When you’re stressed or anxious, you hold tension in your body. But most of the time, you probably don’t even realise it. The easiest way to make sure you’re present within your body and to release any built-up tension is through a body scan. Now, despite the name, this doesn’t involve any sort of machinery, as such.
It just requires you to connect with how your body is feeling. As Very Well Mind puts it, “body scanning involves paying attention to parts of the body and bodily sensations in a gradual sequence from feet to head. By mentally scanning yourself, you bring awareness to every single part of your body, noticing any aches, pains, tensions, or general discomfort”.
The goal of body scanning isn’t to relieve the pain you might be experiencing but to really understand where it’s coming from and put you in tune with your body. The practice is mindfulness for the body, so you’re able to pinpoint what is going on and how you can fix it.
The benefits of body scanning
Much like meditation and mindfulness, the practice of body scanning is also associated with many mental and physical health benefits. According to Very Well Mind, research shows that stress reduction is the number one benefit of using this technique, which in turn, can also help to reduce inflammation, fatigue and insomnia.
How to scan your body
Meditation app Headspace incorporates body scanning into a lot of its exercises as the technique allows you to bring “awareness to every single part of your body, noticing any aches, pains, tension, or general discomfort. Staying present with and breathing into these sensations can help bring relief to our minds and bodies by evolving our relationship to pain, aches, and discomfort.”
The best thing about body scanning is the ease in which you can do it. You could literally do it right now, after reading this story. You just need to find a quiet spot and you’re good to go. While lying down during a body scan is preferable, you can sit up as long as you’re comfortable.
Headspace recommends taking a deep breath in through your nose and out through the mouth. “As you breathe out, close the eyes. Notice how the body feels right now. Starting at the top of the head, gently scan down through the body, noticing what feels comfortable and what feels uncomfortable. Remember, you’re not trying to change anything, just noticing how the body feels as you scan down evenly and notice each and every part of the body, all the way down to the toes.”
During a body scan, many people imagine a literal laser copier scanning the length of their body. If that visual imagery works well for you, try using the laser copier idea as you’re completing your mental scan.
If you prefer a guided body scan meditation, there are a bunch of videos on YouTube that lead you through the process of the scan. Otherwise, investing in a membership to an app like Headspace means you can pop your headphones in and do a scan whenever you need to.