Loosen up with Body Scan meditation

100 day meditation challenge update!

biometric scanner hand of the manAs of today, I am 50 days into my 100 day meditation challenge!  I have had a few more close calls, nearly missing my 10 minute window before the day was over, but have managed to keep up with meditating every day!

For past blogs on this topic, check out How to defeat stress in 10 minutes and Quick start guide to meditation.

Lately I’ve been getting a little lazy, leaving my meditation to the very end of my day before bed.  My goal for the next few weeks is to get out of this habit and meditate during the day more often.

Do you ever feel anxious before starting work?

I definitely do and I find that this is the perfect time to meditate!  Not only do I feel more calm to start my day AND I can pat myself on the back for getting my meditation done early, but I also get that bonus good feeling of getting to the end of a long day and not having to fit meditation in!

Because I’ve been meditating before bed, I’ve been using the Body Scan meditation, which is a common exercise in Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, so today I’m going to give you some resources to use this technique for yourself.

What is Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction?

Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, known as MBSR, is a structured stress reduction program developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn that uses mindfulness as a strategy to reduce stress and treat a variety of ailments.  Click here for the Wikipedia page.

In Ontario, many MBSR programs are run by medical doctors and therefore partially covered by the provincial healthcare system.  Here are a few links to programs in Toronto, although there are likely many more out there:

What is the Body Scan?

The Body Scan is a common practice used in MBSR programs that guides you through becoming aware of your body bit by bit.  This technique provides a structured approach to building mindfulness of your physical body as a means to relaxation and stress reduction.

The Body Scan can be done using a guided meditation or on your own.  The UCSD Center for Mindfulness is a great resource for some free guided meditations used in MBSR.  These can be downloaded for free and played while you meditate.

One thing that can turn people off on the Body Scan is that sometimes it takes a LONG TIME to do, usually 45 minutes as a guided meditation, sometimes 20.  However, you can really make it as long or short as you want.  As I’ve written before, I am meditating daily for 10 minutes only, so when I do the body scan, I only do 10 minutes.  If I finish my whole body in that time, awesome, but if not, I just stop wherever I am.  So don’t worry about the time, just focus on meditating every day, even if it is just for 10 minutes.

Body Scan meditation

You can find lots of different variations on this meditation, so feel free to customize it to your needs.  Here are instructions I’ve written on my usual procedure for doing the Body Scan.

  1. Lie down on your back (or you may sit in a chair), making yourself comfortable.
  2. Close your eyes.
  3. Take a few deep breaths in and out, letting your belly expand on the inhale and deflate on the exhale.
  4. Bring your awareness to your feet.  You can start with both feet, just one foot, just one part of your foot (eg: toes), or one toe at a time.
  5. Notice the sensations in this area, such as temperature, tingling, tension, pain, etc.
  6. Simply observe what you feel, without judgement.
  7. Imagine your regular breaths sending fresh oxygen into this area, nourishing and revitalizing this area.
  8. Consciously release and relax this area.  You may choose to physically flex or extend this area, intentionally tightening the muscles, then releasing.
  9. Finally, notice the vitality present in this area, the energy that animates this area as a living part of your body.  You may choose to visualize a white light suffusing the area.
  10. Repeat steps 4 through 9 for other areas of your body, such as your ankles, calves/shins, knees, thighs, buttocks, abdomen, chest, back, hands, wrists, forearms, upper arms, shoulders, neck, scalp, and face.
  11. You may choose any areas you choose at any level of detail and spend as much time as you like on each.  This will make the entire exercise longer or shorter.
  12. When your mind wanders (which it likely will!), simply return your awareness to the area you are scanning.
  13. Once you have completed a scan of your entire body, take a few deep breaths in and out, letting your belly expand on the inhale and deflate on the exhale.
  14. Open your eyes and return to your surroundings.

Have you tried the Body Scan?

If so, how did you like it?

If not, what are your favourite meditation techniques?

6 Responses to Loosen up with Body Scan meditation

  1. Jordan August 26, 2013 at 2:28 pm #

    Interesting. What was your reason for starting this challenge?

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