Meditation can feel like an entire universe of practices, techniques, and rituals, and it can be easy to get lost in it all. But there’s one easy stress- and tension-relieving practice that, arguably, is queen of them all: body-scan meditation. Here’s the scoop.
What is a body scan meditation?
Put simply, it’s a guided meditation where you’ll bring awareness to different parts of your body in turn. When you bring awareness to a part of your body, it’s your mission to notice what you feel in that place, and let go of any tension that comes up.
The benefits of body scan meditations
Of course, this type of meditation can be deeply relaxing. And, once you’re relaxed, dropping into a meditative zone is much easier; having something to direct your attention towards in this way means you’ll be able to drop in more quickly and easily, and you’ll less likely to get distracted (which can often give you the misguided perception that you’re doing it wrong).
2. Tension releasing
It goes without saying, then, that the tension you carry around with you all day is released in a body scan meditation. This sort of underlying tension, the stuff we tend not to notice day-to-day, can actually lead to headaches, physical pain, and other conditions. By connecting to your body in this way you’re able to let any conscious or unconscious tension go.
This fancy term just means your ability to notice what’s happening internally at any given moment. And this internal enquiry is a muscle you can strengthen to help you stay resilient in every day life. Studies tell us that this sort of meditation helps you strengthen that muscle which, in turn, helps you manage stress, regulate your emotions, and stay more in tune with life. It quite literally means your body and mind will become more in sync.
How to practice
1. Get comfortable. You can do body scan meditations either lying down or seated, but just make sure you’re comfy, warm, and you’ll be undisturbed for at least five minutes.
2. Begin at the crown of your head. Bring awareness, slowly and mindfully, to each part of your face. Allowing any tension to melt away, noticing any sensations, and removing all judgement.
3. From your face, move awareness down into you neck and shoulders. Noticing one shoulder at a time, one arm, elbow, wrist, and hand at a time. Noticing every finger. Allowing tension to dissipate and noticing sensations as you go.
4. Continue moving awareness down your body. Become aware of your hips and pelvis, moving into each leg individually, right down to your toes.
5. Notice your whole body. Once you’ve got to your toes (this should take at least five minutes, but I encourage you to take 10 or 20), notice your entire body as a whole and the feeling of sitting or lying in the pose you’re in. It’s nice to linger in this place for a while.
To make this as good as it can be, try using a guided body scan meditation (like this one at 10 minutes). It’s helpful, even if you’re used to this sort of meditation, to have a guide to support you when your mind wanders. Or, use gentle music to support the relaxation.
If you’re practicing this meditation with injuries or if you’re in any sort of pain, remember to remain non-judgemental. It’s all good. It might help to imagine a golden light being directed at these places in your body, like you’re healing it from the inside.
The key takeaway
Body scan meditations are the dog’s proverbials. They’re one of the easiest, most simple, and most effective practices to support your mind-body system and a sense of equilibrium. If you’re new to a meditation practice, I recommend diving into these types of sessions first to see some real benefits.
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