In the hustle and bustle of our modern days, it's hard to stay focused. So our editors tested out the best way to achieve zen—there are apps for that, of course. Here are four to try for yourself. Can we get an om?
The App: Headspace
The Gist: This cheerful app utilizes cute modern graphics and real-world visualization tools to help you meditate in a way that feels more practical than hippie dip. Aside from being handsome and well-spoken, creator Andy Puddicombe has been ordained as a Tibetan Buddhist monk, and he promises 10 minutes a day will increase focus and happiness, decrease stress, and help you essentially become a better overall human being (there’s some neuroscience data behind it, too). Arianna Huffington (of Huffington Post), Olympian Etienne Stott, and actress Emma Watson are fans. Get a free 10-session trial before splurging on monthly, yearly, or forever plans.
Moment of Zen: After literal hours of tossing and turning, I awoke the next morning, realizing that not two minutes into a session of Puddicombe’s soothing British accent had lulled me into a comatose state. Whether that’s meditation or the sheer peace of a good night’s sleep, who cares?
The App: MindBody Connect
The Gist: Think of this app as your mind and body butler; a personal assistant who has committed to memory every ashtanga session, zumba class, and meditation sitting, within a certain radius of a specific location. And, because ratings are everything, you get plenty of feedback from classgoers, Yelp style. Hankering for a West African dance class? Check out ODC. Prenatal pilates? PJCC in Foster City seems promising with its 94 five-heart (read: star) ratings. Need an ear candling treatment? Good luck finding one within 25 miles of San Francisco, or at least one that’s listed on MindBody Connect. (But if you head to Clement Street, we’d bet that you’ll find a willing practitioner within five blocks flat.)
Moment of Zen: No more excuses! Even if you’re on the road, you can have class schedules and teacher bios at your fingertips. You can be a discriminating client by taking the ratings to, um, heart. And since you can pay for sessions or treatments with a credit card on file, all you have to do is slip into your Lulus and show up.
—Leilani Marie Labong
The App: Calm
The Gist: Calm caters to everyone from beginners to certified yogis with their signature 7 Steps of Calm program as well as 7 guided meditations ranging from 2-30 minutes (2 minutes to zen FTW!), 10 nature scenes, 16 music tracks, and 50 meditations focusing on creativity, energy, meditation, confidence, sleep, and more.
Moment of Zen: For someone like to me (no one would ever describe my mindset as calm), Calm offered the easiest paths to inner peace. I just turned on the sleep guide, and hit the hay. Who knew meditating could be so easy?
The App: Zen180
The Gist: Scientifically engineered audio tracks meant to help enhance five specific brainwave patterns by using “binaural beats.”
Moment of Zen: While I appreciate the scientific aspect to Zen180, meditation should neither be steeped in scientific lingo nor viewed as a quick spiritual fix. For me, the act of meditating is a way to listen to the universe or a higher power—a practice requiring both patience and the (often difficult) ability to sit alone with oneself for a prolonged period of time. Zen180’s promise of Vitamin Water-like remedies—audio selections are geared toward a focused, creative, relaxed, or romantic mind—gave me more pause for concern than it did spiritual revelation. While Zen180 is harmless fun—they describe the tool as “background audio that you can listen to while reading, studying, doing homework”—wearing headphones (required for Zen180’s audio tracks) while meditating diffuses the entire purpose.