What is a Body Scan?
The body scan is a mindfulness exercise that simply brings attention to the physical sensations in the body. It is performed by scanning through each part of the body and being attentive at the moment to what you are experiencing. The exercise can last as little as 3 minutes or go as long as 30-45 minutes depending on how much time you want to focus on each part of the body.
What are the benefits of a Body Scan?
A key element of self-awareness is the ability to notice the physiological signals in the body. Integrating a body scan into our practice can help us become more aware and sensitive to shifts in our bodies and the emotions they are signaling. This in turn will help us have greater choice in how we want to respond in any situation. What are the benefits of a Body Scan? The body scan exercise has also been shown to help reduce anxiety and stress and improve sleep patterns. It you have trouble sleeping and are carrying a lot of stress and anxiety with you to bed the body scan is a wonderful exercise to practice just before going to bed.
Body Scan Exercise
The body scan can be performed while sitting, lying down, or standing. For this exercise, we are going to assume you are seated.
1. Begin by taking a few deep breaths.
2. Get into a comfortable posture. Make sure your feet are on the ground and your back is straight, but not sti, and slightly forward. Please your hands on your lap.
3. If you feel comfortable close your eyes. If not gently gaze in front of you.
4. Take another few long deep breaths. As you breathe in notice the air filling your body and your stomach expanding. As you breathe out begin to notice the weight of your body on the chair or our. Throughout this exercise, your mind may wander and when it does, gently come back to this anchor of our breath and reconnect once again with breathing in and breathing out.
5. Bring your attention to your feet. Notice the sensation of your feet on the door. Feel the weight of your feet. The pressure of them against the ground and the heat of them. Feel the sensation of your socks and shoes.
6. Gently move your attention to your legs. Notice any sensations you are feeling in your legs. Is there any tension or discomfort? Do they feel relaxed and comfortable? As you breathe in visualize the air going down into your legs. As you breathe out begin to feel some of the tension soften.
7. If you and your mind begin to wander, and you will just notice that it has wandered and gently become aware of your breath once again and return to the scan.
8. Now move to your back. Notice any sensations you are feeling. Is there any tension or discomfort? If so, notice how the experience of this tension changes from moment to moment. As you breathe in visualize the air going down into your back. As you breathe out begin to feel some of the tension soften.
9. Now move to your stomach and chest area. Spend a little time noticing any sensations you are feeling. Is there any tension or tightness in your stomach or chest? If so, let it relax little by little with each breath.
10. Again if your mind has wandered return to the anchor of your breath and becomes aware of breathing in and out.
11. Now move to your arms and hands. Notice any sensation in your arms and hands. Become aware of your fingertips, the palms of your hands, your wrists, your elbows.
12. As you go through this you may notice that your attention goes to another area in your body or to a thought or sound. This is not a problem just something for you to notice. This is the mind doing what it naturally does, generating dierent thoughts. If it helps just recognize the thought or sound and instead of judging yourself for your loss of focus just acknowledge the sound or thought. Sometimes it can help to name where the mind has wandered and said to yourself, ‘thought’ or ‘sound’. Gently bring your attention back to your body.
13. Next bring attention to your shoulders and neck. This is a place where many people hold lots of tension. Become aware of any sensations or tightness in this area. As you breathe in visualize the air going down into the shoulders. As you breathe out begin to feel some of the tension soften.
14. Next become aware of your jaw and mouth. Feel any tension that may be present. Gently relax the jaw and mouth.
15. Become aware of the rest of the face. Let the facial muscles become soft. Notice the nose and feel the air going in and out of your nostrils. Notice the temperature of the air as it enters and leaves.
16. Bring attention now to your whole body. Connect once again to your breath as it moves through your body.
17. When you are ready gently open your eyes and spend a moment to be in gratitude for the gift of life and the wonderful ability of your body to help you become aware of how you are feeling in the moment.