A 12-Minute Body Scan Meditation for Letting Go of Stress and Falling Asleep

This week, Kelly Boys leads us in a body scan meditation to let go of stress we may be holding in our bodies so we can surrender into rest.

Adobe Stock | Rudzhan

During the course of a day or a stressful week, it’s easy for stress and tension to land in our bodies, and we might not even be fully aware of it.

When it comes time to rest, if we feel all wound up and our minds busy it can be difficult to fall asleep.

In this guided practice, I’ll walk you through a simple body scan meditation for letting go of stress that you can do before bed. As you gently breathe and move your attention from place to place, you’ll notice where tension is hiding. Then, you can give it permission to let go, inviting a sense of lovely heaviness and relaxation.

A Guided Meditation for Letting Go of Stress and Falling Asleep With Kelly Boys

  1. Begin by lying down in a comfortable, supported position. You’ll likely be in bed. You may want a bolster underneath your knees. You can have your feet elevated if that is comfortable for you, and a pillow underneath your head.
  2. If you like, you can draw your shoulder blades down your back. You can allow your arms to be a few inches away from your body with your palms facing down. Close your eyes if you feel ready. 
  3. Begin by scanning the body from the crown of your head all the way through to the soles of your feet. You can do this with an inhale, bringing attention to the crown of your head, then a long exhalation, sweeping attention all the way down the body to the soles of the feet. Do this a few times, allowing your attention to draw inward, letting the day begin to fade into the background. Inhaling to the crown of your head then exhaling, sweeping attention down the body to the soles of the feet. 
  4. As you do this, notice if there is any stress or tension that you’re holding unconsciously in the body. You may want to invite your whole body to relax: let go of tension, let go of stress, and melt into the surface that’s supporting you.
  5. Noticing your breath coming and going, feel into the entire back side of your body. From the back of your head, all the way down to your heels, can you allow yourself to feel a heaviness or a sense of weight—a sinking feeling into the surface that supports you? If it’s helpful, continue to follow the breath in and out of the nose, feeling the entire backside of your body melting, sinking, releasing any unnecessary tension into the surface that’s supporting you. 
  6. You may find that your mind is still running, playing stories and images from the day. If so, simply notice the state of your mind in this moment. Can you allow that to move into the background, beginning to fade away as your attention remains on the entire back side of your body, melting and sinking into the bed or ground below you?  
  7. Now bring attention to the breath. Could you feel it in your belly, in your chest as it rises and falls with the in- and out-breath? See if you can ride the wave of the breath in, the wave of the breath out. Perhaps you are holding some emotional mental tension or stress still in the body. As you exhale with that too, can you let go? No need to hold that in your mind or your body right now. You can let go and release the tension, the stress. Keep following your breath in and out, and your belly and chest as they rise and fall with the in- and out-breath. 
  8. Now let’s systematically rotate attention through the body. Moving through your feet, soles of your feet, tops of your feet. Next, your shins, thighs, hamstrings, calves, hips. Next your torso, chest, belly. Your whole back, your sides. Next, the palms of your hands, backs of your hand, forearms and upper arms, shoulders. Then your neck, throat, jaw, face, eyes, ears, scalp, crown of the head and back of the head. Notice any pockets of tension or spaciousness in these areas as you scan. Can you allow each area of your body to be heavy, relaxed? 
  9. Keep riding the wave of the breath as it comes and goes. Sense now your whole body globally, feeling your whole body heavy, relaxed. Let thoughts fade into the background. Just practice being the body here being breathed. In a deep relaxation, letting go of stress, tension, allowing it to melt into the surface that supports you.
  10. You can repeat the scan as many times as you like, moving from the soles of the feet, all the way up to the crown of the head, letting go of tension more and more each time as you allow your body to drift off into a supportive sleep. 

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