Finally, a good excuse to simply lie down and do nothing! Although, it would be misleading to say that the body scan practice is simply about relaxation. Rather, the aim is to be aware of the different regions of your body, and allow yourself to experience how each part feels, without trying to change anything. Just being with what is there.
In Mindfulness for Dummies, Shamash Alidina describes the body scan as a way to get in touch with the body, let go of feelings of needing to get stuff done, and release pent-up emotions. Just like other forms of meditation, the body scan also trains attention. Alidina says:
The body scan alternates between a wide and narrow focus of attention; from focusing on your little toe all the way through the entire body. The body scan trains your mind to be able to move from detailed attention to a wider and more spacious awareness from one moment to the next.
You can begin the practice by lying on the floor, or a mat, or your bed. Basically, you can begin by focusing your attention at the top of your head and then move down the body, or vice versa. It’s good to start with a guided practice to get a sense of how to move your attention up or down the body.
“If you fall asleep during this body-scan practice, that’s okay,” Susan Bauer-Wu writes in Mindful. She is professor of nursing and former director of the Compassionate Care Initiative at the University of Virginia. “When you realize you’ve been nodding off, take a deep breath to help you reawaken and perhaps reposition your body (which will also help wake it up). When you’re ready, return your attention to the part of the body you last remember focusing on.”
Elisha Goldstein’s 10-minute body scan practice gives a brief but effective take.
If you’re crunched from time, there is a 3-minute body scan available and a 5-minute body scan. If you’re looking for a lengthier practice, Elaine Smookler offers a 30-minute beginners body scan meditation here on Mindful.org.
Have you tried the body scan practice? Feel free to share your thoughts or any other helpful body scan instructions that you’ve discovered.