Sometimes you may feel so used to aches and pains brought on by stress that you may not even notice them. That’s where body scan meditation may help.
A kink in your neck. An aching lower back. Tense muscles. You may think these sensations involve only your physical body when, in fact, they could be linked to your emotional state.
Body scan meditation can help you become aware of your discomfort so you can better manage it.
Body scan meditation is a unique type of meditation that focuses on feeling your physical body.
A form of mindfulness practice, body scan meditation involves scanning your entire body in search of sensations like tension, strain, or pain.
The goals of body scan mindfulness include:
- gaining a greater awareness of sensory experiences
- strengthening your connection with your physical self
- developing the ability to identify the causes of physical discomfort
- boosting your physical and mental wellness by anticipating and addressing stress-based physical discomfort
Try to find a quiet and comfortable place where you won’t be interrupted for a while. You can either lie down, which is preferable, or sit in a comfy chair.
There’s no hard-and-fast rule about how long to spend on a body scan meditation. You can spend 5 minutes or an hour, depending on the situation.
Longer sessions may allow you to go deeper and gain greater insight into your sensations. Spending at least 15 to 20 minutes might be a good idea.
When you’re short on time, abbreviated sessions can help. Instead of moving over your entire body, you may want to hone in on any places in your body where you feel stress, pain, or tension.
Try these steps to practice body scan meditation:
Step 1. Take several deep breaths. Breathe from your belly and not your chest, and continue to do so until your breathing rhythm slows down. To keep the focus on your breathing, feel your belly rise and fall with each breath.
Step 2. Start scanning your body with your feet as the first stop. Focus all your attention there. Try to notice any pains or aches in this area and any emotions that may follow this awareness. Keep your breath steady as you explore these sensations.
Step 3. If you identify tension or pain, focus on feeling it first. Breathe into those feelings. After a minute or so, visualize the pain or ache leaving your body and evaporating into the air. Focus on the releasing and relieving sensation. Continue breathing with regularity. Move on when you feel your discomfort decreases or when you feel ready.
Step 4. When you finish with your feet, work your way up to your legs, abdomen, arms, neck, back, and shoulders, until you finally reach your head. When you encounter pressure, pain, or aches, visualize the pain leaving your body and focus on relief.
Not everyone experiences body scan meditation in the same way. The practice can be relaxing for some and triggering for others.
The same review reported how body scan meditation was a relaxing experience for other participants, particularly when the emphasis was on releasing the tension after becoming aware of it.
In general, though, body scan meditation seems to increase bodily awareness, which, according to the review, leads to behavioral adaptations. In other words, increasing awareness of your body, even if uncomfortable at first, can help you better manage tension and pain by changing some of your behaviors and reactions to stress.
Research on body scan meditation, specifically, is limited. However, practicing it may lead some people to experience the benefits associated with mindfulness practices in general, which include:
If you’re considering practicing body scan meditation, it may be a good idea to start slowly to find out its effect on you. For example, try to focus on one area of your body first. If you find the experience pleasant and relaxing, you may want to try doing two areas next time.
Body scan meditation is a type of mindfulness practice that focuses on sensory experiences to identify areas of pain or discomfort in your body.
The practice can raise mental discomfort in some people after becoming increasingly aware of pain. Others may find it helpful if they focus on relaxing and releasing body tension after becoming aware of it.
If you want to try body scan meditation, consider starting with a short session and focusing on one area at a time. If you find the practice relaxing and beneficial, try practicing it daily for a few minutes.