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Body Scanning – Modern Day Meditation

Body scanning meditation is recently becoming the topic of conversation, especially over the last two years with global stress levels at an all-time high and most places of stress outlets closed during lockdowns. Body scan meditation is drawing in close attention to navigate its effects and benefits from the research community too! Naturally, this got us a tad bit excited. So, let’s dive into it…

What is Body Scanning?

In all of us, we have at some point felt a sense of self in terms of being acutely aware of our consciousness. There is a model called the self-centred selfless happiness model, a theory proposed by Ricard and Dambrun in 2011 [1]. Their theory suggests that self-centeredness (in this instance the ability to centre self) and happiness is linked with self, but more specifically to the structure of the self. 

The concept of body scanning is to align the mind with the body, the brain and the rest of our anatomy. The mindful self with the structural self. This comes in the form of synchronising yourself with elements of your own structural being that are otherwise usually quite autonomous or not of high relativity to day to day tasks. 

How do you Perform a Body Scan? 

A body scan meditation can take anywhere from 3 mins to 45 mins depending on the time you have allocated and your experience finding the desired areas requiring addressing. This can be used for assisting in recovery from training, help relieve some tension headaches or just stress in general. So, let’s get you started on performing your first body scan… 

 

  1. Start by making yourself comfortable, find a quiet place in the house or comfortable. If you can lie down, lie down or you can also sit comfortably too. 
  2. Place your hands gently in your lap or by your sides, close your eyes or hold a soft gaze if you feel more comfortable with the latter. 
  3. Take several long, steady, deep breaths. Breathing in fully as much as you can and exhaling slowly. Breathe in through your nose and out through your nose or mouth. Feeling your stomach expand on an inhale, and relax and let go as you exhale out.
  4. You are now going to close out any noises you hear around you as you breathe, any noises that come in, keep recentering your focus within yourself by paying attention to your breathing. 
  5. Beginning at the feet, feel the sensations of your feet, your toes, the skin under your foot, heels, ankles. Observe any sensations you may feel in this area, and then move your focus back to your breathing. As you do this, shift your attention away from your feet. 
  6. Return now back to your calves and knees, notice any sensations you feel here. You may or may not feel anything in all sections you can, this is ok. Spend some time in each area and observe mentally what any sensations feel like, and return the focus back to breathing again before moving onto the next area of the body. Each time removing the previous body area from the mind’s eye. 
  7. Continue this for all areas of the body. 
  8. As you approach the head, allow yourself to become aware again fully of your head, right down to your toes. Breathing in and out slowly as you do all of your scans. Feel everything shifts in rhythm and sensation from head to toe. 
  9. Finally, take in all the aspects of this session/practice and blow it out in one big exhale. 
  10. Slowly breathe in and out as you open your eyes when you’re ready.  

This is a great tool that requires no equipment, soundtracks, and minimal space. Just your breathing, ability to centre and focus. 

Pro Tip: Spend some time on the first one, as you get better with practice you can cut the time down if needed. However, if you have trouble feeling sensations across the body, start first with a nice mellow soundtrack and focus on being able to switch to your body and breathing focus to zone out the noise. The better you get at this over time, the easier it is to isolate areas of the body to scan. 

Music recommendation from Brooklyn: For any area that requires my brain to focus and be calm, I always use either low-fi or cafe jazz. It is easy as background noise while blocking out other annoying erratic noises like clocks or blinds blowing etc. 

References:

  1. Dambrun, M., & Ricard, M. (2011). Self-centeredness and selflessness: A theory of self-based psychological functioning and its consequences for happiness. Review of General Psychology, 15(2), 138–157. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0023059