Body Scan Meditation in 15 Simple Steps

body scanA body scan helps promote awareness

One thing I regularly encourage men to do is live more mindfully. Clinical research has demonstrated that people who frequently partake in mindful activities reduce their levels of anxiety significantly.

One easy approach to consider is the body scan meditation. It’s great for identifying where your body is holding tension, which may be causing you to feel tired and lethargic.

What is the body scan meditation?

At its core, the body scan meditation is nothing more than an exercise that links mental and physical awareness. It requires no special equipment and is one-hundred percent free.

Benefits of body scan meditation

There are many benefits that can be realized by conducting a body scan. These include:

  • Identifying locations in your body that hold stress.
  • Promoting whole person wellness by linking the mind to the physique.
  • Reducing stress and anxiety and other forms of emotional discomfort.
  • Encouraging mindfulness, which empowers you to observe thoughts as opposed to impulsively acting on them.
  • Drawing awareness to muscles that you want to sculpt and build as part of your exercise routine.
  • Assists with purging stress from your body and calming nerves.
  • Strengthening mind-body dualism, which in turn increases situational awareness.

While this exercise is helpful to both genders, I’ve found it to be particularly useful for men as a tool for stress management. It’s also a powerful way to visualize body-related goals for the future.

Here’s a 15-step guide on how to conduct a body scan. Adapted from Mind and Muscle by Whitmarsh. Let’s jump right in!

1. Lay down in a quiet place

The first thing you will need to do is locate a quiet place. The less distraction, the better. Ideally, you will lay down flat so that your body is completely horizontal.

Examples include:

  • A bed
  • Living room floor
  • Enclosed room
  • Backyard (provided it’s quiet)

2. Close your eyes

Once you are laying down, close your eyes. Envision a red dot ahead of you in your mind’s eye. As you focus your attention on this dot, allow it to gradually trail off into the distance.

Once it is gone:

  • Draw your awareness to your feet. How do they feel? Can you differentiate between your big toe and fifth toe?
  • Move over to your other foot. What differences are you aware of between both feet? Does one feel bigger than the other?
  • Can you determine which foot you put more weight on when standing?

3. Move to your calves and knees

Gradually move your awareness upward toward your calves and knees. Center your mind on this body area and reflect upon the following:

  • Can you identify the main muscles of your calves?
  • How do they attach to your knees?
  • Can you feel the connection between your knees and ankles?
  • Do you feel your kneecap?
  • Are you aware of any tightness?

4. Awareness of thighs

Time to focus on your thighs and consider how they feel. Slowly scan each one, starting with the right.

  • How tight is the muscle on the front of your thigh?
  • What do your hamstrings feel like?
  • Can you feel the connection between your buttocks and thighs?
  • Are you aware of any tightness or soreness?

5. Pelvic area

Gradually move up more and center your attention on your pelvic area. Notice how the muscles interconnect. Think about the following questions:

  • Can you feel the relationship between your buttocks and the muscles of your groin area?
  • Are you aware of the sensation between your thighs and pelvis?
  • What do your hips feel like?
  • Do you feel the weight of your buttocks?
  • Can you identify the relationship between your pelvis and back?

6. Abdomen

Move up more towards the middle part of your body known as the abdomen (abdominal area).

  • Can you feel your obliques?
  • Do you sense the muscles in your abs you work out doing crunches?
  • Do your ab muscles feel tight or relaxed?
  • Are you aware of your inner organs, such as the stomach, intestines, and gallbladder?

7. Chest and Ribs

Slowly move up more and focus your awareness on your chest and rib cage.

  • Are you aware of your breathing? How does it feel?
  • Can you sense tightness in your chest?
  • What do your ribs feel like when you inhale or exhale?
  • Do you feel pressure?

8. Back

Laser in now on your back. Starting with the upper back and moving downward, reflect upon the following:

  • Which parts of your back feel tight?
  • Do you notice any soreness in your back?
  • Visualize which parts feel sore or tense.

9. Shoulders

Gradually move your awareness upwards to your shoulder area. Focus your mind on this area of your body and contemplate the following:

  • Does your right shoulder feel even with your left?
  • Can you sense how they rest on top of your rib cage?
  • Are your shoulder blades flat or elevated?
  • Do you feel any tenseness?

10. Arms

Slowly, move your focus to the bicep and tricep regions of arms. Reflect upon the following:

  • Meditate on your biceps. Do they feel full?
  • Notice how your arms are connected to your shoulders.
  • Are you aware of your elbows?
  • How do your triceps feel – are they tight?
  • Do you notice any tightness in your wrists?

11. Hands and Fingers

Moving slowly downward, consider your hands and fingers. Ask yourself how they feel as you gently wiggle each digit. Are they easy to move or do you sense tightness? Do your hands tremble or are they calm?

12. Neck Region

When it feels right, draw your attention to the neck area of your body. Consider the following questions:

  • Does your neck feel tense in any region?
  • Can you identify the muscles connecting your neck to your shoulders?
  • Move your head slightly left to right. Does it feel comfortable or tight?

13. Head

Now move your awareness to your head. Allow yourself to notice each area of the face. Ask yourself the following:

  • Can you feel the muscles in your face?
  • What does your jaw feel like?
  • Can you sense your chin, lips, and tongue?
  • How does the inside of your mouth feel?

14. Reflect Again

After completing this exercise, allow yourself to recall any parts of your body that felt unfamiliar. Return to these areas for a momentary scan to increase awareness.

15. Open Eyes

Once you have completed the body scan, slowly open your eyes and gradually acclimate yourself back to the environment. How are you feeling?

Wrap Up

Over the course of time, you will be able to do a body scan almost anywhere. This includes your home, the gym or on a train.

Some people find that by listening to a guided recording, they are better able to focus on various body parts. An excellent one to consider is the Mindful Meditation Body Scan by McManus. Check Amazon for pricing.

The more you become aware of the connection between your mind and body, the more likely you are to center your awareness on areas that hold stress.

The body scan is also an excellent way to relax. Why not give it a try?

References:

Whitmarsh, B.  The Body Scan. Mind and Muscle: Psych Up, Build Up (2001). Human Kinetics.  Champaign, Illinois