I was emptying my apartment in Belgium last week and I was under serious time constraint to get.it.all.done. So much so that the days before I felt my right shoulder tense up. The day before the move I could barely turn my head to the right or lift my arm higher than the shoulder. Of course this stressed me out even more because how would I ever be able to carry ALL those boxes? Just a few seconds away from a panic attack I remembered my training. I dropped everything (some swear words where involved), went for a short walk and when I came back l lay down on my bed and started with a body scan meditation.
What is a body scan meditation?
The body scan meditation is a mindfulness technique that helps reduce stress, anxiety, insomnia and pain. It brings your awareness to your body. The body scan helps you notice how your body feels at this moment in time. It also helps you realise the feeling is relative to your circumstances.
When I lay down on my bed I was able to take some distance and put it all in perspective. It was just a house move. The shoulder was hurting because of stress and I knew I could influence that.
How does the body scan work?
When I tell you to bring awareness to your left big toe, you will unconsciously check your left big toe. Now you noticed that you did it, right? Our bodies hold on to stress in different ways. Sometimes we clench our teeth, make fists or furrow our eyebrows. (see what I did here?). If you go through all the body parts one by one you can check where your body holds tension and release it.
We all know the fight-or-flight response you get under high stress when the sympathetic nervous system is activated. When you systematically bring your awareness to all your body parts your parasympathetic nervous system gets activated. The parasympathetic nervous system activates the rest-and-digest response. Your heart rate slows and your muscle tension decreases which in turn helps pain to subside. Your whole body relaxes. (That is btw also why mindfulness and meditation is highly recommended for people living with chronic pain.)
How to do a body scan meditation?
You can do this exercise anytime during the day when you feel tired, anxious or stressed or just before going to bed to help you fall asleep.
- Choose a space where you feel warm and safe and will not be disturbed.
- Lie on your back on your bed or on a mat on the floor. You can prop a pillow underneath your knees to take the pressure off your lower back.
- Get all the wriggles and itches out of the way now so for the next minutes you can keep your body completely still.
- When you have found your comfortable position start to bring awareness to your breath.
- Let your breath flow for a few rounds without feeling the need to control it.
- Then bring your awareness to every part of your body. Start with your head and work all the way down to your toes. With every body part feel what’s going on, how it feels, whether there is any tension and try to soften it and relax it completely.
If you have less time you can just go with the major body parts (eg shoulders, arms, hands). If you have more time you can go into details (eg shoulders, upper arms, elbows, lower arms, wrists, hands, thumbs, index fingers,…) So you can really tailor this exercise for you and what you need.
This video is a guided body scan meditation I made for you. :) It takes 5 minutes and should leave you totally relaxed! This is the first time I share content (outside of my classes) in this format so let me know what you think!
If you would like to use the script for this body scan meditation so you can read it to your partner, friend or make your own recording (not for commercial use), you can find it in my free resource library for subscribers.
Read more on meditation:
- What is meditation and why is it good for you?
- Difficulty meditating? Try with mala beads
- These simple breathing exercises will help you relax