Set aside at least half an hour for the body scan. Find a time and a place where you won’t be disturbed, and where you feel comfortable and secure.
Turn off any phones you have.
This is a time totally set aside for yourself, and to be with yourself. A time for renewal, rest and healing. A time to nourish your health and wellbeing. Remember that mindfulness is about being with things as they are, moment to moment, as they unfold in the present. So, let go of ideas about selfimprovement and personal development. Let go of your tendency for wanting things to be different from how they are, and allow them to be exactly as they are. Give yourself the space to be as you are. You don’t even need to try to relax. Relaxation may happen or it may not. Relaxation isn’t the aim of the body scan. If anything, the aim is to be aware of your experience, whatever it may be. Do whatever feels right for you.
The body scan practice is very safe. However, if the body scan brings up feelings that you can’t cope with, stop and get advice from a mindfulness teacher or professional therapist. However, if you can, open up to the feelings and sensations and move in close – by giving these feelings the chance to speak to may find that they dissipate in their own time.
1. Loosen any tight clothing, especially around your waist or neck. You
may like to remove your shoes.
2. Lie down on your bed or a mat with your arms by your sides, palms
facing up, and legs gently apart. If you feel uncomfortable, place a pillow
under your knees, or just raise your knees. Experiment with your position
– you may even prefer to sit up. You can place a blanket over yourself,
as your body temperature can drop when still for an extended time.
3. Begin by feeling the weight of your body on the mat, bed or chair.
Notice the points of contact between that and your body. Each time you
breathe out, allow yourself to sink a little deeper into the mat, bed or
4. Become aware of the sensations of your breath. You may feel the breath
going in and out of your nostrils, or passing through the back of your throat, or feel the chest or belly rising and falling. Be aware of your breath wherever it feels most predominant and comfortable for you.
Continue for a few minutes.
5. When you’re ready, move your awareness down the left leg, past the
knee and ankle and right down into the big toe of your left foot. Notice
the sensations in your big toe with a sense of curiosity. Is it warm or
cold? Can you feel the contact of your socks, or the movement of air?
Now expand your awareness to your little toe, and then all the toes in between.
What do they feel like? If you can’t feel any sensation, that’s
okay. Just be aware of lack of sensation.
6. As you breathe, imagine the breath going down your body and into your
toes. As you breathe out, imagine the breath going back up your body
and out of your nose. Use this strategy of breathing into and out of each
part to which you’re paying attention.
7. Expand your awareness to the sole of your foot. Focus on the ball and
heel of the foot. The weight of the heel. The sides and upper part of
the foot. The ankle. Breathe into the whole of the left foot. Then, when
you’re ready, let go of the left foot.
8. Repeat this process of gentle, kind, curious accepting awareness with
the lower part of the left leg, the knee and the upper part of the left leg.
9. Notice how your left leg may now feel different to your right leg.
10. Gently shift your awareness around and down the right leg, to the toes
in your right foot. Move your awareness up the right leg in the same way
as before. Then let it go.
11. Become aware of your pelvis, hips, buttocks and all the delicate organs
around here. Breathe into them and imagine you’re filling them with
12. Move up to the lower torso, the lower abdomen and lower back. Notice
the movement of the lower abdomen as you breathe in and out. Notice
any emotions you feel here. See if you can explore and accept your feelings as they are.
13. Bring your attention to your chest and upper back. Feel your rib cage
rising and falling as you breathe in and out. Be mindful of your heart
beating if you can. Be grateful that all these vital organs are currently
functioning to keep you alive and conscious. Be mindful of any emotions
arising from your heart area. Allow space for your emotions to express
14. Go to both arms together, beginning with the fingertips and moving up
to the shoulders. Breathe into and out of each body part before you
move to the next one, if that feels helpful.
15. Focus on your neck. Then move your mindful attention to your jaw,
noticing if it’s clenched. Feel your lips, inside your mouth, your cheeks,
your nose, your eyelids and eyes, your temples, your forehead and checking if it’s frowning, your eyes, the back of your head, and finally
the top of your head. Take your time to be with each part of your head
in a mindful way, feeling and opening up to the physical sensations with
curiosity and warmth.
16. Imagine a space in the top of your head and soles of your feet. Imagine
your breath sweeping up and down your body as you breathe in and
out. Feel the breath sweeping up and down your body, and get a sense
of each cell in your body being nourished with energy and oxygen.
Continue this for a few minutes.
17. Now let go of all effort to practise mindfulness. Get a sense of your
whole body. Feel yourself as complete, just as you are. At peace, just as
you are. Remember this sense of being is always available to you when
you need it. Rest in this stillness.
18. Acknowledge the time you’ve taken to nourish your body and mind.
Come out of this meditation gently, being aware of the transition into
whatever you need to do next. Endeavour to bring this mindful awareness
to whatever activity you engage in next.
The body scan meditation has many benefits:
✓ Getting in touch with your body. You spend most of your time in your
head, constantly thinking, thinking, thinking. By practising the body
scan, you’re connecting with your own body, and disconnecting from
your mind with all its ideas, opinions, beliefs, judgements, dreams and
desires. Thinking is a wonderful and precious aspect of being human but
by connecting with the sensations in the body, you tune into the intelligence
and wisdom of the body. Hearing what the body has to say is fascinating
if you listen carefully and give it the space to express itself. The
body scan helps you acknowledge that understanding and insight comes
not only from the thinking brain but from the whole body, a supremely
intelligent system from which you can discover so much.
✓ Letting go of doing mode and coming into being mode. As you lie
down to do the body scan you can completely let go physically. Your
mind can follow on from this and also begin to let go of thinking on automatic pilot. Through the body scan you begin to move from the autopilot doing mode of mind into the being mode of mind, which is about
allowing things to be just as they are .
✓ Training your attention. The body scan alternates between a wide and
a narrow focus of attention; from focusing on your little toe all the way
through to the entire body. The body scan trains your mind to be able to
move from detailed attention to a wider and more spacious awareness from one moment to the next. In other words, you’re more able to zoom in and out of an experience – a skill you can use outside of meditation.
✓ Releasing emotions stored in the body. Sressful events experienced
from childhood, such as divorce or extreme discipline, cause great
fear and can get locked and stored in the body as physical tension, an
absence of sensation, or as a dysfunctional part of the body, such as
problems with digestion. The body scan helps to release that stored-up
emotion and tension. Some clients have had years of physical ailments
relieved through the regular practice of the body scan meditation.
✓ Using the body as an emotional gauge. Practising the body scan and becoming increasingly aware of your body enables you to become more
sensitive to how your body reacts in different situations throughout
the day. If you become stressed or nervous about something, you may
be able to notice this earlier through the body, and so be able to make
an informed choice as to what to do next. Without that awareness, you
don’t have a choice and face the possibility of unnecessarily spiralling
down into unhelpful emotions and a tense body. For example, if you
notice your forehead tightening up or your shoulders tensing in a meeting, you can do something about it, rather than letting it unconsciously build and build.