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How to Perform a Body Scan to Reduce Anxiety and Heal the Body

Body scan meditation provides relaxation and a heightened sense of awareness to consciousness. Body scan meditations are perfect for first thing in the morning and before you go to bed since they can easily be performed while laying down. How you start your day and how you end your day have a large influence on how you live your life. Incorporating body scan meditations can have a huge impact on your life.

The Purpose of a Body Scan

Body scans are designed to quiet the mind, ease anxiety, and heal the body.

Steps for a Body Scan Meditation

  1. Close your eyes softly. Do not close your eyes tightly and do not wear an eye mask to block out light.

  2. Keep your body straight with your arms and legs extended. Do not bend your knees or cross your arms over your body. Keep your nose facing the ceiling so your entire spine is aligned.

  3. Start meditative breathing. Take a deep breath in through your mouth as you move air down toward your abdomen. Allow your abdomen to distend with each inspiration. Slowly exhale out your nose. Repeat. If your mind starts racing (which it will in the beginning), do not get frustrated or discontinue your practice. Bring your attention back to the in and out breathing pattern each time your mind wanders.

  4. Start the scan. Intentionally focus your attention on specific areas of the body, starting with the top of your head. Feel the muscles over the skull start to relax (this may have a tingling or numb sensation which is normal). Spend a minimum of 15 seconds on the top of your head. Follow this map for your scan. If you have an area with noticeable tension, stay on the region for a minimum of 60 seconds.

Follow the Body Scan Map

(This does not have to be memorized. It's just so you have an idea of how to transition from the top of the head to the toes.):

  • Top of Head (described above)

  • Forehead/Eyes/Temples

  • Jaw/Mouth/Tongue–remove your tongue from the roof of your mouth and allow your jaw to naturally open so your lower/upper teeth are not touching

  • Base of the Skull

  • Mid Neck

  • Base of Neck

  • Throat

  • Shoulders

  • Upper Arms

  • Wrist/Hands

  • Fingers–focus on each finger individually for approximately 5 seconds per finger. Again, tingling is normal.

  • Chest

  • Upper Back

  • Lower Back

  • Abdomen

  • Pelvis

  • Buttocks

  • Hips

  • Upper Legs

  • Knees

  • Lower Legs

  • Ankles

  • Feet

  • Toes –individually for about 5 seconds per toe.

  • Return to the top of your head and repeat the scan map. If you feel like you’re melting into your bed (or wherever you’re doing the meditation), this is a completely NORMAL feeling. Enjoy it.

You can spend 10 minutes doing a body scan meditation or spend an hour (or more). The amount of time you spend in a scan depends on your individual needs. If you’re new to meditation, it’s easier to start in shorter sessions and then increase the amount of time you spend meditating (this is for all types of mediation).

Tips to Improve Your Body Scan Meditation

  1. Wear comfortable, non-restricting clothing.

  2. Dress for the temperature in the room to ensure comfort during the meditation.

  3. Apply lotion prior to the body scan. It never fails, you will get an itch that must be scratched during a meditation (especially as a beginner meditator)–applying lotion will help minimize the itch sensation as it coats dry areas of the skin.

  4. Use the restroom before your body scan. The urge to urinate will make it difficult to focus on anything but your bladder.

  5. Ensure your environment is quiet. If it can’t be quiet, wear comfortable headphones with white noise or meditative sounds (only if this can be done safely! Headphones can mask a potential emergency. Do not wear headphones if you have children or individuals with special needs within your home).

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