seemingly endless amount of different music to listen to and the app works just like I want.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:36 AM on January 6, 2017 [12 favorites]

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