Body Scanning Meditation | Benefits, Research, And How-To

The amazing benefits of everyday mindfulness can be accessed by a wide variety of people.

You don’t have to be a Buddhist monk or a dedicated meditator who spends hours each day sitting on the mat in order to reap the rewards of mindfulness.

There are loads of techniques that are designed to bring a sense of stillness, reflection, and present moment experience into little moments throughout your day.

One of the best examples of this is the body scan.

In this article, we’ll be exploring the concept of body scanning meditation, with a focus on these key areas:

  • What Is Body Scanning Meditation?
  • The Benefits Of The Body Scan
  • How To Practice Body Scanning Meditation
  • The Power Of Everyday Mindfulness

Our main aim here is to show you how pausing to examine your own physical experiences and sensations can have a profound impact on daily situations.

We’ll start with a simple explanation of the practice of body scanning.

woman doing body scanning meditation on the floor of her bedroom

What Is Body Scanning Meditation?

Getting in tune with your body and the way it interacts with its surroundings is one of the core facets of both yoga and mindfulness.

Body scanning meditation zooms in on that idea to show how developing a greater sense of bodily awareness can improve your daily experiences.

Body scans can be performed in a number of different ways, but they’ll pretty much always involve these key ideas:

  • Observation of physical sensations
  • Focusing of attention on the present moment
  • Moving perception from the top to the bottom of the body, or vice versa
  • Noticing bodily tensions, pains, and stresses

Soon, we’ll take you through the basic practicalities of performing a body scan, but these are the fundamentals of this meditative technique.

woman doing a body scanning meditation in a field at sunset

Essentially, it’s about gradually moving your consciousness down through your body, recognizing feelings and tensions and using the breath to help ease those experiences.

Body scanning can be used to calm you down or ground you in moments of stress, panic, or worry. But it’s also a method to utilize in less challenging situations, too.

Bringing more awareness to your own physicality and the sensations you feel on a regular basis can have a super positive impact. Let’s take some time to go through the key benefits of body scanning meditation.

The Benefits Of The Body Scan

People practice body scanning for a number of reasons.

Most practitioners will be simply targeting a greater sense of calmness, bodily awareness, and present moment-centeredness, rather than striving for any particular health benefits.

But that doesn’t mean body scanning meditation won’t also benefit your health massively too. Below are some of the key advantages it can bring.

woman doing a body scanning meditation, lying on her back on a yoga mat wearing a blue top

#1. Reduced Anxiety

Practicing a body scan can make you aware of bodily tensions that you didn’t even know existed. It’s common for us to hold anxieties within our bodies, and this technique is great for letting go of them.

This kind of mindful meditation practice has been proven to help people with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

#2. Decreased Stress

It can be difficult to distinguish between stress and anxiety, as they have many of the same symptoms and roots. The fact is, though, body scanning can help with both.

An 8-week body scanning intervention program can help lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. This makes it less likely that you’ll experience stress-related issues like poor sleep, high blood pressure, and weight gain.

#3. Greater Self-Awareness

We’ve touched on the fact that body scanning meditation is all about becoming more aware of your body and how it works, but it’s worth spelling this out in a little more detail.

a man doing a seated meditation up against a tree in a forest

Self-awareness isn’t just about observing and understanding your body, it’s also about being able to notice and observe your own thoughts and feelings without judgment (this is one of the key principles of mindfulness).

Body scanning can help improve your overall well-being by increasing your sense of self-awareness in everyday life and making you better at identifying and responding appropriately to whatever’s going on inside your head.

#4. Better Sleep

Another benefit that most people would be keen to access is improved sleep. Regular body scanning meditation can help reduce the tensions that are keeping you awake at night, calming your down and reducing the chances of sleep deprivation.

#5. Reduced Chronic Pain

This is a biggie, because body scanning techniques often revolve around observing and relieving physical pains.

Body scanning meditation isn’t an alternative to medication or surgery; instead, it helps to tackle the psychological component of chronic pain. By changing your outlook and thoughts about physical pain, body scanning can reduce your levels of suffering.

a woman dressed in white meditates seated on a sofa in a tropical country

Like all forms of meditation and mindfulness, this is a highly personal experience, so the benefits gained from it will vary between individuals.

Don’t expect to immediately be sleeping perfectly, feeling more confident, and getting away from all the anxieties that previously bothered you. These things take time.

But we’ve been talking about the benefits of body scanning for long enough — let’s get to the crux of this issue.

How To Practice Body Scanning Meditation

Okay, it’s time to give you some practical tips on how to bring body scanning into your life.

Ultimately, this is a relatively simple practice. But to make it even simpler, we’ve broken it down into 8 easy steps. Follow this process for a basic body scanning meditation session.

#1. Get comfy

Settle into a comfortable sitting posture. You can even lie down if you’d like. Relax your muscles, unclenching your arms and legs and noticing how they feel being supported by the chair, the floor, or the mat you’re on. Feel free to close your eyes, too.

a woman meditating in her living room

#2. Note your breath

Mindful breathing is the perfect daily mindfulness technique, and it’s an important part of body scanning.

Notice your breath entering and exiting your body. Feel it passing through your nose or mouth and filling your lugs. Focus on the flow of your breath for a couple of minutes.

#3. Start from the bottom

Start your body scan by first focusing on the lowest point of your body. Concentrate on your toes, wiggling them and noticing how they feel against each other. Slowly move your feet and notice any tightness or tension below the ankles.

#4. Move on up

Move your focus up through your legs, making a mental note of any pains or aches you can feel. Do you suffer from knee pain? Got any bruises? Focus on these tensions and pains and practice breathing slowly and calmly in order to ease them.

a man meditating on his bed

#5. Shift to your torso

Start focusing on your lower back, observing any discomfort or tightness in that area. Try to relax your muscles and breathe deeply. Next, pay close attention to your chest. How is it moving as you inhale and exhale?

#6. Pain in the neck

Shift your focus to the shoulders, feeling for any tightness and trying to let it go when you exhale. Move slowly on to your neck, and gently roll your head from side to side to help relieve any tension.

#7. Head to the top

For the final part of this body scan meditation, you want to pay some attention to your head and face. First, feel for any tightness in your face and use your breath to help let these tensions go.

Notice the top of your head, reflecting on how your hair feels, and observing how the air moves around you.

a yoga class full of people doing a laying down body scanning meditation

#8. Re-adjust

Once you’ve moved slowly and methodically from the bottom to the top of your body, you’ll hopefully feel a greater sense of awareness throughout your body and mind.

Open your eyes and re-adjust yourself to your surroundings, taking in the things around you while remaining centered in the present moment. This is what any mindful activity is based on.

Continue to breathe and relax your body. Take note of this calmness and try to continue carrying it with you as you go about your day.

Following these 8 simple steps will help you observe the beneficial effects of the body scanning technique.

The Power Of Everyday Mindfulness

Most yogis realize how impactful mindful movement meditation exercises like this can be. But even if you’re not a hardcore yoga practitioner of big-time meditator, you can still access the benefits of mindfulness in various simple ways.

Body scanning meditation is one of the most powerful ones available.

a woman lying on a yoga mat doing a body scan meditation

Taking these techniques on board can help you reduce feelings of anxiety and stress, decrease cortisol levels in the body, improve your sleeping pattern, and gain a greater sense of self-awareness.

Everyday mindfulness can be super powerful. If you want to find out more about how it works in practice, check out our article on how keeping a mindfulness journal can get you in tune with your thoughts, feelings, and actions.

And if you’re still a little unsure about the core distinctions between formal meditation and more casual forms of mindful behavior, take a look at our article on the difference between mindfulness and meditation.

Fred Garratt-Stanley

Fred Garratt-Stanley

Fred is a London-based writer who works for several health, wellness and fitness sites, with much of his work focusing on mindfulness. He's also a massive football fan, writing regularly for Jobs In Football and following his side Norwich City home and away.

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