Breathing meditations like Vipassana meditation are a great way to calm down and become relaxed. But your breath isn’t the only thing that you can focus on for mindfulness-based stress reduction. Focusing on your body and your body parts during a body scan meditation is a great way to pull your mind into the present moment and calm down. It is easy to learn and can help you connect in a spiritual and intimate way to your body.
WHAT IS A BODY SCAN MEDITATION?
A body scan meditation is a mindfulness practice that helps you bring awareness to every single part of your body. It takes about a half hour at most and can be done in your own home.
As a beginner, you’ll start by focusing on larger areas of their body. Starting at your feet, you’ll progress up through your legs, pelvis, back, stomach area, arms, shoulders and neck, ending at your head. As you zone into different parts of your body, carefully note the sensations you are feeling.
As you progress as a body scanner, the body parts you focus on will become more minute and specific. Instead of just focusing on your legs, you might hone in on how your left calf feels. When you get to your head, you might check to see if you are holding any tension in your jaw muscles or forehead.
You’ll notice exactly what your body is feeling and how it’s influencing your mood. Maybe your muscles are tense, which is making you emotionally tense. Maybe you feel a dull ache in an area that you didn’t notice before and it has you irritable. Maybe the area you’re focusing on feels good and relaxed, which is just as important to note.
Instead of identifying physical sensations as good or bad, try to view these sensations as pleasant, neutral or unpleasant. This takes any value judgment out of what you are experiencing, changing how you relate to your body’s physical sensations. There is no right or wrong way to feel.
Those who have never done body scan meditations before often report feeling like they should move around. In our day to day lives, we have a number of responsibilities that require us to be in constant motion, continually working on or getting ready for the next thing. When you take a moment to stop and take stock of your body, it can leave you feeling restless. This is normal and it means you’re doing the scan correctly.
HOW CAN BODY MEDITATION HELP
ENHANCING AWARENESS OF YOUR BODY
Body scans are a great way to bring attention to issues you need to address. If you have pains or aches you’ve been ignoring, becoming more aware of them will help you see how bad they are. This often results in seeking treatment earlier than you otherwise would, and makes it easy to address a problem before it becomes too severe.
Regularly checking in with your body is also a great way to see if there are any emotions connected to the pain you are feeling. Emotional and physical pain activate similar regions in the brain, and can easily be mistaken for one another. Ever gotten pain in your chest after a particularly bad break up, or felt nauseous when your anxiety spikes? That’s an example of your emotions taking effect on your body.
Removing judgment from your meditation practice helps you learn acceptance. As a society, we’ve been programmed to prioritize good things and stay away from bad things, as if everything in life needs to be given a mark. However, when it comes to what is going on in your body, what might feel bad in the moment could be a way for your body to let you know what it needs.
Switching from making a value judgment to observing what is happening makes it easier to accept things as they are. And becoming aware of your problems before you try to change them prevents you from jumping to conclusions.
Mindfulness practices, like body scan meditation, help reduce worries that can lead to high levels of stress and cause trouble sleeping. Body scan meditation trains your mind to respond to stress more effectively, enhancing your well-being and your connection with the one body you have.
STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE TO PERFORMING A BODY SCAN MEDITATION
Body scan meditations are simple meditations. Follow the meditation instructions below to get started.
- Before you begin, make sure you have the time and space to do a body scan. You’ll want to be in an environment free from distractions and disturbances. When you wake up, or right when you go to sleep can be a good time. You’ll also want to set aside 15-30 minutes to make sure you have enough time to scan your entire body.
- Set an intention for your practice. If you’re having a hard time deciding on an intention, you can try any of the following:
- Slow your breath
- Identify where pain is coming from
- Be present in the moment
- Find a comfortable place to lay down. You’ll want to lie on your back, your heels on the floor and your arms at your sides.
- Next, get grounded. Close your eyes, take a deep breath and notice what is touching your head or your hips. Feel the mat or the floor underneath you. Release the tension in the areas you can feel connecting to the floor.
- Now you are ready to begin the body scan. If you’re having a hard time, imagine you’re taking a tour of your body. You’re not trying to change anything you find, you are simply observing and taking note.
- Start by paying attention to your feet. Feel how your heels connect to the floor. Notice any sensation in your toes. Are your feet cold? Take note of anything that comes up without categorizing it as good or bad.
- Once you scan your feet, let them slip out of awareness as you observe the next part of your body. Think of each body part like an exhibit. You will have to go through some empty hall space before you can get to the next exhibit.
- Repeat this practice for your lower legs, upper legs, the bottom of your torso, your stomach, back, arms, hands, shoulders, neck and head.
- Once you’ve scanned through the different parts of your body, you’ll want to focus on whole-body awareness. Connecting to your skin can help connect to your whole body.
There is a large and varied world of different mindfulness meditations that a mindfulness practitioner can try. Body scan meditation is one of the few that takes you beyond your breath into the rest of your body. It is an effective part of a stress reduction program. If you’re ready to rediscover your body, try body scan meditation.