Body Scan Steps to Mindfulness and Body Wisdom

Body Scan

Body Scan tunes you in to your body’s wisdom.

I don’t know about you but I’m amazed at how often I’m not aware of my body.

For example, recently I didn’t realize I was sitting at the computer in a strained way until months later when I wondered why my neck and shoulder hurt. I was so untuned-in to my body that I needed physical therapy to bring it back into proper alignment.

Just look around you or perhaps in the mirror.

For most of us, the head and neck pulls forward reflecting our driven, hurry culture. We’re always headed “somewhere,” doing “something” that pulls us away from our present experience. When you think about it, the present is really all that is. The past is just a memory and the future is yet to be.

Body scan is a form of mindfulness meditation that helps you become more aware of your present experience through tuning-in to your body.

When tuned-in, you feel the sensations of your body when they are happening. You can make corrections when needed. You feel more alive, more energized. You benefit from your body’s wisdom!

Body Scan Steps

With body scan meditation, you use your breath to move your attention slowly and purposely throughout your body while paying attention to sensations and feelings.

Dedicate a time when you can be undisturbed for about 30 minutes. Spend about a minute with each area of the body.

  1. Get Prepared

    Lie on your back (or sit in a straight backed chair) while keeping your legs uncrossed and arms at your side with the palms turned up. Set an intention to be aware of your body, to be gentle with yourself, to accept your body without judgment or expectations.

  2. Tune-In to Your Breathing

    Bring your awareness inside your body by focusing on your breathing, not changing it in any way.

    Notice the feeling of your breath as it moves through your nose, the rise and fall of your chest or stomach, or some other sensation you feel as the air moves in and out of your body.

    Once you feel the sensation in your body of breathing, turn your attention to your left foot.

  3. Tune-In to Your Left Foot

    Toes of Left Foot

    Tune-in to your toes while remaining aware of your breathing. Notice sensations, or lack of sensations in your toes.

    To keep awareness of your breathing while focusing on your toes imagine that the air is flowing down into the left foot and toes as you breath in and moving out through your toes as you breath out.

    If your mind wanders, (and it probably will) just bring your awareness gently back to your toes — patiently accepting the tendency of the mind to wander.

    Bottom of Left Foot

    When ready move your attention from your toes to the bottom of the left foot as you exhale. As you breathe out feel the bottom of your left foot. Feel your heal pressing against the surface that supports you.

    Spend about a minute aware of the bottom of your left foot. Notice sensations as you breathe in to and send out your breath through the bottom of the left foot.

  4. Tune-In to the Top of Your Left Foot and Ankle

    Repeat as above: Notice sensations as you breathe in to and out through the top of your left foot and ankle.

  5. Progressively Tune-In to Your Whole Body, One Area at Time

    Use this process to scan and experience each area of your body. Continue to maintain awareness of your breath by breathing in and out of each area.

    • Left Lower Leg
    • Left Knee
    • Left Thigh
    • Left Hip
    • Toes of the Right Foot
    • Bottom of the Right Foot and Heel
    • Upper Right Foot and Ankle
    • Lower Right Leg
    • Right Knee
    • Right Thigh
    • Right Hip
    • Whole Pelvis, Including Both Hips
    • Genitals
    • Buttocks
    • Rectum
    • Lower Back and Abdomen
    • Upper Back, Rib Cage, and Chest
    • Shoulder Blades and Shoulders
  6. Now, Tune-In to Both Hands (at the same time)

    This time keep your awareness of each area as you move on to the next. Expand your awareness as you move up the arms from fingers to hands, arms, and shoulders.

    • Fingers
    • Thumbs
    • Palms
    • Back of Hands
    • Wrists
    • Lower Arms
    • Elbows
    • Upper Arms
    • Shoulders

    Release awareness of your hands, arms, shoulders while breathing out.

  7. Now, Tune-In to Your Neck and Throat

    Again, breathe your awareness into your neck and throat and releasing it with your out breath.

  8. Tune-In to Your Face and Head

    Begin with your jaw and chin. Then, allow your awareness to slowly spread to include:

    • Lips, Gums, and Teeth
    • The Roof of Your Mouth
    • Tongue
    • Back of Throat
    • Cheeks
    • Nose (feeling the air as it moves in and out)
    • Ears (notice what you are hearing)
    • Eyes
    • Eye Lids
    • Areas Around the Eyes
    • Eyebrows
    • Forehead
    • Temples
    • Scalp
    • Entire Head
  9. Tune-In to the Top of Your Head

    Be aware of sensations and feelings at the top of your head.

    Send your breath out through the top of your head much like a whale or a dolphin might do.

    Now, as you breathe in imagine bringing the air up through the soles of your feet, through your body, and out through the top of your head.

    Take a few moments gently cycling the air in through the soles of your feet, up through your body, and out through the top of your head.

  10. Now, Just Let Go

    Just be pure awareness with a sense of the breath flowing without directing it.

    Be aware of what ever arises much as you were aware of each body part earlier. Just noticing and observing.

    Observing with meditation is experiencing the sensation, thought, or whatever without latching on to it — without judging it, rejecting it, or pursuing it. (Meditation observation is not like scientific observation where you analyze it and study it.)

    Practice simply experiencing what ever arises and letting go, experiencing and letting go, experiencing and letting go.Quietly tune in to what you are experiencing NOW with nothing you need to do.

    Lie there being aware of this moment, present, awake, alive.

Body Scan Closing Thoughts

As with any new thing, body scan takes practice. Give at least 4-weeks to experience it’s benefits.

People respond differently when beginning to learn meditation: some feel more peaceful, others feel bored, others feel anxious, and still others feel energized. Whether your experiences are unpleasant, neutral, or pleasant doesn’t really matter. What matters is your awareness of your feelings and sensations.

You can review these instructions a few times and then practice on your own, or have a friend read them to you, or read them into a recorder and play them back to yourself.

For a shorter version of body scan see, “Scan Body: 5 Steps to More Aliveness.”

Body Scan Key Points

Follow these 11 steps to tune-in to your body’s wisdom with body scan. Find peace the natural way.

Bod Scan Sources and Resources

Jon Kabat-Zinn, “Mindfulness Meditation: Health Benefits of an Ancient Buddhist Practice,” Daniel Goleman and Joel Gurin, eds, Mind Body Medicine: How to Use Your Mind for Better Health (New York: Consumer Reports Books, 1993).

Thich Nhat Hanh, The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation, (Boston: Beacon Press, 1987).

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