When you are stressed, anxious or overwhelmed its easy to get stuck in your head. Getting trapped in a repetitive cycle of feelings or thoughts is exhausting and breaking that cycle can be really difficult. One way to disrupt this cycle is to attune to the body and check in with the different sensations that are going on.
One of the easiest ways is to do a Body Scan Meditation. A body scan is just like it sounds. You shift your awareness through different parts of your body and observe the different sensation that are present or arise. A body scan is useful for deepening your understanding of the mind body connection. Regular practice can help shed light on how your body responds to different events, emotions, stress or pressure.
There are many variations of a Body Scan. Some range in duration from just a few minutes to over an hour. Short Body Scan meditations are a great tool to use to assess how your body is feeling at different times of the day. A great morning practice to see what you might be carrying into the day. Great to do at work to re-balance and come back to centre. It is also good to do when you are feeling stressed, stuck or just need a reset.
Body scan meditation helps you attune to your body, which naturally get’s you out of your head
A body scan helps to disrupt the thought processes by focusing on sensation instead. This can help to regulate your nervous system and bring you into the present moment.
For example: I do a body scan when I wake up. I check in with my body and see where I might be carrying tension. I spend a moment to acknowledge this and then get on with my day. Just having a little awareness of a bit of heaviness in my chest or a twinge of stress in my neck can make a difference to how my day progresses.
I will say to myself I’m holding a bit of stress today, that’s okay, I see it and will be mindful of it. Or I might say I am going to plan to do something today to address this stress that I’m carrying. This might be something practical like being mindful of my posture. Or making time to do some stretching or some other self care practice. I might set a goal to organise my time better, or make time to complete a task I have been putting off.
A little awareness can go a long way. It does not need to be elaborate or complicated.
Some body scans focus on systematically shifting your awareness through each part of the body, one at a time. For example, stating with the left foot and slowly moving through each toe, then the sole of the foot , then the top of the foot, moving up to the ankle and so forth.
This type of body scan is usually done lying down, and can easily take 30 mins to one hour. Its slow, intentional and usually a very pleasant experience that results in a deep awareness of the body.
The goal of the body scan is not to induce relaxation. Rather its goal is to shed light on the relationship between mind and body. But the effect is relaxing by its nature so you usually feel better after doing one.
A deep and long body scan meditation can help you understand where you might be storing stress, emotion or anxiety. Using focused awareness you can begin to release and repair some of these unconscious patterns.
Basic format for a body scan meditation
1: close your eyes, breathe, regulate your breath, breath from your belly. Adopt a stance of compassion and non judgement towards your body.
2: focus your awareness inwards starting with your feet. Observe sensations, tensions pain and stress.
3: breathe into the spaces or parts of the body. Remember to be gentle and compassionate to what arises. Try not to judge what arises.
4: continue with the rest of the body. Take as long as you want and if at any time you feel distracted simply focus on your breath and try again.
Below are two body scan meditations you can listen to. The first is short and sweet, perfect for practicing when you are at work or when you need a mini reset during the day. The second is a longer deeper meditation that is perfect for when you are in your own space. Great to do before sleeping too.
A quick note about when NOT to do a meditation
Not everyone reacts positively to meditation. For some it makes them feel more stressed or more anxious. If you are currently experiencing a traumatic response, anxiety attack or extreme stress, focusing on sensation might make your symptoms worse.
If you find that you react negatively to meditation I suggest looking for a different approach.
Something involving slow movement like a mindful walk or tai chi might be more appropriate. If you have any questions or feel ready to take the next step and book a consultation you can get in touch here.