Performing a daily body scan meditation can help us to reap the benefits of a mindfulness practice. So much of our day to day lives are often spent living in our heads, caught up in thoughts, expectations or ruminating about certain feelings or emotions. Other times we spend living outside ourselves – daydreaming, predicting future events, judgement about others or about how things should be.
The events of the past months have led us to pause and reflect on what’s going on currently in our lives. As tragic and uncertain as these times may be, these moments can also be used as an opportunity to reflect on what we value most in our lives.
Mindfulness allows us to experience the present moment with openness and kindness no matter what arises. As the well-known Buddhist meditation teacher and psychologist Jack Kornfield writes “When we are mindful, it is as if we can bow to our experience without judgement or expectation.”
Benefits of Body Scan Meditation
In the body scan meditation, we can learn to pay attention to the body and the physical sensations we are experiencing by scanning through the whole body. The practice which can be done in sitting or lying involves moving through different parts of the body, bringing attention to each individual part.
The body scan can be done at various speeds and levels of detail. This type of meditation helps to cultivate many aspects of mindfulness practice. In paying attention to what’s going in the body, one can cultivate attention (sustained focus to an individual body part), non-judgement (openness and compassion toward the experience), acceptance (being with whatever sensation is present) and letting go (seeing the different sensory experiences as changing and transitory). The body scan encourages awareness and acceptance of all states – positive, negative and neutral.
Evidence has supported the positive effects of the body scan meditation. Research has shown that a 20-minute body scan meditation performed daily can reduce the physiological and biological markers of stress.[i] High levels of stress have been linked to a variety of diseases including heart disease, certain types of cancer and depression.
Other studies have linked the body scan meditation to improved parasympathetic activity, improvements in chronic pain and smoking cessation.[ii] At the anatomical level, meditation is linked to an increase in the insula areas of the brain, the part of the brain responsible for interoceptive awareness.[iii] Interoceptive awareness involves both conscious and unconscious awareness of internal states of the body, such as a growling stomach, racing heart or dry mouth.
The body scan meditation is a wonderful practice for beginner or experienced meditators. It allows us to reconnect to our real time present experience, and to invite us to have a different lens to how we view this experience.
Beginner Body Scan Meditations
Try these body scan meditations to bring greater connection to your body and to all your experiences.