Body Scan Meditation: Why and How

Release Tension With This Targeted Meditation Technique

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The body scan meditation helps you pinpoint tension in your body and quickly release it. 4FR/Getty Images

When you're feeing stressed, it's common to carry stress in your body in the form of tense shoulders, a stomach 'in knots', through shallow breathing, or in other ways. When people carry stress in their bodies, they're often not even aware of it! When we're really stressed, we may be feeling physical discomfort but not connect it with our emotions. A body scan meditation is a practice that can be performed daily or even several times a day, and can help you learn to identify what you are feeling and where you're feeling it, and learn to release the stress in your body and mind.

You can try a body scan meditation right now--here's how:

Get Comfortable  

Sit in a comfortable place and fully relax your body. You don't need to be lying down, but it helps, particularly if you're doing a body scan meditation before you fall asleep.  Try to get into a position that is comfortable enough for you to fully relax without becoming so comfortable that you may fall asleep if you're not able to nap or sleep at the moment.  Let your breathing slow down, and start breathing from your belly instead of from your chest. (See this for more on breathing exercises to try.)

Notice Where Tension Lies  

Starting with your head, notice any tension you're feeling as you practice your body scan meditation. Do you feel a feeling of tightness anywhere? Pain? A feeling of concentrated 'energy' around a certain area? Sit with it for a minute and notice what you're feeling.

Zero In On Tense Areas  

If you notice any uncomfortable sensations, focus on them.

Breathe into them, and notice what happens. (Many people notice that the feeling becomes more intense first, and as they continue their body scan meditation and keep their focus, the feeling dissipates.) Keep your awareness on that feeling for a little while, just staying present. Give yourself a little massage in that area if you want to.

Continue, and Breathe  

Next, move down to your neck, and repeat these body scan meditation steps. Notice if there's any tightness, pain or pressure. Breathe into the areas you notice, and stay with the feelings. Gently massage your neck if you wish. Let the energy relax.

Scan Your Entire Body  

Continue this practice with each area of your body, moving from head to toe. Notice how you feel, where you're holding your stress, and what sensations you're experiencing as a result. Breathe, meditate, massage and relax. This can help you release tension in your body now, and be more aware of it in the future so you can release it then, too.

Tips:

  1. Practice this body scan meditation any time you feel stress, or several times through the day.
  2. If you don't have a lot of time, you can do an abbreviated version of this body scan meditation by just sitting and noticing any place in your body that you're carrying tension, rather than moving group by group. This will become easier as you practice the body scan meditation regularly.
  1. The body scan meditation can promote body awareness, stress awareness, and relaxation. Practice it often. You can also try progressive muscle relaxation, breathing exercises, or visualization exercises for releasing stress and tension in your body.

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