Appiphilia: 5 apps to help you chill out

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Visitors at Burning Man 2008 in Black Rock City, Nev., participate in guided meditative chanting at center camp. Credit: Spencer Weiner / Los Angeles Times

People are panicking about the spread of swine flu and sweating the fluctuations of the stock market and banking system. Cars are going more than they’re coming -- and these days that’s the brands, not just traffic. There’s tension on the sidewalks for those of us compelled to type while walking -- and for those who might have to save us from stepping into traffic.

Yes, there’s a lot to stress out about. But here’s an idea: chill out.

Maybe you can’t get to a group meditation session like the one above. Heck, that many people would stress me out. But the iPhone or BlackBerry you’re tethered to may actually be able to help. Here’s a look at five apps that get you moving in the right direction when it comes to relaxing.


iLava (99 cents)

What it is: That signature staple of the ‘60s and many college dorm rooms, on your iPhone.

What sizzles: You can listen to Jimi Hendrix and watch your iLava at the same time, man! If you’re not listening to music on the iPhone or iPod Touch, you can hear the calming whoosh and glug of your virtual lava lamp. And for those of us who still need control, it lets you tilt, shake and pinch some action out of that lamp. It has an off switch, and there are seven color options to choose from. Touch the screen and find out you have power in iLava land.

What fizzles: The heart option with a rose as wallpaper is a bit gag-worthy and hokey.

Bottom line: It’s very i-chill.

Bowls ($1.99)

What it is: Virtual Tibetan singing bowls make music for your mind.

What sizzles: We Appiphiliacs love choice, and this app gives you seven different bowls accompanied by seven different instruments or bells. It can be a personal experience (with headphones) or a shared one (connected to a speaker).The resonant hum is quite calming.

What fizzles: You have to actually make the circular motions to generate sound. So you have to work for your relaxation.

Bottom line: It’s a portable sound bath. Ommmm....

Relax with Andrew Johnson Lite (Free)

What it is: Guided meditation on the go with the Scottish clinical hypnotherapist.

What sizzles: At the end of my day, I popped the iPhone into my speakers and reclined. About two minutes after Johnson started talking, I was out. You can turn the instructions off, which is great after you’ve heard them the first time. (Don’t drive while listening is among the guidance he gives there.) All you do is hit ‘Begin’ and then listen and chill.

If you get interrupted, you can either pause or stop it.

What fizzles: After ‘put your hands in your lap,’ I have no memory of the experience. (Wait, maybe that’s a good thing.)

Bottom line: A truly relaxing break from reality. (And an intoxicating accent to meditate to.)

myMassage (99 cents)

What it is: Aims to turn ‘silent mode’ into a massage.

What sizzles: There are many iPhone/iPod Touch apps that buzz and vibrate. This one is a very simple interface. You have four different speeds, ranging from what’s described as ‘slow and steady to super-fast overdrive.’ (A bit of an overstatement, but OK.) One fun feature: Shake your iPhone to shuffle the speeds of the ‘massage.’

What fizzles: While it has a selection of speeds, it never really hits that spot. The shape of the phone is better for skipping across water (not that we’d EVER do that) than for massaging aching muscles.

Bottom line: It’s a novelty, really. If you need a massage, get one. If you are comforted by a buzzing phone, this will do you just fine.

Because we’ve heard that there actually are devices people use other than the iPhone -- really! -- we’re going to branch out occasionally into apps for them too.

Massage Therapy for BlackBerry ($1.49 Handango, $2.95 ShopCrackberry)

What it is: This app aims to turn your BlackBerry (yes, BlackBerry!!) into a PDM -- personal digital masseuse.

What sizzles: It goes to 11 -- and to 12 even! This app gives a dozen vibration options that are gradual in intensity. I downloaded and installed it on the device via BlackBerry App World, where it goes for $2.99.

What fizzles: Again, the angles on these smartphones aren’t so great for, say, a shiatsu treatment. But you can get buzzed.

Bottom line: It felt more like an obsessive repeat caller than a massage. But you focus on the buzz more than the e-mail, so it’s a break from the bustle.

What apps do you use to shift to chill mode? Tell us in the comments area below.

Corrected, 9:55 a.m. Wednesday: An earlier version of this post listed the price for Bowls as 99 cents. It actually costs $1.99.

-- Michelle Maltais

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