“Meditation means I have to sit still, shut my eyes, and breathe in complete silence… right?”

Silence and deep breathing are essential to many meditation traditions, but that doesn’t mean that formal practice is the only route you can go. Like all spiritual exercises, meditation is done best when it feels right to you, whether that means a conventional practice or a more unique approach. Here are 4 alternative meditation exercises that will help you relax the mind and restore your body:

1. Labyrinth Tracing

Labyrinths have been used as “walking meditations” since ancient times. The idea is not to solve the maze, but instead to pay attention to your thoughts as you follow its path. If you cannot visit an actual labyrinth, you can print one on a piece of paper and use your finger as a guide.

2. Cairn Building

Balancing stones is an old Zen technique of examining the mind. Flat pebbles work best for this exercise- start with the biggest ones on the bottom and build your way up, paying close attention to your breathing as you complete the tower.

3. Water Exercises

This is a great meditation alternative if you live near the sea. Remove your shoes and walk slowly along the beach, feeling the sand shift beneath your feet. Stop at the water’s edge, and watch how the waves flow and crash. Let the sounds of the ocean return you to a place of peace in your mind. If you like to stay at home, you can simply observe the ripples that a drop of water creates.

4. Athletic Activity

Take 10-20 minutes and completely lose yourself in a moderate physical activity. This could be anything from swimming laps to shooting baskets. Just breathe deeply and allow your mind to concentrate fully on the activity at hand.

Meditation is great for boosting your physical well being, your emotional health and your spiritual understanding. Whichever way you choose to practice, be sure to engage fully and go at your own pace!