What is Body Scan Meditation?

Avatar for Clare Zivanovic By in body scan meditation, mindfulness meditation on 10/03/2023
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Have you ever wished you could do a body scan at home? One that could help you see inside the body WITHOUT using medical equipment?

If so, you’ll want to know about body scan meditation. Although it doesn’t replace medical advice, it’s a free and empowering practice that anyone can learn. Once you have this skill, you can use body scan meditation for sleep, chronic pain, mental health and so much more.

Let’s see how body scan meditation can bring more awareness and wellbeing into your life.

What Is Body Scan Meditation?

Body scan meditation is a type of mindfulness meditation where you notice sensations inside your body – without judgement.

It’s based on the concept that sensations are emotional messengers that are ‘speaking’ to you. They’re informing you about the connection between your physical body, thoughts and feelings.

Listen closely and you may notice which thought, feeling or emotion is impacting your sensation. For example, tightness in your chest may relate to stress or overwhelm.

You may notice any of the following sensations during body scan meditation:

  • Pain
  • Stress
  • Itching
  • Cramping
  • Tightness
  • Throbbing
  • Pulsing
  • Buzzing
  • Heat
  • Cool
  • Numbness
  • Tingling.

When you notice a sensation, it’s important to acknowledge it without judgement. Simply bringing awareness to it can help it release.

Body Scan Meditation Benefits

If you’re like most people, life often feels overwhelming and busy. You may spend lots of time in your head – disconnected from your thoughts and feelings – operating in fight or flight mode.

Though this is common, it’s not normal or healthy. It blocks your ability to connect with the YOU that is more than just a physical body.

Guided body scan meditation helps to quieten this noise. It brings you into the present moment so you can (re)connect your body, mind, spirit energies.  This is why body scan meditation benefits your physical and mental health. Here are some of the benefits you can expect:

  • Increased Self Awareness

Research shows that body scan meditation can increase your self-awareness. It helps you be more mindful in everyday life, and enhances your ability to detect sensations in your body. Overtime, this helps you know when thoughts and feelings are hampering your wellbeing.

  • Treat Chronic Pain

Body scan meditation is part of an 8-week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) therapy. Though this was originally used for stress, peer reviewed studies show it’s also effective for treating chronic pain.

  • Better Sleep

Using body scan meditation for sleep is a great way to slip into a deep slumber. Medically reviewed data shows it can improve your quality of sleep and help a range of sleep disorders, e.g. insomnia.

Body Scan Meditation For Stress

You can also use body scan meditation for stress reduction. 

All forms of meditation can help you relax and improve your quality of life. This is so even if you have extreme forms of stress, like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). But, body scan meditation may have super stress-busting benefits because it soothes and empowers.

Body scan meditation helps you:

TURN OFF  your sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight)

TURN ON your restorative parasympathetic nervous system.

When this happens, you experience less stress, reduced muscle tension, better mental health and an overall sense of wellbeing.

Also, noticing your body’s sensations helps you feel a sense of grounded control. It gives you a tool you can use when you’re feeling ‘off balance’.

For example, if tension in your shoulder is stressing you out, you could use body scan meditation to inquire within. Or if you’re suddenly overwhelmed with anxiety, you could turn to body scan to feel better. Doing this helps you relax AND connect with the underlying thoughts or feelings that want to speak with you. This knowledge can help ease your stresses with more ease and grace.

How To Do Body Scan Meditation

How to do body scan meditation

Adults and children can benefit from body scan guided meditation. Here’s how you can do it at home:

  1. Get comfortable. It’s ideal to lie down for this meditation, if possible.
  2. Close your eyes
  3. Focus your attention inwards
  4. Take 3 long, slow, deep breaths
  5. Set an intention to notice the sensations in your body
  6. Begin scanning your body. Begin by bringing awareness to the top of your head. Notice any sensations you feel here. Then, slowly move your attention down your body until you reach your toes. Shift slowly, allowing yourself to scan your limbs, organs, muscles, connective tissues and cells. Go as deep within as you feel guided to. Be aware of any sensations that rise as you go.
  7. When you notice a sensation, keep your focus on the area. Breathe into it. Notice your breath moving into the area. Visualise the sensation leaving your body through your breath and allow it to evaporate into the air. When you feel ready, move onto the next body part.
  8. If your mind wanders, that’s okay. Gently notice this and guide yourself back to the meditation.
  9. Continue until you’ve scanned your entire body and breathed into all of the sensations you notice.
Avatar for Clare Zivanovic

Clare Zivanovic is a qualified Naturopath, Nutritionist and Medical Herbalist. She's been part of the health industry since 1999, and has shared her wisdom on commercial television, podcasts and in best-selling health magazines. Clare is also proud to have published a popular children's book called Superfood Attitude.