The body scan exercise is a component of mindful meditation in which the all thoughts are tuned to zero in on physical sensations. For the uninitiated, mindfulness meditation is practiced with the goal of paying all attention to one’s present situation, also referred to as ‘living in the moment’. Consistent with this basic premise, body scan exercises are usually performed without analyzing or worrying about physical sensations. Instead, practitioners are encouraged to observe their physical feelings with acceptance and calm rather than judgment.
People practicing body scan mindful meditation start by lying down or sitting comfortably in a quiet place. The practice involves advancing from a wide to narrow focus of attention. In other words, you begin by focusing your attention on one body part, sequentially moving to the next one until you end up focusing on sensations of the body as a whole. Here is a step-by-step guide on some of the body scan exercises that take place during mindful meditation.
Body Scan Exercises During Mindful Meditation
- Step 1: Make Yourself Comfortable
After choosing a quiet place, begin by getting into a comfortable position. You can meditate while seated or even lying down. Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths to relax the body and clear your mind.
- Step 2: Focus on Sensations Emanating from One Part of the Body
Next, focus on sensations occurring in your feet and toes. Notice how your feet feel against the floor, carpet, mattress, shoe soles, or cushion. A few sensations to focus on include temperature, pressure, heaviness, lightness, tingling, numbness, vibrations or even pain.
- Step 3: Keep Shifting Focus to Different Body Parts
Continue to move attention up the body by focusing on sensations in your ankles, shins, calves, knees, thighs, hips, abdomen, back, chest and continue all the way up to the crown of the head. Some instructors recommend starting with physical sensations in the head and working your way down to the feet. Regardless of which sequence you prefer, go about the entire process gradually by focusing on physical sensations of each body part for a few moments before moving on to the next.
- Step 4: Focus Awareness on the Body as a Whole
The final step involves allowing awareness to drift through the body from top to bottom, noticing any discomfort, pain, tension or other sensations. Finally, take a deep breath, exhale deeply with a sense of relaxation and open your eyes to end the meditative process.
A typical mindful meditation session with body scan exercises can last at least ten minutes or more. Over time, you will learn not to worry so much on how long the entire process takes but rather focus on the sensations in your body. Sometimes your thoughts can wander off mid-session, which is fine. This can be corrected mindfully by first noticing the intruding thoughts and gently guiding your awareness back to bodily sensations.
What is the Benefit of Using Body Scan Exercises for Mindful Meditation?
Focusing on the body during mindful meditation has the potential to offer several health related benefits. Advocates of this practice claim that it helps to ease muscle tension, reduce symptoms of stress, and even relieve physical pain. What’s more, this practice can help to improve concentration and attention to detail. For those who want to try this relaxing technique but are new to it, you don’t have to worry about spending money to hire a meditation teacher. There are free body-scan meditation audio tutorials available online, which provide simple and detailed step-by-step instructions to make the process easy and enjoyable.