Body Scan Meditation
The body scan is a powerful tool for tuning into your body, noticing what you are experiencing, and calming busy thoughts and anxious worry. It can be done anytime, but does require a few uninterrupted minutes to focus on yourself. Yes, that is healthy and you deserve to have that time! The body scan can be very relaxing, so if you try it before bed you may find an extra benefit of a sound and restful sleep. To do the scan, find a comfortable place to lie down where you will be least distracted and most able to turn inward.
Begin by bringing your attention to your body.
If you feel comfortable, you can close your eyes. Or you can let your eyes relax into a soft gaze.
Notice how your body feels wherever you’re seated. Feel all the points where your body connects with, and is held up by, the chair, the floor, your bed, and by extension, the earth. Notice how this support feels. Allow yourself to relax into this support. If you’re holding tension, let it begin to fall away into the support of the earth.
Take a few slow, deep breaths. Focus on the sensations as you breathe in and out. Where do you feel the oxygen entering your body? What parts of your body move and expand to accept the air?
And as you take your next breath in, notice that it may energize you. And as you exhale, see if you can feel yourself relaxing more deeply. Visualize the oxygen flowing to every part of your body, each cell, as it nourishes and calms. There is no need to make the breath anything other than what it is. As it flows effortlessly, just bring curious attention and awareness to this flow.
As you tune into your body, emotions may rise up. It may feel good to focus on your body, or it may be difficult. It’s OK to have feelings; they’re just feelings. If you notice an emotion coming up, view it with interest and name the feeling. The simply bring your attention back to the part of the body we are working with, or to your breath if that’s easier.
Notice your feet on the floor; starting with your toes, observe them closely. Perhaps give them a wiggle, noticing the space in between each toe, feeling the ability to flex and point. Notice the sensations of your feet against the floor. Focus your attention on the other parts of your foot, paying attention to any pressure, vibration, discomfort, heaviness, or temperature. … the ball of your foot….. the arch….. the heel…. the ankle. Breathe in and imagine the breath carrying oxygen and nourishment to the very tips of your toes, and as you breathe out, relax your feet into the floor.
Bring the same attention to your legs, noticing how it feels in the points of contact with the furniture or floor you are sitting on. Tune into any sensations you notice in your legs, starting with your calves…….. your knees…… your thighs. Pause for a moment to offer gratitude to your hardworking feet and legs. They are your foundation, whether sitting or standing. Notice in your mind’s eye the muscles, bones, tendons, ligaments, nerves and vessels that allow your legs and feet to function as they do.
Continue your survey of your body by attending to your back, sensing where it rests against whatever you are sitting or lying on. Observe your spine with your mind’s eye, noticing the flexibility and range of movement of your back. With curiosity, allow your attention to identify any sensations you feel here… pressure, tightness, discomfort, ease. Feel any differences between sensations in your low back, mid back or upper back. Notice the movement in your back body with each breath and how your inhales and exhales give your back a gentle massage. Allow your back to relax into the chair or bed, releasing any tension or holding and allowing it to fall away through the floor.
Shift your attention to your stomach, and any sensations, noises or movement you may observe in this part of your body without judgment. Focus on your breath as the inhale and exhale connect to the rising and falling of your belly. Allow the flow of breath to relax and release the muscles of your abdomen. Observe how your body opens in your belly to receive oxygen, and how it releases when you exhale. You might hear sounds coming from your belly, or notice a sensation of hunger.
Bring your attention up to your chest and your shoulders. First notice the continual movement with the rise and fall of your breath and how this happens naturally, without any work on your part. Feel the effortless, steady rhythm of heartbeat and breath that support you every second. Notice the consistency and reliability, and perhaps nurture gratitude for these organs which sustain you. Observe any muscular tension or other sensations you hold here. Shrug your shoulders up toward your ears, and as you release them imagine any tension falling away through the floor. Feel any changes in sensations as you allow whatever areas you feel holding to be released.
Notice your neck and throat. Give a gentle “no” shake to your head, allowing the muscles to release. Observe and allow yourself to feel any tightness or discomfort here. Bring your attention to your throat and notice that this is the home of your voice, how you make yourself known to the world. Breathe into your throat and allow the air to swirl gently at the back of your throat. Notice the sensations here of your breath entering and exiting your body. See if you feel openness or constriction in this part of your body. Just observe, with no judgment.
Bring your attention now to your hands. Starting with your fingers, give them a wiggle and observe the flexibility and strength in your hands. Imagine your oxygen flowing to the very tips of your fingers, nourishing them for their work. Observe the palms and backs of your hands; flex your wrists. Do you notice any sensations of temperature, tingling, or discomfort here? Are your hands tense or tight? Allow them to soften with your palms open and your fingers gently curled into a natural relaxed position.
Allow your next breath to carry your attention into your arms. First your lower arms…. then your elbows... and finally your upper arms. Feel any sensations you might notice in your arms. Do you feel heat or cold in your arms? Notice the pressure of the furniture on the backsides of your arms, and allow the hands and arms to release into the support of the chair or bed.
Now focus your attention on your face. Scrunch your face up and then exhale and relax the muscles of your face and jaw. Allow your jaw to soften and your tongue to rest loosely on the bottom of your mouth. Notice any tightness, or other sensations here. Bring your attention and gratitude to this home of many of your senses. Notice your eyes…. your ears…. your nose... your mouth. Breathe relaxation and ease into your face and jaw and allow your attention to move to your head. Notice any sensations on your scalp or your head. Consider the brain as your control center, coordinating order and function to your entire body. Pause to allow your breath and attention to nourish this entire region of your body.
Finally, turn your attention to your body as a whole. Notice how everything is connected. Notice the overall sensations of alertness, relaxation, tightness, temperature, discomfort or ease that you notice in your body.
Starting from the top of your head imagine a warm yellow light beginning to slowly pour over your body. Notice this warm yellow light moving over your head and face, and bringing with it a calm and deep sense of relaxation. Feel the warmth and allow it to seep into all the tissues of your body. The warm yellow light moves over your jaw, neck and throat, and begins to move through your shoulders and down your arms, to the furthest tips of each finger. This warm yellow light flows over your chest and back, merging with your breath and moving into every cell of your body, carrying relaxation and calm with it. It flows into your belly and over your hips, bottom and pelvis. This warm yellow light makes its way slowly down each leg, finally coming to a stop at the tip of each toe. Notice how your body feels as it is filled with both oxygen and the warm yellow light. Soak in these sensations of nourishment and relaxation you have brought to your body today…….
And then when you’re ready, return your awareness to the room you're in. Feel your body against the furniture; give your toes and fingers a wiggle. Notice any sounds you hear in your environment. Slowly open your eyes and find one thing in the room to look at. Notice its color, shape and size. Allow your body to take a stretch in whatever way feels good and offer yourself a moment of thanks for taking the time to care for yourself in this way today.