The body scan is one of the most effective ways to begin a mindfulness meditation practice. The purpose is to tune in to your body—to reconnect to your physical self—and notice any sensations you’re feeling without judgement.
While many people find the body scan relaxing, relaxation is not the primary goal. The goal is to train the mind to be more open and aware of sensory experiences—and ultimately, more accepting.
With time and practice, the body scan will build your ability to focus and be fully present in your life.
Body scan meditation is a good way to release tension you might not even realise you're experiencing. Body scanning involves paying attention to parts of the body and bodily sensations in a gradual sequence from feet to head.
Benefits of a regular practice
Best when performed weekly (or even daily if possible), practicing body scan meditation is associated with many mental and physical health benefits. Research shows that stress reduction is one of the primary benefits of body scan meditation, which in turn can have physical benefits including reduced inflammation, fatigue, and even insomnia.
In this way, this body scanning works to break the cycle of physical and psychological tension that can feed on itself. As a result, the body scan meditation is a very useful and effective meditation that can help you to return to and maintain a relaxed state when you become too tense.
How to practice body scan meditation
- Get comfortable. Lying down is preferable, particularly if you're doing a body scan meditation before you fall asleep. If that's not possible or comfortable, sitting comfortably is also an option.
- Take a few deep breaths. Let your breathing slow down, and start breathing from your belly instead of from your chest, letting your abdomen expand and contract with each breath. If you find your shoulders rising and falling with each breath, focus more on breathing from your belly, as though a balloon is inflating and deflating in your abdomen with each breath.
- Bring awareness to your feet. Now slowly bring your attention down to your feet. Begin observing sensations in your feet. If you notice pain, acknowledge it and any thoughts or emotions that accompany it, and gently breathe through it.
- Breathe into the tension. If you notice any uncomfortable sensations, focus your attention on them. Breathe into them, and see what happens. Visualise the tension leaving your body through your breath and evaporating into the air. Move on when you feel ready.
- Scan your entire body. Continue this practice with each area of your body, gradually moving up through your feet until you reach the top of your head. Notice how you feel and where you're holding your stress. If there's any tightness, pain, or pressure, continue to breathe into any tightness, pain, or pressure you're feeling. This can help you release tension in your body now, and be more aware of it in the future, so you can release it then, too.
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