Mindful body scan – how to nurture a healthy relationship between mind and body

This meditative exercise connects mind and body. It takes between 15 and 20 minutes, so make yourself comfortable in a room where you won’t be disturbed. Lie on your back on a mat or rug on the floor, or on your bed. Legs can be flat on the floor or knees raised, whichever is most comfortable. You might wish to cover yourself with a blanket and rest your head on a cushion or pillow. Now, you’re ready to begin:

  • Allow your eyes to close and take a few moments to get in touch with the sensations of your body, listen to your breathing and feel your back and limbs making contact with the floor or bed. On every out-breath, allow yourself to let go, slowly sinking a little deeper into the mat or bed.
  • Starting with your head, focus on feeling its weight as it rests on the cushion. Now introduce your forehead, noticing if there is stress or tension. Then include your eyes, nose, cheeks, mouth, chin and, finally, the ears. What sounds can you hear? Be aware of the changing sensations in your body and the pattern of your breathing. It’s natural for thoughts to wander, so don’t worry if this happens. Just guide your mind back to your body.
  • Slowly, move your awareness to the neck and shoulders, while remaining conscious of your breathing. Notice the strength in the muscles here and whether they’re holding tension. Breathe into any tightness and let it go on the out-breath, releasing it from your body.
  • Now, shift your focus to the areas where the shoulders are in contact with the floor or the bed. Extend your awareness into your arms, elbows, wrists, hands and fingers while checking in with your breathing.
  • With care, bring the focus to your chest. Tune in to the subtle rise and fall with each in- and out-breath. Think of the ribcage and your upper back resting on the floor. If you notice any tension, aches or pains in these areas, breathe into them and out again, releasing them from your body.
  • Turn your awareness to the physical sensations in the lower abdomen and stomach and any changes you feel as you slowly breathe in and out. If comfortable, you could place your hands on your belly to feel each breath. Allow your focus to take in the lower back, feeling the gentle pressure as it touches the floor, before shifting your gaze to the pelvis, hip bones, sitting bones and groin. Try to connect with any sensations in these areas and be aware of your breath, slowly inhaling and then releasing pain or tension on the exhalation.
  • Bring your focus gently to your legs. Feel their weight, from the tops of the thighs to the bottom of the ankles. Notice any sensations. How are they resting on the floor? Is there numbness or tingling? 
  • Finally, move your attention to the feet. Allow the focus to follow all the way from the underside of the toes along the soles, around the heels and then onto the mid- and fore-foot before resting on the tops of the toes, focusing on each one in turn. When ready, breathe in and feel the sensation of your breath as it moves down your body and into your toes. On the out-breath, feel it returning upwards, releasing any tension or discomfort. Repeat this pattern between three and five times.  
  • When comfortable, take one or two deeper breaths, before returning to your regular breathing pattern. Spend a few more minutes in this position, aware of your body and breath as one.
  • To emerge from the exercise, slowly shift your weight onto one side. Open your eyes and spend a few moments here before gently easing your body to a sitting position. Again, take a few breaths before standing, making sure you are comfortable and steady.

Original words: Karen Bray.

Image via Shutterstock.

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