For long time meditators and mindfulness devotees, the body scan will be a familiar and much loved practice. The body scan is the ultimate relaxation tool; it harmonises the entirety of the body and mind into one entity. We encourage everyone to try the body scan and use it as an ailment for stress, tension and even physical pain. After practicing it for a while, we start to develop a strong and mindful relationship with our body that is full of awareness. We begin to appreciate a body that is less tensed and troubled so we become more conscious of what we’re putting our bodies through.
What is the body scan?
The body scan is a mindfulness practice that involves us going through each part of our body and ‘scanning’ it for any tension or sensations that we may be aware of.
What does it involve?
We usually start at the head and go through each component that makes it up: the forehead, temples, brows, eyes, jaw and mouth. Then we move down to the neck, shoulders, arms, hands, chest, back, abdomen, pelvis, legs and feet. The practice is open to any adjustments if we want to focus on a certain area for a bit longer.
At each body part, we try to relax it as much as we can. For example, relaxing our furrowed eyebrows and letting our shoulders sag down. We focus on any sensations present on the skin and within our body. There might be physical pain, numbness, tingling, cold air hitting our skin or burning. We experience and accept these feelings without any judgement or further thought. If there is physical discomfort, whether it is a tensed muscle that we can’t seem to relax or pain, try to direct the breath to it. Breathe in and send in care and healing energy to the body part. Even if we don’t feel any physical sensations, with every out breath, try to sink deeper and relax the body further.
As this is a mindfulness practice, we try to focus on the present moment. This exact moment of what our body feels like, to exist, to sit on a cushion or chair and to finally be able to relax in a time that we can only call ours. But if our thoughts do wander, it’s okay, gently bring it back to what ever body part we’re focusing on and resume.
When should we do it?
The best way to experience the body scan is when we’re sitting and fully immersed in the mindfulness practice. However, there is no right and wrong. Personally, I like to do the body scan at night as I’m lying down in bed just before I go to sleep. I’m able to lull my body into a sense of relaxation and calmness before drifting off. Sometimes, I use the body scan as a reminder to relax when I’m out and about, especially at work. I do a quick scan of my body and release any tension. Often, it’s my eyebrows that’s furrowed and my feet are always tensed upwards.
How do we do it?
There are many mindfulness guides out there that offer an audio guided body scan. I’ll be launching my mindfulness podcast soon so there will definitely be a guide there, keep an eye out for it!
Otherwise, simply put on some gentle, relaxing music and make yourself comfortable. Settle down with some deep breathes first and after a few, return back to your normal breathing pattern. Begin the body scan at the head and follow through with some of the prompts described above. It will become second nature with time and practice. End the scan at the feet and make sure to focus on the breath as you go along.
Remember to not judge yourself for doing this ‘wrong’ (there’s absolutely no wrong way about it) or if your thoughts start to wander away. Be kind and compassionate to yourself, it really does go a long way.