When you end up on this page, chances are that you are looking to follow an online mindfulness or meditation course. And you have come to the right place for that!
But before you start, maybe you want to know whether these online meditation courses are really worth your money? The short answer is yes! But I provide extensive proof on why this is so in the first part of this post. I also detail what to look out for.
The second part is all about finding the best online opportunities that fit your style and budget.
You can use the table of content hereunder to easily skip sections. I’ll be showing you some of the best courses I know in different price categories and what you can expect from each.
Have fun reading!
- Are online mindfulness and meditation courses worth their money?
- What type of course should I choose?
- A list of the best online mindfulness and meditation courses available in 2020
- A note on free versus paid versions
- Full length meditation or mindfulness courses
- Subscription based meditation courses
- Specialized meditation courses
- Cheap online mindfulness and meditation courses
- Free online MBSR course
Are online mindfulness and meditation courses worth their money?
When you want to start a mindfulness or a meditation course, you want to know that they will be effective for whatever purpose you want to follow them.
In my post on the benefits of loving-kindness meditation, I sum up the benefits that this type of meditation can have. But also regular mindfulness has been shown to have stress-reducing effects.
Scientists did not test all forms of meditation, but it looks like all tested forms do have benefits. So starting a meditation practice is a great thing to do.
The only caveat is that most of this research was conducted with in-person trainings. So, offline mindfulness and meditation interventions.
So, do online meditation courses come with the same benefits, and are they worth your money? And if yes, which one should you chose?
What does the research say about online mindfulness and meditation courses?
Let’s take the example of this research paper from 2012:
Participation in the online mindfulness course signiﬁcantly reduced perceived stress upon completion and remained stable at follow-up. The pre-post effect size was equivalent to levels found in other class-based mindfulness programs. Furthermore, people who had higher PSS (Perceived Stress Scale) scores before the course reported engaging in signiﬁcantly more mindfulness practice, which was in turn associated with greater decreases in PSS.
A more recent article form 2018 finds similar results:
Online Mindfulness Based Interventions showed promising effectiveness on the reduction of anxiety and depression.
And, this meta analysis finds that:
Results showed that online MBIs have a small but significant beneficial impact on depression, anxiety, well-being and mindfulness. The largest effect was found for stress, with a moderate effect size
Pitfalls of online interventions
So most studies find that online mindfulness courses yield similar results than in-person interventions. However, a few issues affect the outcome.
- First, a part of the psychological work in MBSR and MBCT courses comes from the reflections and questions asked by participants. One can learn a lot by just listening to what other people report and it makes that all of us have problems. Online versions can incorporate this feature in forums and discussion boards, but not everybody will use this facility.
- Second, people tend to drop out sooner from an online course than from courses where they need to attend in person. It is easier to forget to do the course altogether. So you need to be more determined and strict to attend online classes.
- A last possible pitfall is the instructor. Not all instructors are equal. When I started to become an instructor, I had over a decade of experience in meditation. unfortunately, some fellow students learned about mindfulness less than a year before starting the training. Obviously, not everybody had the same background. Obviously, the online market reflects this trend, so when choosing a course, you need to be very careful. That is why I only recommend courses from reputable teachers!
Advantages of online interventions
There are a number of obvious advantages when choosing an online meditation class over in-person classes.
- The first is flexibility. Online classes have no fixed schedule! You can do them whenever you want from wherever you want. No in-person class can compete with this. When I started out with mindfulness, I had to search for a long time to find one close enough to my house at a time that I could attend.
- The second advantage is that you can take the course multiple times for the same price. Usually, online courses remain available after completion. I think this is a huge bonus as reviewing this kind of material for a second time is very beneficial.
- Thirdly, you now potentially have access to world-renowned teachers. Something that is very unlikely when you do this in person. Taking a class with Jon Kabat-Zinn is a possibility if you want.
- The last advantage is the price. Most online mindfulness and meditation courses are less than half the price of the in-person version. So if you do not have a lot of money to spare, this is an excellent investment.
With its obvious pro and contra arguments, it starts to be clear that online meditation courses are a suitable alternative for the in-person variant.
Psychological outcomes (like improvement in depression, anxiety, and stress) seem to be on par with the offline version.
Drop out and social interactions are worse for the online variant, but choosing a reputable teacher will ensure that you get the most for your money.
What type of course should I choose?
The participants to the first mindfulness class I taught consisted out of a number of my friends and their friends. It so happened that some of them were also becoming trainers. Not in mindfulness, but in hatha yoga. This immediately explains their interest in meditation since this is part of yoga.
The comment I got from these people was that what I was saying and teaching was all close to what they knew and loved, but something was lacking. For them, it was too cerebral. And by cerebral, they did not mean intellectual. Since it is absolutely not.
And I understand their concern and share it, but it also one of the important reasons why I chose mindfulness. It is important to open the heart, but for me, it is not so easy to do this in a new-age kind of way.
But, if you are drawn to the new-age kind of living, or if you are a religious kind of person, you might benefit more from a course that puts more emphasis on those aspects rather than a course whose aim is more of a psychological nature.
Below I detail some of the options that are available. At the end of this post, I include a table that summarizes the options.
Scientifically tested interventions
Although it starts to be clear that most types of meditation have benefits, it can be a safe choice to choose an intervention that has at least some backup form science. And by this, I mean with articles in peer-reviewed journals done by independent researchers.
Now, that is a tough criterion. For instance, TM (Transcendental Meditation) does not meet this requirement in my mind although they have a lot of publications in different journals, they are mostly done by believers.
In and of itself this is not a problem. So I would describe TM as almost scientific. There is some good research, but now it needs to be enlarged to a broader research group.
So at the moment only MBSR and MBCT are in this category. There are literally a thousand articles in peer-reviewed journals being written every year about the subject and they all point towards the fact that these interventions do have benefits.
The approach here is to combine western psychology with eastern meditation and to cut out any religion. That is the basis.
When you want to follow a course that is less focused on the cognitive side of things, you might opt for heartfulness. The meditation techniques taught are similar to the ones used in MBSR, but the heart is much more taken into account.
That is not to say that there is no heartfulness in MBCT or MBSR, but usually, it is touched only lightly.
Your options here are a true heartfulness course or a yoga class that places more emphasis on meditation than on body postures and movement.
Most meditation styles are in this category. Zen, Tibetan Buddhism, mantra meditation, …
If you have a predilection towards the religious, I’d check out one of these. Every religion has its version of meditation.
For instance, in Christianity, there exists mantra meditation. It is called a rosary. If you concentrate well on the words you are praying and bring your mind back to the present moment when your thoughts stray, it is genuine meditation.
Unfortunately, our western religions do not have a system to learn how to do this the proper way. Your best option is to learn in a Hindu, Buddhist, or secular setting and then translate it back to our own religion.
Specialized meditation courses
What I mean by specialized meditation courses are those courses that are meant to address a certain problem in the life of the meditator.
Examples are meditations geared towards anxiety or anger. But it could also be a meditation class on better sleep or overcoming shyness.
All these courses rely in some way or another on the basic techniques of mindfulness or meditation and take it one step further by enhancing it with exercises coming from western psychology in order to take a closer look at one specific problem.
This approach is certainly a very valid one, and I understand that if you really want to get rid of your anxiety, you would be interested in such a course.
But meditation is a tricky skill. Too much emphasis on the result will harm your progress. Not enough results and you will stop meditating altogether.
A catch 22.
That is why I recommend first taking a general course in meditation and only after you have mastered the basics, switch to a more goal-oriented course.
The below table summarizes the different styles of meditation.
|Meditation Style||Scientific proof||Religious||Psychological||Heart||Main |
|MBSR||Yes||No||Yes||Some||Stress Reduction, well being|
|MBCT||Yes||No||Yes||No||depression, anxiety treatment, well being|
A list of the best online mindfulness and meditation courses available in 2020
This list applies to what is available at the moment of writing this post in May 2020. But rest assured this post will be revisited regularly to offer you the best possible online courses available at the moment.
A note on free versus paid versions
If you are short on cash, a free version of a mindfulness course can certainly be an excellent option. However, the free versions ask even more of the participants than the paid versions.
As I wrote above, the problem with online meditation courses is the high number of people who give up. This is, even more, the case with the free versions. They usually do not have a system to remind you to do the exercises, and since they are free anyway, you tend to under valuate them. Which is a pity.
But if you think you can do this, there are some good options. I list the best below.
Full length meditation or mindfulness courses
If you are seriously considering to learn to meditate or to take a mindfulness course, I’d strongly recommend taking one that lasts at least six to eight weeks and more if possible.
When I started meditating, more than 15 years ago, I was very hesitant to take a longer course because I was unsure of what people might think of me and other practical issues. I had been learning to meditate on my own for a year or two, so I did not see the interest of taking a more expensive course.
I was proven wrong. When I did make the jump, I paid the large fee and I never regretted it; it set me up on a wonderful journey with lots of benefits.
If you chose the option of a longer online course, I’d immediately go for the best courses available. that why I include only courses that run at SoundsTrue, which is one of the best online providers of meditation-related courses and material. I really love this company. Moreover, its founder, Tammy Simons, is such a wonderful woman. So I recommend all of their courses.
Classical MBSR online course
This first course is a classical MBSR course.
As I said, I recommend all the courses by soundstrue, but in particular their course by Dr. Saki Santorelli (a close collaborator of Jon Kabat-Zinn, who is as you probably know the creator of the MBSR program).
So in this course, you can be sure to stay close to the original MBSR program. They even included the traditional full day of mindfulness, as in the original MBSR program. I have not seen in any other online meditation program. And frankly, where I live, this day-long program is not even included in the in-person courses.
So it is great value for your money. You get the full program for roughly half the price of a face-to-face event.
But there is one more great boon to this program and that is what happens after the finish of the course. What I see in many of my students is that after the 8th week has ended, they stop meditating. They get the initial results and then forget about them.
This course addresses this issue by giving you a full year of emails with helpful tips on how to live more mindfully. For me, only this part makes it worth its price!
If you want to check it out, your can either read the description of the course and sign up here, or if you are unsure, you can register for a free audio teaching taught by Jon Kabat-Zinn and two senior mindfulness professors, Dr. Saki Santorelli and Florence Meleo-Meyer.
Heartfulness online course
If you want to learn to meditate but are the kind of person that is more of the emotional type or tend to gravitate towards teachings on love and compassion, then this next course by Jack Cornfield and Tara Brach are just what you are looking for.
Both these teachers are world-renowned and both are bestselling authors. If you want to convince yourself of this fact, you can just look up the books of Tara Brach on amazon here, and those of Jack Cornfield here.
What sets them apart from Dr. Santorelly is that they have adapted their course not to simple stress reduction (which their course also does) but they are working more directly with the emotions, and more particularly with difficult emotions.
So both MBSR and this course will learn you how to be more mindful in your life, reduce stress and you will definitely learn how to meditate. Both of these courses have excellent teachers.
It is more expensive than the previous course, but the tools you will learn are invaluable.
I agree that the price tag on this course is rather high, but they offer support groups which is a huge plus. It means they are trying to close the gap between in person courses as much as possible can be done. As far as support goes, it does not get better than this course.
Online mindfulness course in a Buddhist mindset
There is a lot to say to take a purely secular MCBT course and to forget about the origins of the technique altogether.
Jon Kabat-Zinn specifically designed his MBCT in this way in order to fit the western mindset.
However, I have grown to think that a lot of the richness of the Buddhist teachings have been lost and that this is sometimes to the detriment of the person following the course. It is for this reason that when you attend a longer meditation retreat, this information is again introduced, although in a strict secular way.
And especially for you who are inclined towards spirituality or Buddhist thought, but who are strongly rooted in western culture and scientific thought, comes a course for zen monk and peace Nobel nominee Thich Nhat Hanh (see his books on amazon here).
To be honest, I do not think this course is well fitted for beginners as he will not cover the bases in great detail. And if you are starting out, learning the basics is essentially what you need to do.
So this is a course for people who have already some experience in mediation by learning by themselves, or by taking a course and who are ready to deepen the practice.
Subscription based meditation courses
As stated before, one of the minus points of learning mindfulness through an 8-week program is that after the program is over, you stop meditating.
Subscription-based meditation courses do not have this problem as they continue to add new content to keep their subscribers happy.
10 Minute Mind with Monique Rhodes
I found a great little site that offers daily short 10-minute meditation sessions. I took their free 10 days program to test the quality and it was more than ok.
I disliked the tracks with music, but that is a personal preference, and they offer both with and without music. If you want to test the free 10 days you can head over to their site.
This course is best suited for people who do not want to spend too much time every day learning to meditate. 10 minutes a day is not a huge commitment.
But obviously, the results you get will differ from those of the 8-week programs. But is a great introduction to the topic with a relatively small investment.
Limitless life program
The limitless life program is a far more in depth program for meditation.
They offer a lot of courses that you can follow separately (but then they are more expensive) or they offer a subscription.
What I like about this site is that the people behind it clearly know what they are talking about. Just by reading their blog, you can get a good idea of what you will find inside.
The fact that there also is a forum where people can help and encourage each other, and where the teachers are also present is a great plus.
Furthermore, this offer is reasonably priced at 25$/month. Luckily, I got you a link where you can get the first 14 days for 1$ so you have the opportunity to see whether this program suit you or not.
You can access the 1$ offer via this link.
Specialized meditation courses
There are literally hundreds of specialized meditation courses available and they range over different topics and price ranges.
For instance, at Mind Body Green, a company that is dedicated to all things natural, they have several courses on anxiety. But hey also have a course on falling asleep as one on happiness.
The link to their overview page on their meditation courses is here.
And, they even offer a full-length meditation program that offers an introduction to different styles of meditation. This could be interesting if you are open to many things, but it might be too scattered for some.
In any case, this is the link to their Essential Guide To Meditation Class.
Cheap online mindfulness and meditation courses
Price: Anywhere from $15 to $199
When it comes to medium-priced courses, no better place to head over than udemy.
So if you are uncertain that you want to fully commit to meditation and want to try out some course, udemy is the place to go.
But you should realize that a lot of the caveats that come with free courses are also applicable here. Udemy will send you reminders, but the long courses all have some form of support and journaling included. It is not very likely you will find this in a udemy course
Another caveat is that it is much more complicated to find courses where you can be certain that the quality of teachings is high. I have seen both excellent and really bad courses on their platform.
A good way to assess the quality of the course is by either checking the reviews or by the name of the instructor.
For instance, Tara Brach and Jack Kornfield are also on Udemy. You can check all Tara’s course on the platform via this link and Jack’s one via this one. Remark that these courses are a lot cheaper than the ones they offer at soundstrue, but they offer far less value also. You cannot have the cake and eat it.
But when I review other popular meditation courses on the platform that are popular and have a good review, I think to myself that they are just introduction to meditation.
Do not get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with that. But do not expect to really learn mindfulness and meditation form these courses. For instance, the most popular mindfulness meditation course with 4.3/5 rating (874 ratings) and 5,985 students enrolled has only short guided meditations. That is fine, but it will limit the progress you will make. What I do like about the course though is that it has plenty of opportunities to journal. I think this is a plus point.
My 2 cent on Udemy meditation courses
I think that Udemy is good for 2 types of meditation students
- Absolute beginners who are unsure if meditation is something for them and do not have a lot of money. But, If I were you, I’d even give the free option below a go if I were you. It is a really good resource.
- People wanting to specialize in a certain kind of meditation after having completed a foundational course like the long duration meditation courses from the previous section.
Udemy offers a very broad range of meditation specializations. But you need to lay the foundation of learning to really meditate, and I think that most Udemy courses are not well suited for that. But, by all means, feel free to disagree with me in the comments.
Also, be on the lookout for courses that charge $200 on Udemy. If that is the price you are willing to pay for a course, a course with SoundsTrue will give you so much more for this kind of money (see the sections on long term course).
Free online MBSR course
Believe it or no, but there is an excellent free MBSR course out there. It is called Palouse Mindfulness. It is an excellent course that covers almost everything you need to know about MBSR.
The course is given by Dave Potter who is a certified MBSR instructor.
As said, this is a great resource, with the only caveat that there is no support guiding you through the process. You will need to set reminders to actually do the exercises and head back to the site every week to listen to the new material.
Another trap you should not fall into when using this website is to binge-watch all there is to see on the site. Palouse Mindfulness does not require you to register so it becomes tempting to just watch everything in the first couple of days. But it does not work like this. you need to quite literally digest the information.
Watching the videos in the recommended time frame and then doing the exercises is the way to go. I wish you good luck if you try this option. Let me know how it went in the comments, I’d like to learn more about how people respond to this course.
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