I was first introduced to body scan meditation when I began my Mindfulness training. Often this relaxing meditation is used to help manage pain; experiments have demonstrated that by accepting pain, people can feel less pain while also reducing painkillers. As part of a mindful based stress reduction plan it’s also a great stress / anxiety reliever.

The body scan meditation I explain here is a seated meditation, not in the ‘traditional’ laying position; I find the seated meditation position helpful for people who are at work and want to refocus their attention and/or manage stressful feelings. That said, I also find the body scan meditation very useful (in the lying position), when I am having a challenge falling asleep and/or when I’ve woken up and am having a hard time getting back to sleep because my mind is racing. In these cases the body scan helps me ‘slow down’ and fall asleep.

Practicing the body scan meditation on a regular basis has many benefits. The body scan can:

  • Help your mind become more focused.
  • Shift your attention away from negative thoughts and pain.
  • Reduce stress / anxiety (mindful based stress reduction).

How To Get Ready For Your Body Scan Meditation

Block out at least 10 minutes but take as much time as you can. Most people enjoy 20-40 minutes.

Before you begin:

  • Be warm and comfortable. (I’ve done this meditation when I'm alone in the sauna or steam room at the gym).
  • If you can, remove restrictive cloths like jackets.
  • Remove your shoes (if you are comfortable doing this).
  • Use a comfortable chair with your feet on the floor and hands resting in your lap.
  • If you are lying down, lay on a bed or a mat with your arms lying comfortably at your side.

Don't worry about doing it right. Tell yourself that whatever you do will be perfect. The purpose of the body scan meditation is to bring awareness to each part of our body— not to judge and then relax that body part.

Set Your Intention

Identify what you want to happen. For example: “I want to reduce feelings of stress I’m having about an upcoming difficult conversation I have to have.”

Agree that when you feel tension in your body you wont be upset, you will simply acknowledge it and move on. Confirm that once you have finished scanning a body part you will let that body part go and move to the next body part.

Get Grounded

Don't listen to the sounds around you, let everything fade into the background.

Before you start your body scan notice the parts of the body in contact with your chair and imagine relaxing any tension. Common areas for tension include your jaws, neck, lower back, shoulders and/or legs.

Begin Your Body Scan Meditation

You are going to take a tour of your whole body starting with the left foot.

  • Close your eyes if you wish or leave them open with a soft gaze, not focusing on anything in particular.
  • Rest for a few moments, paying attention to the natural rhythm of your breathing.
  • Like with all meditation, breathe slowly – in through your nose and out through your mouth.
  • Keep this breathing rhythm throughout your body scan. Your breathing may naturally slow down even further.
  • Feel your abdomen move outwards as your diaphragm draws air into your lungs.
  • When thoughts distract you remain mindful and detach from them, gently, patiently return your attention to your breath and body.

Shift your attention from your breathing down to your left foot. Feel how the bottom of your foot makes contact with the floor. If you can’t feel any sensation, just be aware of the absence of a sensation. Gradually move your attention up through your left leg scanning for any sensation in your foot... calf... thigh, accepting all sensations – not judging.

For each part of the body, linger for a few moments and notice the different sensations.

Scan your lower torso and then move down your right leg to your foot and begin scanning your right foot.  If thoughts appear, that's fine. Gently come back to your breath. Slowly inhale while scanning through your right calf, knee, and thigh.

Move into your abdomen and stomach. Remain aware of your stomach, your breath... up and down. Become aware of sensations. Scan your upper torso, shoulders, and then follow the same procedure with your arms that you used for your legs beginning with your left arm. Scan up along the length of your arm, to your chest. Then scan your right arm starting with your right hand and then up to your neck and face. Feel the sensations in your jaws, your throat. Relax your tongue in your mouth. Don't hold any stress - breathe and let your body continue to relax. Finally feel the top of your head.

Like with any meditation, each time your mind drifts, notice what it was focusing on and bring your attention back to your breathing. Be mindful of breathing in and out.

Connect Your Body Scan Meditation All Together

After you scan the head, you want to connect your body and feel the energy moving through it. Feel your skin and how it’s wrapped around your body. Continue to relax into the moment. Notice how open you are.

Especially if you were using your meditation for mindful based stress reduction, be aware of your inner attitude. Focus your attention on your breathing for a few minutes.

Consider spending just a few minutes every day doing a body scan meditation - perhaps schedule 15 minutes every day for the next week and see how you do.

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Copyright © 2015 by Bruce Mayhew.


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