How to Do Body Scan Meditation & 5 Ways it Benefits Your Health

How to Do Body Scan Meditation & 5 Ways it Benefits Your Health

Ever had that moment when you feel incredibly stiff, tense and sore with no clear explanation why?

It’s frustrating, ey!

For many years, I’ve suffered with pain and tension in my upper and lower back. I’ll often wake up to immediately notice the stiffness and tension in my body. almost like my body is constantly screaming at me.

But why? Was it due to:

  • Poor posture at work?
  • Exercising too much?
  • Chronic Stress? or
  • Sleeping in a bad position overnight?

If I’m honest with myself, it’s probably due to all of the above.

funny back pain meme

If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably tried it all: massaging it out, stretching or even ignoring it in hopes it will go away.

But so far, nothing has worked.

Body Scan Meditation is definitely something that can help and that you should check out. Here’s why!

 

How Body Scan Meditation Combats Built-up Stress

For many of us, chronic stress doesn’t only have mental and emotional symptoms. It can also show up physically in our bodies.

When you’re stressed, you may notice that you become more susceptible to headaches, shoulder tension and back pain, heartburn and more.

And, given we’re used to living in a highly stressed-state, we don’t often connect the dots between our physical discomfort and our emotional state.

This is why regular body scan meditation can be useful and effective because it not only allows us to tune in to our bodies, but also helps to release built-up tension. 

Let’s now explore the basics of Body Scan Meditation including what it is, how to do it and also 5 ways that it benefits your health.

 

What is Body Scan Meditation?

Body scan is a type of meditation that involves mindfully exploring your body from head to toe to tune into the sensations present in different parts of the body.

This enables you to become aware of hidden tensions you may have been ignoring and can help to alleviate them.

There are some different ways you can scan over your body depending on what you prefer. I’ll run through each of these below.

 

Body Scan from Head to Toe

The most common type of body scanning is to start from the crown of your head and gradually make your way to your toes.

Scanning your body from head to toe is said to be more relaxing and grounding, and can result in feeling sleepy afterwards.

 

Body Scan from Toes to Head

Scanning your body from the bottom-up is said to be more energising and uplifting compared to scanning top down.

Personally, I have not experienced much difference whether scanning top-down or bottom-up, but it’s always worth trying both and seeing which style feels better for you depending on your goals.

What is body meditation

Scanning the Body in Stages

You can also scan the body in stages. For example, you can start by scanning your entire head. Then gradually move down to your neck and throat. Then focus on your torso as one whole section. Next, scan each arm and then gradually scan each leg individually.

The concept behind this is to scan each section of your body individually to really hone down on any specific parts of your body.

 

Scan Slowly or Quickly

Depending on the amount of time you have available, you have the option of doing a quick or slow body scan meditation. You can choose to spend 15 minutes slowly scanning through your body, or do a quick check in over 5 minutes.

The choice is yours!

 

Scan Only the Upper Body

Have you noticed that when stressed your shoulders and back start seizing up?

Yep! It’s a pretty common symptom.

For most of us, we store a lot of our stress in our upper body. That’s why doing a scan focused solely on your upper body can still be very beneficial and help to release the majority of your tension.

 

Targeting Pain in the Body

Although most meditations encourage you to avoid striving for a particular expectation or outcome, with body scan meditation you can aim to target key areas of discomfort.

This allows you to let sensations come to the surface and hone in on what feels bad.

By being mindful of the areas you feel pain and breathing into them deeply, your body can start to troubleshoot and focus on alleviating them.

The Benefits of Body Scan Meditation

What are the Benefits of Body Scan Meditation?

Although there are many known benefits of body scan meditation, here are my top 5:

  1. Helps you cope better with stress and anxiety, whilst also reducing their symptoms
  2. Reduces the impacts of chronic stress on the body
  3. Leads to greater self-awareness and compassion
  4. Reduces pain and tension in the body
  5. Helps you feel grounded and centred

Let’s explore each of these in more detail.

 

1) Using Body Scan Meditation to Relieve Stress & Anxiety

A great thing about body scan meditation is that it prompts us to lean into bodily sensations, rather than becoming paralysed with or battling our thoughts due to stress.

This prompts us to take a moment to ourselves to pause, reflect and deal with stress in a healthy way. It also gives our body a chance to release any built-up tension rather than ignoring it in hopes that it will eventually go away.

 

2) Body Scanning Can Reduce the Impacts of Chronic Stress

Chronic stress is very unhealthy for our bodies.

It not only results in the release of cortisol and adrenaline which depletes our system resources, but also negatively impacts our mental health.

Giving our bodies time to shift from being in a stress response (activated by the Sympathetic Nervous System) to the relaxation and recovery response of the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS), has dramatic effects within the body.

Bringing the body back to a state of homeostasis can reduce muscle tension, kick-start our digestive systems and bring attention to discomforts, pain and tiredness that were being masked by our stress hormones.

You may also notice that your breathing slows down, saliva production increases, your eyes start watering and your stomach may even start gurgling or making noises.

These are common symptoms of relaxation.

A Benefit of Body Scan is Self Compassion

3) Improve Self-Compassion and Awareness 

When performing any meditation, you may notice something feeling bad or uncomfortable in your body. You may even get frustrated or impatient when your mind wanders or you don’t notice the pain subsiding.

But practicing body scan meditation can help you approach these situations with gentleness and acceptance.

As you practice this technique more and more over, this newly gained self-awareness and compassion can start to trickle its way into your everyday life as well.

 

4) Reduce Pain and Tension in the Body

As we have already mentioned, regularly checking in with our body can help us identify aches and pains early on – before they become too serious.

By letting your body show you where tension exists, you’re able to focus on it and let your body heal itself. Consciously breathing into these areas can create a sense of space and openness throughout the body.

This can stop your body from screaming at you multiple times during the day to get your attention. By scanning your body on a regular basis, you’re showing that you care and are very much aware of what is going on.

 

5) Body Scanning Helps You Feel Grounded

Throughout our day we often find our body doing one thing while our mind is doing another.

A body scan meditation can help to sync our mind and body, pulling us away from the noise in our mind and back to the present moment.

 

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    Body Scan Tips for Beginners

    Because body scanning is often thought to be therapeutic, many try to force relaxation to happen. But doing this, often leads to frustration:

    “OMG why can’t I get my shoulders to relax! No matter what I try it’s not working!”

    Rather than taking this approach, try to treat body scanning with a tolerant and loving curiosity towards your body. Also called “non-judgemental acceptance”.

    If the pain or discomfort coming up is really bad, do you best to focus your attention on it and breathe deeply into that space, then let it go.

    This may sound weird for some people:

    “Isn’t it impossible to breathe into other parts of the body, outside of your lungs?”

    (Don’t worry – I used to think this too).

    Technically, yes.

    But with meditation, your key aim is to visualise the breath directing to that area. Use your imagination to picture the area opening up and releasing tension in a soothing way.

     

    How to Do a Body Scan Meditation

    If you’re interested in learning how to do a body scan meditation for the first time, you can check out our short video below.

     

    In this video, I guide you through the basic steps of Body Scan Meditation, so you can digest the concepts simply and easily.

    In Summary, here are the very basic steps:

    1. Close your eyes
    2. Breathe deeply & slowly
    3. Visually scan from the top of your head and down your body.
    4. Notice if you feel any feelings, sensations, or discomfort in your body.
    5. When you encounter areas of tension, focus your attention and continue to breathe deeply.
    6. Try to visualise your breath soothing that area and the tension leaving your body.
    7. If you get distracted by thoughts, return your attention to the area of the body where you last left off.

    Keep in mind that at this stage of the meditation you’re not trying to change anything. You are simply building a picture of how the body feels right now, in the moment.

    Your brain will make judgement calls such as “This feels bad”, “This feels good” and “If I do this, it feels better.” By staying focused and mindful of the sensations, we accelerate this process.

     

    How to Release Built Up Tension in Your Body

    After you’ve completed your body scan meditation, you can look to release the tension more directly through upper or lower body stretches.

    You can also relieve tension by contracting and releasing certain muscles, as I show you in the video above.

    Some yoga poses are also great for targeting certain areas of tension. Here are some examples you can try below:

    • Standing forward bend
    • Cat-Dog Pose
    • Downward facing dog
    • Triangle pose
    • Childs pose

     

    Start a Regular Meditation Routine & Experience The Benefits

    If you’d love to learn more about meditation and how to create a meditation routine to experience the greatest benefits from your practice, ensure to check out our Journey to Calm Meditation Course.

    Icon Journey to Calm Course

    In this course, you will learn how to meditate and tips for beginners when building a routine.

    I will also teach you about other natural techniques you can do to relieve stress and anxiety symptoms and boost productivity during our day.

    Click Here to Learn More about the “Journey to Calm” Course

     

    As another alternative, you can also start with our FREE/Lite Meditation e-Course for Beginners.

    In this FREE email course, you will gain an insight into the basics of meditation and why it is a valuable exercise to add into your daily routine.

    Start the mini course by entering your details below.

    How to Build a Meditation Routine | 5 Easy Tips for Beginners

    How to Build a Meditation Routine | 5 Easy Tips for Beginners

    Building a new habit is hard.

    That’s why building a meditation routine can also challenging. Trust me, I know.

    On the first day, you start strong.

    You get up early and feel pumped with a great sense of achievement after completing day one of your new meditation routine.

    “That wasn’t THAT hard!” you think to yourself as you excitedly prepare for the rest of your day.

    The second day arrives. You wake up on time and feel great.  Similar to day one, you smash through your meditation session. “Cool, this meditation thing is going to be a breeze.”

    Then day 3 and 4 hit.

    Your alarm goes off but you feel tired. You had a late night last night, so hit the snooze button –“Just 5 more minutes”.

    Shortly, this 5 minutes extends to 10, then 15 minutes and suddenly you wake up realising “Shit, I’m late!”

    Waking up late after snoozing alarm

     

    There’s no way in hell that you have time for meditation today, so you make a promise to yourself that you’ll kick start it tomorrow.

    Tomorrow comes, and a similar pattern appears.

    Your alarm goes off. You hit the snooze button. Your goal of getting up early to meditate has started to slip. That inner voice in your head is so powerful, and although you really wanted to build a meditation routine, it keeps winning.

    A week or two has now gone by. Your meditation sessions have been sporadic, and you’ve started convincing yourself that:

    • “Maybe meditating in the morning isn’t for you”
    • “You can’t do it because you’re not a morning person”
    • “You didn’t notice that much benefit any way” or even
    • “You’re too busy, let’s try again another time.”

    As I mentioned, learning how to build a meditation routine is not a walk in the park. But this is the same for building any other new habit.

    In this article, I will share 5 tips to help you build a meditation routine and get started.

     

     

    1) Know Your Why

    One of the best tips I can give you when building any new habit is to know your WHY.

    If you do not have a clear reason as to why you’re wanting to stay consistent with meditation, the war is over before it’s even begun.

    Having a clear “why” helps you overcome many of the excuses that your mind will throw you throughout the journey.

    Our bodies are like machines. They love routine and can be resistant to change.

    The trick is to survive and push through the first week, which is often the hardest and most challenging part of learning a new habit.

    During this time, your body will do everything in its power to resist, but you can beat these excuses and challenges with a strong why.

    For example, you may want to start a meditation routine to:

    • Feel less anxious and stressed during your day
    • Have greater focus, decision making and performance at work
    • Reduce the effects of chronic stress on the body
    • Create a safe haven to unwind, relax and reflect before your busy days begins
    • Become more self-aware by tuning into your body
    • Be more spiritual or religious

    Whatever your reason, keep it close to your heart.

    Each morning as you wake up, remind yourself of WHY you are doing this and why you want to persist.

    Once you make it over the hurdle of the first 1-2 weeks, you’ll notice that each day gets easier and your body will adjust to the new routine.

    And, I can tell you from experience – the juice is worth the squeeze.

    Is Meditation worth the effort

     

    2) Meditate at the Same Time Every Say & Stick to it

    When it comes to building any new habit, commitment and consistency are two of the most important things to strive for.

    Start making meditation a non-negotiable in your day.

    Commit yourself to a certain time in your day and stay consistent with it. That is the best way to build a meditation routine from home.

    Avoid meditating sporadically and inconsistently. This will only cause you pain and is unlikely to bring you the benefits you’re after from your practice.

    As you continue to meditate at the same time for consecutive days, your body will start to adjust. Eventually, you’ll find yourself waking up naturally at your desired time to start your meditation routine.

    But like everything, it can take time to get there.

     

    3) Identify the Type of Meditation You Like

    The great thing about meditation is that there are many different types of meditation and meditation styles that you can try.

    This means that you can choose a meditation that is best suited for your preferences and goals.

    For example, If you:

    • Want a relaxing or stress-relieving meditation you may prefer body scan meditation or mindfulness
    • Are someone who likes music and vocals, you may like to try Mantra meditation.
    • Struggle to sit still and can’t sit on the floor, moving meditations such as Thai-chi or yoga could be great options for you

    When wanting to build a meditation routine, it’s important to identify a style that you like and find enjoyable.

    Doing otherwise, will only cause you to procrastinate and dislike your practice. We don’t want that!

    Meditation routine _ Choose a meditation style you like

    4) Make it Fun

    If you treat meditation like a chore, it’s going to feel like one.

    Rather than seeing it as another thing to tick off your to-do list, make it fun. Use your meditation practice as a chance to tune into your body and explore your mind.

    You may like to listen to meditation music to settle the mind or do some stretches to relieve built up tension in your body.

    Be kind to yourself. Avoid setting expectations or beating yourself up if your attention wanders.

    Just enjoy the moment for what it is and go with the flow.

     

    5) Mould it to Suit Your Lifestyle

    There is often a misconception that you need to meditate for a certain length of time and at a certain time in your day to experience any benefits.

    That ain’t true!

    Unlike what many think, it is important to fit your meditation routing into your existing lifestyle. Too much change at once will only make creating the habit even harder.

    1. Does the thought of getting up earlier than your usual time scares you? Ok. Opt to meditate in the evening before bed.
    2. Need to take care of the kids and get them ready for school around 8:00am? Great, wake up 15-minutes earlier and do a 10-minute meditation.
    3. Do shift work or night shift? Ok cool, find a time to meditate during the day or after you wake up

    Whatever your situation or lifestyle is, make it work. There are endless possibilities on what you can do.

    It’s up to you to experiment with meditating at different times in the day and discover what works best for you and your lifestyle.

    In addition to finding the right time to meditate, there’s also no rule for how long you should meditate for.

    If you’re a newbie, 5 minutes is a great length to strive for. Then as you progress and meditate more regularly, you can gradually extend your sessions to 15-20 minutes.

    You can’t base your expectations on what someone else may be doing around you. Instead, mould your meditation routine to suit your lifestyle and what is realistic.

     

    How to Build a Meditation Routine

    If you would like some help, guidance or accountability whilst building your meditation routine, I can definitely help you out.

    We offer an online course specifically tailored to beginners to help them learn:

    • How to meditate
    • How to get comfortable with the right meditation posture and pose
    • Handy meditation resources for beginners to support your journey
    • How to use meditation to relieve stress and anxiety
    • And best of all: How to actually BUILD a consistent Meditation Routine

    In this course, Journey to Calm, I share important tips when meditating as a beginner and also guide you through 14 days of meditation, including guided meditation, to help you start simply and seamlessly.

    Icon Journey to Calm Course

    Learn more about the 14-Day Journey to Calm Meditation course here.

     

    If you’re wanting to start your meditation journey, also ensure to grab your FREE copy of our Meditation for Beginners Checklist.

    In this checklist, I break down the basics of meditation into 7 simple steps that you can follow from home.

    It’s a great place to start if you’re new to learning about meditation.

    Enter your details below so we can shoot your copy directly to your inbox!