Whether or not you practice yoga, body scan meditations are a wonderful way of finding out how your body is feeling in the present moment. It allows you to observe your body as it is without judgment. This can help you reconnect to your body- particularly useful if you’ve experienced pain or trauma. Over time, this meditation practice can help you learn self-acceptance. Your body does amazing things all day long – give it some love!
By being aware of sensations in your body, you start to notice how you react to different stimuli (maybe you’ll notice how often your jaw muscles tighten and why). You learn that you can sit with discomfort instead of trying to run away from it; that sensations and feelings do pass and you will be fine. This, of course, can transcend to other areas of your life. 😉
If you do practice yoga, it’s great to bookend your practice with body scan meditations so you can mentally compare how you’re feeling at the beginning of class and the end. You’ll notice where you feel more spacious and where maybe you’re holding onto some tension that needs a bit of extra love.
If you’ve never done a body scan meditation, I recommend starting with a guided meditation. There are free versions available on YouTube and, my personal favourite, on the Calm App. Find one that resonates with you, whether that includes or excludes music and the voice is one that doesn’t distract you. The less distracted you are by the noise of it the better. Once you’ve found one that sounds pleasant to you, get comfortable. I find lying down to be the best option when doing a body scan meditation if you can stay awake. You may want a pillow or bolster under your knees, a light blanket over you, maybe an eye pillow over your eyes. Get comfy enough that you can still be aware of you and your surroundings.
Start by noticing your breath. Does it feel laboured or easeful? Do your breaths feel full or shallow? Are you breathing from your belly or upper ribs? Notice the coolness of the air as it enters your nostrils (or throat) and the warmth of your breath as you exhale. You may want to experiment changing breathing from your belly up to your ribs or vice versa. How does it feel; which feels best for you? You may want to breathe in for a full 4-6 count, pause, and then exhale for a full 4-6 count.
After a few moments, start scanning your body either working from your toes up to your head or vice versa. Notice the temperature of the air on your skin – is it warm or cool? Whether you start at your toes or your head, bring your awareness to each part of your body as you work your way up or down. Let’s say you’re starting at your feet. Notice them for several breaths then work your way up your legs, observe them, then go up the rest of your body pausing along the way. As you work your way to each limb and area of your body, check to see if there’s tingling, tightness, pain, or relaxation. Is there coolness or warmth? You don’t have to change anything; we’re just being aware.
If your mind wanders off with other thoughts, that’s fine. Don’t chase it or chastise yourself. Patiently bring it back to the task at hand, perhaps return to counting how long you inhale/exhale for, and then come back to scanning your body.
By bringing your awareness to areas that ache or are experiencing unpleasant sensations, you may find that those sensations gradually reduce. When you bring your awareness to an area that feels tight or in pain, you may notice your muscle is clenching. This awareness allows you to release/relax that muscle and thus the sensation will stop. Be patient with your body and yourself. Don’t try to force a specific outcome.
This is a beautiful meditation to end your day and get you ready for bed!
Written by Holly Pluchinski, Certified Yoga Instructor, Owner of Kayfabe Yoga, and Huna Operations Assistant.