Body Scan Meditation
Meditating is a pretty common practice nowadays; we openly recognize that it helps to reduce stress, increase body awareness, and improve self-image. Sitting down to meditate, though, can prove to be difficult from time to time – what do I do and how do I do it? How do I effectively meditate? This blog goes through a quick meditation practice that can be utilized literally any time – at work, at home, on public transit; wherever you please! I find it best to meditate at home, to really feel comfortable and focus on myself; however, I recognize that undisturbed time at home isn’t always accessible. Use this technique as needed, and where needed.
The first step to a good meditation is to try and move as many distractions as possible from your environment. This could involve physically removing things from your meditating space, turning on music to drown out unpleasant/non-rhythmic sounds, using earplugs or a blindfold, or putting technology aside for the time being.
Once you’ve removed distractions, try to get comfy. Seat yourself in a relaxed position, lay down with a mat or pad, put your legs up a wall; find a position that you can spend some time in without being interrupted by uncomfortable sensations in your body.
Now that you’re comfortable in an environment where you’ve minimized distractions as much as possible, you can start your meditation. For this body scan, we’re literally going to take time to notice our body, top to bottom, and search for discrepancies in our physical being.
Start at the bottom – draw your attention to your toes and ask yourself what they feel like. How do they feel being connected to your foot? Search your foot for sensations like pressure, fatigue, soreness, or stress: we spend so much time on our feet, and they carry our weight everywhere we go – it’s easy to ignore their service to us.
Direct your attention to the ankle: where the foot meets the leg. How does the joint feel? Is there pressure there? Draw attention into the shin, knee, and muscles in the thigh and upper leg. What sensations exist in these parts of your body? Take time to scan both legs individually, and search for differences between them. Does one leg carry more weight than the other? Does that happen intentionally or accidentally?
As you direct your attention toward your pelvis and abdomen, search for sensations along the front and back of your body. Where do you carry pressure, if any? Do the muscles in this area seem relaxed? How can you direct your breathing to this part of the body? Spend lots of time on your abdomen and try some deep belly breaths to fully relax here.
Move into the rib cage and chest – take special note of your breath here as it moves through your lungs. Do you feel any heaviness here, or do you feel light? Does deep breathing come easy, or do you find yourself straining? Try to reconcile any negative sensations with rhythmic, even breaths.
Take an extra moment to scan your back: your vertebrae, from top to bottom, support your entire body. They carry so much for us. Notice each one and search for tightness, soreness, or feelings of unevenness. Try to extend your spine to its full length, whether sitting or laying down. Breathe some space in between your vertebrae and allow them to expand the full length of the spine.
Direct attention to your shoulders and down your arms: how do the joints feel? Take extra time on your hands. They contain so many small bones and muscles that rarely receive our attention, despite being an evolutionary feat. What do your hands feel like as a part of your body? Do they carry any tension? Reflect on your elbows and the insides of your wrists. Try to notice each individual part of the arm. Scan each arm individually. Do they feel the same, or different?
Finally, we can shift focus to the neck and head. Search for sensations in your face: mouth, nose, eyes, and ears. They are constantly receiving information for us, activating muscles and reacting to stimuli even while we sleep. Give them attention and notice what they feel like. Is your tongue relaxed in your mouth? Are your eyelids relaxed or shut tightly? Is your brow furrowed? Jaw clenched? Take time to fully relax your face and allow your head to roll side to side as your neck fully relaxes as well.
As you finish your body scan, recall the parts of your body where you found positive sensations: thank them and appreciate them! Recall the parts of your body where you found uncomfortable or negative sensations: ask yourself what they need!
This meditation can take as much or as little time as you need: 10 minutes on a bus ride or a full hour in the comfort of your home – it’s totally up to you. This is a great daily practice for any person, but especially those who are either very active or very inactive. It provides uninterrupted space to really assess your body and seek out messages it might be trying to send us, but are drowned out in the minutiae of everyday life.
It’s also a great way to just appreciate your body – think of how each part of your body supports your everyday existence as you scan from bottom to top and say “thank you,” as you make that journey. You might find yourself falling a little more in love with your body each time you partake in this simple practice.