About Body Scan Meditation

What to know to unite your body together for physical health and mental well-being

Body scan meditation is a form of Vipassana meditation that is purported to help expand mind/body awareness, release tension and quiet the mind. Body scan meditation is a particularly effective meditation technique for strengthening concentration, focusing attention and relaxing the breath. It can be practiced as a guided meditation led by an advanced meditation practitioner, or performed solo once you have a solid understanding of body scan techniques.

Basics

A thorough body scan meditation takes anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes of uninterrupted relaxation and focus.

Trish Magyari, M.S., a counselor and meditation researcher who leads a mindfulness-based stress reduction course, indicates that true mind/body awareness is not judging your body and all its aches, pains and tensions, but simply noticing and saying "hello" to your body with the awareness to release any stress, tension or illness you're harboring. Although there are different variations of body scan meditation involving specific breathing techniques and points of focus, the following is an overview of a typical guided body scan, according to Magyari.

Techniques

Lie on your back — ideally on top of a yoga or exercise mat for comfort — with your legs spread out in front of you and your arms to the side, palms up in a receiving fashion. Cover yourself with a blanket if you tend to get cold so you are not distracted midway through the body scan. First, simply lie there and notice what it feels like to be connected to the ground.

  • Start with your left toes. Don’t visualize them, just check in and see how they feel. Are they cold? Are they holding tension? Focus your exhales on the point of your attention, directing your breath deep into your toes. Let your awareness of your toes go and move your attention to your heel, focusing your breath to your left heel.
  • Move upward to your arch, your ankle, your calf, your knee, your thigh and then duplicate the process with your right leg, starting with your right toes.
  • Once you have scanned your legs, concentrate your awareness and breath on your pelvis, traveling to your lower back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, arms, hands, neck and head.
  • Once you have scanned the individual body parts, unite them, focusing on how the fingers connect to the hands, which connect to the arms and so on and so forth. Be aware of sensations — the feel of the blanket or the chill of the air on your skin. The objective is to see the body as a perfect whole, united by the breath flowing in and out of the body.

Benefits

According to the Mayo Clinic, benefits of meditation include a sense of balance and peace, reduced stress, a more positive state of mind and greater self-awareness. Meditation is acknowledged as possibly helping allergies, asthma, cancer, depression and insomnia, among other health conditions. Who would disagree that lying on your back for half an hour a day and checking in with your body in a non-judgmental way could be anything but beneficial?

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