The body scan is an ideal practice to help strengthen your mind/body connection. It grounds your awareness in your body, in the present moment. You can practice it while sitting, standing or lying down, for sessions of 5 – 30 minutes or longer.
The purpose of the body scan is to experience your physical body with awareness, without judgment and with acceptance. It can be very useful if you are having trouble getting to sleep, simply note the physical sensations in the part of your body you are focusing on.
If you feel no sensation in some parts of your body, just let your awareness rest in that part of your body and note the absence of sensation without getting into a conversation with yourself about it.
To start your body scan, slowly move your awareness:
- from your feet
- to your ankles,
- your thighs,
- chest and tummy,
- hands and arms,
- shoulders, neck, head and face.
When your mind wanders—as it will—just bring your attention back to your body and continue from where you left off. With practice even the distractions become part of the ebb and flow of wandering and returning, so long as you remember to observe these distractions without getting involved. Let the distractions pass and return your attention to your breath or wherever you left off.
The body scan is a valuable exercise to do when stressful thoughts keep you awake at night or if you have physical pain. Sometimes I start on one side of my body, move up and then down the opposite side, simply noting where there is pain or tension and moving on. Although relaxation is not the goal of the body scan it is one of the many benefits.