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How to do Body Scan Meditation? [Complete Guide]

How to do Body Scan Meditation? [Complete Guide]Updated on January 20, 2021 | Published on November 14, 2019
Reviewed by Leah Kinsella, Certified Meditation Coach

How to practice Body Scan Meditation for a Stress-Free Life?

You’ve definitely heard about Body Scan Meditation if you are here. You’ve heard how it’s extremely beneficial for stress reduction, finding stability, and cultivating mindfulness in daily life.

But there’s still no clarity.

Especially when the internet is filled with so many types of meditations, each with its own pros and cons.

But don’t worry. Here, in this think-piece, we will discuss all there is to know about practicing the Body Scan Meditation.

So, hold tight, and let’s begin! I promise, by the end of it, you will be enough aware to know whether or not you should do it.

What is Body Scan Meditation?

SUMMARY
The practice of bringing your attention to different parts of your body, noticing different sensations, as you mentally scale down from head to toe is called Body Scan Meditation.

Stress or mental trauma also causes physical discomfort. However, in the hustle-bustle of daily life, most of us fail to pay attention to it.  All the headaches, stomach aches, backaches, shoulder pain become a part of our daily life.

Infact, we are so lost adapting to the responsibilities, that we fail to realize how our physical illnesses are connected to our emotional state.

Body Scan Meditation practice allows you to bring awareness to every part of your body and feel bodily sensations that were otherwise ignored. When you start paying attention to your body, as a regular practice, you are aware of the discomfort in your body which further evolves your relationship with pain and helps you manage it better.

But why should you practice body scan meditation among so many other meditations? Here’s your answer!

Body Scan Meditation Benefits

Body scan meditation is a mindfulness-based stress reduction process that has several physical and mental benefits. All these benefits are backed by scientific reasons and so has also proved to be one of the most efficient guided meditations. Let’s explore some of its benefits in detail:

1. Reduces Stress and Anxiety

Reduces Stress and Anxiety

The most prominent benefit of practicing body scan meditation is that it helps you reduce stress and release tension. This further promotes other physical benefits like reducing inflammation, depression, and even insomnia.

Research even suggests that mindfulness meditation can significantly reduce general anxiety symptoms.

If you adapt this meditative practice in your regular routine, you will be able to manage stress better. You don’t find yourself battling with the stressful thoughts, instead, you learn to defeat them with increased coping ability. 

2. Improves Sleep

Improves Sleep

Most meditation sessions improve sleep quality and diminishes the impact of some types of sleep issues. In fact, according to The American Academy of Pediatrics, practicing body scan meditations regularly can help reduce Insomnia.

This is because most of us have a tough time sleeping when some sort of stress is disturbing us. Daily Meditation helps you relax and redirect your focus on the present moment, allowing you to fall asleep without any troubles.

3. Relieves Chronic Pain

Relieves Chronic Pain

People who have experienced pain know how it impacts your daily life negatively. It prevents you from thinking about anything else and you also fail to focus your attention on one particular thing.

Mindfulness practices may not be able to completely stop it but it definitely helps deal with it better. It makes you more aware and you are able to notice the sensations in your body more vividly.

A review from 2017 advocates for this fact and reveals that meditation and mindfulness reduce the effects of Chronic pain like depression or anxiety.

4. Boosts Self-Compassion

Boosts Self-Compassion

While practicing mindfulness body scan meditation, you notice your body and sometimes it might not be as pleasant. Wandering mind, pains, tension, or even weakness might get frustrating after a certain point of time.

Regular practice of sleep meditation will enable you to approach these situations with gentleness and acceptance. Eventually, you develop compassion for yourself and don’t hold yourself responsible for suffering through these negative feelings.  

5. Syncs Mind and Body

Syncs Mind and Body

Our bodies and mind are hardly ever in sync. Most of the time, while your body is doing one thing, your mind is doing another. This not only disturbs your focus but also reduces the quality of your work.

Body Scan Meditation blocks the noise in your mind and pulls you into the present. This further syncs your mind and body in a way that you are focused on one activity at a time. Also, when you regularly keep a check on your physical as well as mental health, you are aware of anything happening in your body before it gets too serious.

While these are the most discussed benefits of body scan meditation, that’s not all.  There’s more – right from a healthy body to a smiling mind, there’s so much this minute guided meditation has to offer.

So, now, let’s find out –

Body Scan Meditation
Body Scan Meditation

How to do a body scan meditation?

Like we discussed above, body scan meditation is like a mental X-ray through the body along with some breathing exercises.

Here’s how you can get started:

Step 1: Make yourself Comfortable

Lie down touching the floor or simply sit in a comfortable place that allows you to stretch your limbs. Lying down is preferable, especially if you are doing it before sleeping, as it will help you to scan through the body without any interruption.

Step 2: Breathe. Breathe and Breathe

Now, close your eyes and allow your breathing to slow down. Don’t breathe from your chest, instead, breathe from your belly. Notice the sensation of your breath slowly filling up your abdomen and then leaving it.

If you still notice your shoulders moving while you are trying to breathe from your abdomen, focus more on your belly. Imagine your abdomen like a balloon slowly inflating and deflating.

Step 3: Start from your feet

Start with paying attention to your feet. Do you feel any sensation here? Is it painful, discomfort, or tension? Acknowledge the sensation, take deep breaths, and spend at least 20 seconds to 1 minute at every part of your body.

If you don’t want to start from the bottom, you can also begin from the top of your head, or even neck. Wherever you begin with, make sure you spend adequate time at each part and follow through with the process.

Step 4: Acknowledge the Tension

When you focus on one particular part of your body, you are bound to feel some uncomfortable sensations. It can be anything – pain, discomfort, tension, buzzing, tingling, buzzing, tightness, or even temperature.

Learn to acknowledge it and breathe into them. These sensations may also trigger several kinds of emotions like frustration, anger, or sadness. Don’t judge yourself for it and simply let them pass.

Visualize the tension leaving your body along with the breaths and move to the next step when you are entirely ready.

Step 5: Move your focus through the body

Slowly keep moving your attention to different parts of your body – shoulders, arms, hands, chest, back hip, feet, leg, and so on. It’s wise to follow a sequence as it helps you build a natural flow.

At every stop make sure you focus and bring your awareness to the sensation there. For instance, when you are at your belly, see if your stomach is tense or tight or if there’s any kind of discomfort you are feeling there.

You can move in any direction as you want, top to bottom, one side to another – as long as it makes sense to you and brings a sense of relaxation. Don’t forget to notice how you feel at each body part, investigate the sensations as fully as possible and breathe into it.

Step 6: Take control of drifting thoughts

During the process, your focus is bound to get drifted or distracted. It’s natural. So, don’t punish yourself for it.

With time and regular practice, you will know how to train your body to focus for longer periods. So, every time you notice your attention wandering, gently bring it back to exploring sensations in your body. Don’t force anything.

Remember, you haven’t failed, this happens with everyone. As long as you keep returning, everything is good.

NOTE
Neuroscience says noticing drifting attention and slowly bringing it back opens new pathways to the brain.

Step 7: Visualize the tension leaving

Now that you have finished scanning, spend a few moments traveling across your entire body. Visualize your body as mold being filled by a liquid in the form of air. Continue breathing for several seconds and keep your awareness into your body.

You don’t need to change or hurry into anything. Remember, you are simply building a picture of how your body is feeling at the moment.

Step 8: Come back to the world

Now, slowly open your eyes, release your focus, and bring your attention to the surroundings. You were transported into the world of “your body” during this meditation practice, now live mindfully in the moment.

Now that you know the process, here are some –

Tips to Make the Most of Body Scan Meditation

Meditation or breathing exercises can’t do much for you for the first time. But don’t feel discouraged, the benefits take time and patience to show itself.

Till then, here are some more tips to make the most of body scan meditation.

1. You can Meditate anywhere

You can Meditate anywhere

The best thing about Body Scan Meditation is that it can be performed anywhere. While it may be easier to practice it at home, you can also perform it at work or even while commuting.

Feeling tension at the office? Take a small break and quickly scan your attention through the body. It’s not necessary to practice this meditation in a defined pose, you can also do it while sitting with crossed legs, while lying down, or even while you are half-seated.

2. Don’t do it with “specific” goals in mind

Don’t do it with “specific” goals in mind

Most of us start meditation with some reason in mind – to reduce stress, improve sleep or just relax. But the benefits are best achieved when you get into it with the goal of learning more about your body.

This is because you become so focused on achieving these goals that you have trouble focusing on sensations in your body. Now when you fail to achieve them, you instead feel more stressed.

3. Don’t chase perfection

Don’t chase perfection

With meditation, there’s no “one size, fits all” approach. Whatever works for you is best for you. While it may be helpful if you develop a routine and meditate at the same place and at the same time.

But on some days if you have to cut it short, don’t overstress or punish yourself. Just remember, something is better than nothing.

You will also get distracted during the process. But keep reminding yourself that it’s a process that will be developed into perfection with time.

4. Make it a habit

Make it a habit

Every new thing has a rocky start. Similarly, when you begin practicing body scan meditation, you might experience some improvement immediately followed by heightened discomfort.

This can impact your motivation to continue practicing. But don’t just give up. Not yet. Give it a few more attempts and see if things improve. Experts suggest that it’s still worth meditating whether or not you enjoy it.

Plus, constant meditation has several benefits, including – improved focus, increased compassion and agility, heightened positivity Establish a routine and consider this as an exercise for your brain. Be consistent and it will get easier with time – just like physical exercise.

5. You can also take a shortcut

You can also take a shortcut

Yes, it’s not always to scan through your whole body if you are already chasing time. You also don’t have to skip it entirely. You can instead practice an abbreviated version where you don’t have to move your awareness part by part.

Close your eyes and focus your attention on that part of your body that is experiencing tension. This will become better as and when you develop it into a routine.

All that said and done. Remember, a body scan meditation can render useless without an effective,

Body Scan Meditation Script

There are various Body Scan meditations available on various platforms like YouTube, SoundCloud, or even on the apps on your smartphone.

However, its efficiency greatly depends on its script. It guides you through the process and with the right words, gives you a sense of relaxing more deeply.

Here are some examples:

1. https://mindfulnessexercises.com/body-scan-advanced/  

2 http://projects.hsl.wisc.edu/SERVICE/courses/whole-health-for-pain-and-suffering/Script-Body-Scan.pdf

3. https://www.uclahealth.org/marc/workfiles/BodyScanForSleep_Transcript.pdf

After all this, there’s one thing that deserves a special mention, especially while discussing body scan meditation  and that is –

Jon Kabat Zinn Body Scan Meditation

Jon Kabat Zinn, the founding executive director of the center of mindfulness who also developed the mindfulness-based stress reduction program (MBSR) also advocates for Body Scan Meditation and its innumerable benefits.

Here’s a podcast by him guiding you through the process:

If that’s not enough, here’s a YouTube video by him teaching you about this guided meditation.

Now if you think, you need a trainer who can guide you through the process in-person, you are completely wrong. It’s 2020 and everything is available on your smartphone. Yes, even meditation processes and guides.

Free body Scan Meditation Apps

Acknowledging the benefits of body scan meditation, various organizations have launched mindfulness apps for your development.  All of these apps are available for free for you to make maximum use of it.

1. HeadSpace

HeadSpace is one of the most talked-about apps in the sphere of mindfulness. Its free version has several meditations, exercises, and music tracks listed, teaching you the essentials of meditation and mindfulness.

With a mission to improve health and happiness in the world, HeadSpace also has a premium version that promotes mindfulness all across the globe.

The premium app features a lot more meditation exercises, bite-sized minis for the days when you want to call it short and so many other tips and tricks that keep you aware of the present moment.

Available for download on Android and iOS

2. Insight Timer

Insight Timer hosts 25000+ guided meditations from around 3000+ teachers on topics like relationships, anxiety, creativity, stress, and more.

When you open the app, it feels more like a community of beginners or even experts sharing their mindfulness experience. You can also follow teachers on this app so that you don’t miss any content posted by them.

It also has a paid version that gives you access to the courses with well-known teachers all across the globe.

Available for download on Android and iOS

3. Calm

The perfect meditation app for beginners, Calm has a unique library of guided meditation sessions, nature sounds, and senses to use at your leisure.

The star feature of this app is the “bedtime stories” it makes available for adults to lull you to sleep. Apart from that, they also have several masterclasses both in the forms of audio and video taught by world-renowned mindfulness experts.

Their subscribed version includes an original daily calm every day along with access to the whole library of music tracks, meditations, courses and so much more.

Available for download on Android and iOS

4. Smiling Mind

This app features an overwhelming number of meditations and guides promoting mental health. The content is divided under various heads like Mindful Foundations, Sleep, Relationships or even Workplace. But you can easily choose from where to start or even jump between sessions.

The most intriguing thing about Smiling Mind is the interesting names are audio instructions for “activities” like Are you Really Listening or A Legal Alien and so many more.

Unlike Other Apps, Smiling Mind is a Nonprofit and is completely free. So, you don’t have to worry about the premium content available only for premium users.

Available for download on Android and iOS.   

5. Stop, Breathe & Think

Stop, Breathe & Think offers you a more personalized mindfulness experience. Every day when you open the app, it welcomes you to a meditation studio asking you to check in with yourself with a rating extending from “rough” to “great”. It also asks you to express five emotions you are feeling at the moment.

In the free version, you have around 30 free sessions where you also choose the duration and even the voice guiding you through it (male or female).

However, in the paid option, you can access a longer version of the existing meditations, new voices, and even maintain a journal on the app.

Available for Download on Android and iOS.

Guided body scan meditation

Body scan meditation for sleep

Over to you…

Meditation has innumerable benefits but that doesn’t mean it is free of disadvantages. There’s nothing “all good” in this world.

While experts all around the globe have discussed time and again the positive impact of body scan meditation, it can sometimes worsen anxiety when greatly focused on pain.

Remember, you are your best judge. Only you know what works for you and what doesn’t.

So, don’t just follow blindly. Read, explore, and then practice!