The Healing Power of Body Scan Meditation

Stress can cause multiple problems for our emotional and physical wellbeing.  Headaches, body aches, heartburn, and even back pain can all be caused by stress. 

Sometimes when you have chronic stress, you may not realize that you are having any physical symptoms or you may attribute them to something else because you’re not paying attention.   One of the most common meditation practices to bring awareness to your body and help relieve stress is body scan meditation. 

What is Body Scan Meditation?

Body scan meditation is a form of mindfulness and is a relaxation technique.  This type of meditation helps to release tension, quiets the mind and gives you a body/mind awareness.   Instead of focusing on the breath or sound, body scan meditation focuses on the different parts of your body. 

With this type of relaxation technique, you are mentally scanning yourself from head to toe.  It makes you aware of how your body is feeling inch by inch.  The purpose of this is to help you realize what is going on inside your body from your muscles to your organs, your bones and even your digestion. 

Body scanning helps you to start becoming aware of how your emotional experiences affect your physical experiences by teaching self-awareness which in turn can lead to healing and preventing the effects of stress on your body. 

What Are the Benefits of Body Scan Meditation?

When our world gets cluttered and we have several things happening to us at once, we go into automatic mode and don’t realize what’s going on inside our bodies.  Our emotions and physical wellbeing are connected.  When we are going through stressful times, it also connects to how our body feels or responds to the stress.  Body scan meditation can:

Help Relieve Stress

Body scan meditation helps you tune in to what is going on with your body.  You not only become aware of how your body is feeling, but the meditation has a relaxing effect.  This, in turn, turns off our body’s stress response and allows the body to go back to its normal state.

In a study published in 2019, 47  healthy participants were split into two groups.  The first group used a 20-minute body scan meditation concentrating on body sensations.  The second group was given an audiobook to listen to.  Each group was instructed to listen to their perspective audios for 20 minutes a day, every day for 8 weeks. 

The results of the study were determined biologically by assessing cortisol (stress hormone) levels in hair samples both before the 8 weeks and after the 8 weeks.  The group that practiced the body scans had a decreased level of cortisol compared to the audiobook group. 

Researchers concluded that body scan mediation was effective for biological markers of stress.

May Help with Insomnia

Insomnia has become prevalent in the adolescent population causing mental health issues.  One study found that Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) that was done in Internet sessions coupled with body scan mediation discovered that incidences of insomnia decreased and better sleep patterns increased in teens. 

May Make you Happier

Aside from relieving stress, body scan meditation may also make you happier.  A study with 89 participants were randomly assigned with body scan meditation, a relaxing style of music, or an active control condition.  Those who were assigned to the body scan meditation had feelings of happiness and harmony compared to the other groups.

May Help You Cope With Major Health Conditions

Body scan meditation has also been found to help with better health outcomes as well.  In a randomized study 163 women who had Stage 1 or Stage 2 breast cancer either went through a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program that included body scan meditation or no meditation and other breast cancer support methods. 

After four months the women in the mindfulness-based program had significant improvements in quality of life and coping skills compared to the women who went to other methods of cancer support! 

The time of day you do your body scan can also offer different benefits  If you do a body scan in the morning, it helps you be more mindful throughout the day.  If you do a body scan meditation at night before bed, it will help you relax and fall asleep. 

How to Practice Body Scan Meditation

If you have never done body scan meditation before, here are some steps to prepare and the basic premise of how the meditation works:

Preparation

Find a time that works best for you.  You can start with a 10-minute meditation and work your way up to a 20-minute to 45-minute body scan.  When you are short on time, you can always do a quick 5-minute scan.

Find a quiet spot to lay down.  Most body scans are done lying down, however you can also do the meditation in a sitting position or standing if you are more comfortable.  The space you are in should be a comfortable temperature and free of distractions so you can focus.

Begin the Meditation

You can close your eyes or focus on a point in the ceiling.  Start to notice how you are breathing.  Is it a deep belly breath, slow and steady or is your breathing shallow and fast?  The idea is not to change the way you are breathing, but to notice how you are breathing.

Now bring your awareness to the surface you are laying on.  Can you feel the carpet or mat underneath you?  Are your heels grounded int the floor?  Are your toes pointed up or are your feet angled to each side? 

Move your focus through your body from your ankles to your calves, thighs and all the way up to your head.  As you go through each part of your body, notice how it feels on the floor.  How much pressure does each part put on the floor?  Can you feel the heaviness of the gravity pull? 

These are sensations you may feel during your body scan:

  • Pain
  • Tightness
  • Cold
  • Warm
  • Heaviness
  • Tingling
  • A feeling of lightness

Now that you have done a quick scan of your body, you’ll do a more in-depth scan.   Deeply inhale and exhale and bring your attention to your right or left foot.  You can concentrate on just the toes, or the whole foot. How does it feel?

Now mentally let your foot go and switch to the other side. You will slowly move back and forth from right to left, left to right moving up the body from your calf to the knees, thighs, hips, torso, arms, shoulders, neck and head.

When you are done, stay grounded for a few more minutes, thinking about your body as a whole and how everything on your body is connected.  Even though each part of your body is unique, they all work together.

There is no need to do anything during the meditation except to feel what your body is telling you and acknowledge the sensations that are present.

When you are done, focus on your breath.  Has it changed from when you first started the meditation?  When you are ready, open your eyes. 

You can also use a variation of the meditation and start with your head and work your way down.

You can perform a body scan yourself or use a guided meditation. 

Meditation Tips

  • Set aside time every day for meditation when you will not be interrupted
  • Have a special section in your home just for meditation
  • Keep a journal about how you feel after meditating (or before and after)
  • Don’t be critical of yourself when you meditate, it doesn’t have to be perfect

The purpose of body scan meditation is to be present and listen.  Noticing what is going on with your body helps lessen the intensity of physical symptoms (such as tense muscles) and also lessens the effect of stress in your daily life. 

As you become more comfortable and gain experience with body scan meditation, you will become more sensitive to what your body needs.  If you are feeling tense for example, you will notice and take some time to alleviate the tension before it becomes painful.

By exploring your body through meditation, you begin to notice physical sensations much faster as well as an awareness of how your emotions control how your body feels.  In this way, you recognize your emotions which allows you to have more control over them.  This has a healing effect on your mind. 

If you notice your heart beating faster after a heated discussion, for example, you might choose to step outside for a few moments instead of getting more worked up.  This has a healing effect on your body.  

Body scan meditation helps you to be more aware of the mind-body connection and how your emotional state affects your body.  Developing mindfulness around your body is essential to your meditation practice and overall wellness.

At MindTastik we have hundreds of meditations, including guided body scan meditations to help you reduce stress and get to know how your body responds in those stressful moments.  Adding body scan meditation to your daily meditation practice is simple and easy with MindTasktik.

You can download MindTastik at the Apple App Store or Google Play.

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