Unless you live in a vacuum, you’ve heard about the health and wellness benefits of meditation. The most common ones are reduced stress, happier, and greater productivity but the list also includes calmness, confidence, compassion, etc.
Meditation has exploded in popularity over the past few years. It’s no longer a niche, hippie activity but one that people use for mental relaxation and to help with physical symptoms such as pain. Allopathic doctors and executives alike are meditating for various conditions. It’s a powerful way to quiet your mind and dial back the stress response.
Meditation is an effective stress reliever because it teaches you to focus your attention on one thing at a time. Concentrating on the present moment, instead of worrying about the past or future, helps you manage your emotions and prevent negative thoughts from overwhelming you.
One of the most popular is mindfulness meditation. Most forms of mindfulness meditation involve focusing on something simple, like your breath, while refraining from judging yourself or others. This helps you develop an attitude of acceptance toward whatever happens in life without putting pressure on yourself to change or feel guilty about it but there’s a subtype of mindful meditation that you may be less familiar with. It’s called body scan meditation and it has benefits for your mental and physical health too.
What is Body Scan Meditation?
Body scan meditation method was developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn as part of his Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program, which he created in 1979 at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Body scan meditation is also sometimes called “sitting yoga” or “body awareness” meditation.
When you engage in body scan meditation, you focus on parts of your body, one by one. Concentrating on each body part allows you to get in touch with how each feels and become aware of any tension or discomfort. Once you become aware of these sensations, you can let them go. It’s a powerful mindfulness technique because you become aware of physical sensations, which helps ground you in the present moment.
Body scanning is ideal for beginners who are just starting to meditate and is an effective way to relax, get in touch with your body, and improve mindfulness without leaving your chair.
How to Do a Body Scan Meditation
Now that you know the benefits of body scan meditation, are you ready to get started? To do a body scan, sit in a comfortable chair in a quiet place and close your eyes. Start by systematically scanning large portions of the body, starting from your toes, and moving upwards toward your head. During the process, focus on how it feels as you breathe in and out, without diverting attention to thoughts or other distractions.
After spending time in one portion of the body, slowly move to another one. As you focus on each area, feel your abdomen rise and fall with each breath. This will help you become more aware of sensations in various parts of your body.
Here are some tips on how to breathe during meditation:
- Relax your shoulders and chest. When you feel tense, your breathing becomes shallow and fast. The more relaxed you are physically, the easier it will be for you to relax mentally as well
- Focus on your breath. Try following the movement of your belly as you inhale and exhale
- Breathe through your nose if possible since it will help you stay calm and grounded
You can also do a body scan while lying on a bed or couch. Choose what is most comfortable for you. There are no strict rules about when and where to do this technique. You can do it at your desk at work or even in your car (but obviously not while driving).
Benefits of Body Scan Meditation
Body scan meditation is an effective tool for stress relief, physical pain relief, and mental relaxation. One of the biggest benefits is the awareness it creates. When you do a body scan, you apply the principles of mindfulness to each part of your body. By scanning yourself mentally, you can identify sources of tension and discomfort and visualize releasing the tension and discomfort into the environment. It’s a reboot for your body and mind.
Does science support the benefits of body scan meditation? A 2006 study found that regularly practicing body scan meditation activates the parasympathetic, or rest and relax, a portion of the nervous system, and dials back the sympathetic component, the fight or flight portion. It’s the fight or flight portion that causes you to feel anxious or afraid.
So, mindfulness scanning reduces the fear response, and you feel more relaxed and in harmony with your body and the environment around you. It takes no special training or equipment to do either. You can do it anywhere you have a chair and quiet environment.
The Bottom Line
The body scan is a practice that will help deepen your connection with your body. When you focus attention on the physical sensations of breathing and each portion of your body, it redirects your mind toward the present moment. It will also help you experience emotional release, reduce chronic tension and pain, decrease anxiety symptoms, and feel more rejuvenated. It’s like a reboot for your mind and body! Enjoy the benefits a meditation scan, and other forms of mindfulness meditation, offers.
- “Body Scan Meditation | Practice | Greater Good in Action.” ggia.berkeley.edu/practice/body_scan_meditation.
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- Bloise, Paulo Vicente. “Increasing Awareness and Acceptance Through Mindfulness and Somatic Education Movements.” Advances in Mind-Body Medicine, vol. 30, no. 4, Jan. 2016, pp. 4-7.
- “How to Perform Body Scan Meditation: 3 Best Scripts.” 17 Jan. 2022, positivepsychology.com/body-scan-meditation/.
- “Beginner’s Body Scan Meditation – Mindful.” 11 Apr. 2019, .mindful.org/beginners-body-scan-meditation/.
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