Trend Watch: Drop-In Meditation Studios Provide On-Demand Zen (Yahoo)

At The Den in Los Angeles, you sign up for a group meditation session just like you book a SoulCycle class. Bonus: celeb sightings! 

If you can’t remember the last time you actually unplugged and relaxed — or if you aren’t sure you even know how to anymore — then we’ve got good news. Drop-in studios offering both classes and open space for self-guided practice and pop-up meditation events are cropping up across the country.

The rising trend is evident at the new breed of meditation studios now open in New York City and Los Angeles. At The Den in Los Angeles, which just opened its doors this January, classes include a prenatal/fertility option for those trying to conceive or who are already pregnant, 30-minute lunchtime detoxes, candlelight evening sessions and sound baths, which incorporate sound waves produced by creating vibrations on gemstone bowls. At LA’s Unplug, there are also family classes plus those just for kids/teens to help them learn effective coping skills.

Meditation for the Busy Person Who Needs It Most

A more accessible way to meditate makes total sense since the evidence proving meditation’s ability to foster happiness, improve relationships, slow aging, lower blood pressure, and improve immunity continues to pile up. Throw in the fact that many of us are working longer hours than at any time since labor statistics have been kept, and that we actually check our phones twice as often as we think we do — and yeah, figuring out a way to chill sounds like a good idea.

“We’re burning out from technology overload and constant digital contact,” says Jesse Israel, 30, founder MediClub, a New York-based monthly meditation group and The Big Quiet, a roving mass meditation meet-up that has happened in locations including an urban farm lot in Brooklyn, and a boat that held 700 guests. “As a result, we’re finding ourselves with less time to just be, so we’re craving quiet and introspection,” he tells Yahoo Health.

Today’s “modern meditation” movement, as Israel calls is, blends contemporary lifestyle activities with conscious living. “At our events, we pair meditation in fun, social spaces with DJs and great food to create experiences that are culturally relevant, conscious and accessible,” he explains. In other words, the focus at most of these new events and studios isn’t on meditation’s deep religious roots (at least not in the beginner classes) nor is a particular style of meditation pushed. The point is to learn how to let the mind go and get centered.

Boutique Fitness Influences Meditation Studios

With airy, minimalist spaces that more closely resemble a hip spinning studio or a high-design coffee bar, these places aim to welcome meditators of all levels and backgrounds. “So many people want to try meditation but can’t carve out the time at home—or just don’t know how to get started,” explains Ellie Burrows, co-founder of MNDFL, a New York studio that offers 30- and 45-minute classes in various meditation techniques. So she and her partner Lodro Rinzler modeled MNDFL after a gym or yoga studio, where you can book a cushion, drop in, and breathe the same way you would reserve a bike and work out.

But even in cities without dedicated studios, modern meditation opportunities are on the rise. Just before Christmas, Social Yoga in Vancouver, British Columbia, organized a pop-up meditation space in a funky Airstream trailer parked smack in the middle of the city’s busiest shopping district. Its founder Anita Cheung also partners with hip independent local businesses (like a minimalist Japanese rare tea bar) to hold meditation events after hours.

And in San Francisco, yoga and meditation expert Ritu Riyat offers a monthly Pop Up Meditation Lab at Mission District businesses to inspire people to use meditation in their daily lives—and to make it accessible to those who can’t afford to pay studio fees. “At the beginning, people often cringe at the thought of sitting still for five minutes,” Riyat tells Yahoo Health. “But they leave in awe of how quickly the times passes and impressed by their capabilities.”

Ultimately, we’re living in an era that’s requiring us to be plugged in to our devices and obligations in unprecedented ways. And something’s got to give. “Ironically, being so connected is making people feel completely disconnected to who they are and the world around them,” points out Tal Rabinowitz, owner/founder of The Den.

The antidote, it seems, is finding quiet in a world where it’s becoming increasingly rare. And luckily it’s becoming easier than ever to do just that.