A Helpful Starters Guide to Body Scan Meditation
Mindfulness and self-discovery is at the core of all meditation practices. We practice meditation to understand ourselves and get more in touch with our minds and body. This connection between the inner self and physical self helps heal us and promotes balance and peace in all areas of our life.
Mindfulness and other forms of meditation have long been associated with common bodily improvements. These improvements consist of better cognitive performance, reduced stress, improvements in anxiety and depression, better attention span/focus, and less negative thoughts about one-self.
Research has been conducted, suggesting that meditation not only helps physiologically, but has an effect on our mental state as well, helping to reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression and even insomnia.
There are many meditation practices that can help you explore the mind-body connection. However, body scan meditation is particularly useful if you want to feel more in tune with your physical and spiritual self.
A specific 8-week long study of body scan meditation suggested positive effects on things like biological stress markers.
This post will go over the details of body scan meditation. We'll seek to explore the benefits of this practice and talk about how you can start practicing body scans today!
What Is Body Scan Meditation?
Body scan meditation involves an intense focus on each area of your body. This type of meditation is not quick. Instead, you gradually travel along each part of the body with your senses and focus on the body from moment to moment.
From pain to tingling, to warmness, to tension, every sensation is slowly uncovered by your mind to bring you deeper into your meditation. This head to toe meditation takes practice and patience though, but we believe it to be worth your effort and time.
What Are The Benefits of Body Scan Meditation?
Any type of meditation can be beneficial for your health and well-being, but body scan meditation in particular is helpful for people with a lot of stress in their lives. In fact a study published in 2013, suggested mindfulness meditation even lowers cortisol levels in the blood, hence suggesting it may also help reduce stress.
Many researchers recommend doing body scan meditation for at least twenty to forty minutes each day to reap the benefits of this practice.
We mentioned prior the positive benefits meditation and mindfulness can have on sleep and sleep quality, like in this 2018 systematic review and meta analysis.
Mindfulness based meditation, according to several studies, like this one in 2013, may have beneficial effects on anxiety symptoms in GAD (General Anxiety Disorder), and improve stress reactivity and coping.
Reality is, the more often you do a body scan, the more relaxed and stress-free you may likely become within your daily life.
How Can You Do A Body Scan Meditation?
Body scan meditation is not overly difficult to perform, but you do want to know some of the basics of this technique to properly practice it.
Here, we'll walk through some of the specifics of body scan meditation, so you know how to do this type of meditation practice more effectively.
1. Find A Peaceful Place To Meditate
To begin, find a peaceful and quiet place to
do your meditation. Meditation should never be done in loud and rowdy areas.
This can distract you from your practice and reduce the healing and
stress-reducing properties of meditation. So find a good spot to relax, whether it's in your own home, outdoors or a class.
2. Cut Out Any Distractions/Focused Attention
Next, you'll want to cut out any distractions that could detract from your meditation. This includes turning off your phone and any other devices that might disturb you. You can keep your phone nearby if you're using music or a guided meditation, but make sure not to get any texts or calls, or other social media notifications.
Try using your "Do Not Disturb" function on the phone for this time!
You can also dim the lights and change the temperature of your room to further prepare for your body scan meditation session. Anything, that'll make you more comfortable should be prepared before you start the meditation session.
3. Prepare Music or A Guided Meditation
If you're a beginner and want some help with your body scan meditation sessions, music or guided meditation can be useful. Guided meditations are particularly great for focusing your mind. They tell you exactly when you need to focus on certain areas of your body during your scan. This allows your thoughts to wander less frequently and keep you focused.
Anything that can help you meditate with greater concentration can be used, so if you want to listen to relaxing music or bell sounds from an app, this is the time to set up the auditory part of your session.
4. Get Comfortable and Close Your Eyes
Once everything is prepared for your body scan, you can get comfortable and start the meditating process. Body scans can be done in any way you want. Whether you like to sit down, kneel, lie down, any position is fine, as long as you're comfortable in your surrounding.
Now it's time to just close your eyes and start to focus on settling into your body.
5. Begin To Notice The Sensations In Your Body
You want to begin by seeing how you feel. Is there any tension in your body or soreness? Are you feeling hot or cold? Noticing these small details and sensations will help pull your focus inward.
6. Take Notice of How You Are Breathing
During this time you'll also want to start doing deep breathes in and out. Breathing will also help you start to center your practice. By honing in on this crucial bodily function, you can slowly drift away from distracting thoughts and feelings. Take a deep breath, inhale....exhale. Start counting breathes. Inhale for 4 seconds, exhale for 8.
With each breath in, and then out, try to release some of that tension each time.
7. Start By Scanning Your Feet
Afterward, you can commence with the body
scan. A great place to start is with your feet and then work your way up the body. Again, take notice of
temperature, tenseness, and pressure in this part of your body.
Ask yourself how your feet feel pressed against the ground. Notice any sensations, tenseness, et cetera and if it's there, understand why it's there, try to release that tenseness, and then begin moving to the next area of your body.
If your thoughts begin to drift, refocus on the next part of your body, work on controlling your thoughts and focusing them on your goal.
8. Travel Up Your Body As You Scan
If able, each session, you'll want to target every part of your physical self and notice how your body feels as a whole. After you scan your feet, move to your ankles, then up your legs. Continue up the length of your body until you reach the top of your head.
As you do this, feel for any pressure and tenseness, and try your best to relax. With each breath simultaneously focused on your body, notice and then release tension. Deep breathing should remain a focus throughout your scan, which should keep you feeling relaxed and immersed in your session.
9. Try to Stay In The Present Moment
Staying present in your meditation can be hard at first, you might have difficulties fully experiencing the present moment. However, no matter where your mind may drift, be sure to try and get it refocused on your body and what you're feeling at the present moment.
This will help you stay focused throughout the duration of your twenty to forty minutes of body scanning. It’s not bad having thoughts during meditation. In fact, this is quite normal. You just want to redirect these thoughts so that you're not distracted and taken out of your session to quickly.
10. Stay Patient and Keep Going
Most people don’t get meditation "right" on
their first try... What does that really mean anyways, "get it right"? There is no perfect way to do body scan
meditation, as it can vary from individual. The goal is to come from your session feeling more relaxed and in tune with your body, mentally, physically and spiritually.
The point is to become closer to yourself over time, and learn best practices for you to calm your own body, mind and in many cases spirit. Take as much time as you need for your own goals to be met.
Don't rush the process or let your
frustration get the best of you. Slowly go through each part of your physical
self in order to fully connect your mind to your body, and remember that
meditation is not a contest, it's about you and solely about yourself.
Meditation takes focus and commitment, not only during the short duration of each session, but during the long term to really be able to find and maintain that inner peace and connection of mind-body. Some people may develop the art form quicker then others, but don't get discouraged.
Meditation can be like any other practice you do, the more you do and the more you prepare yourself, the more effective you can become.
Please be sure to share some of your experiences with meditation or body scan in particular. How was it for you as a beginner? How have you progressed your practice? What are some tips you can share?