Building and maintaining a relaxation or meditation practice is ever growing in importance, but some methods may work better for you than others. One type of meditation that can easily be practiced while at home is a body scan meditation. You can feel an improvement in your state of mind and relaxation after 30 minutes, 5 minutes or even 3 minutes.
This approach is a way to get in touch with the body, let go of feelings of needing to get stuff done and create an “in the body” experience. Finding the links between emotions and physical sensations in your body can bring you in touch with many aspects of your life. Many of us know we struggle to manage stress and anxiety, but don’t completely understand how it affects us. This practice is a safe, simple way to release those pent-up emotions, bring mindfulness to the body and be present.
Depending on your preference, you can use an audio guide to help you start the process or try it out on your own by reading a transcript. It's a good idea to find a space that is quiet, comfortable and where you can't easily be disturbed. Initially, give yourself a 30 minute window to try it out and see where it takes you. Once you get a hang of it, you can scale back or add more time as needed. Start by lying down or sitting up if you prefer, and begin by feeling the weight of your body on the floor, bed or chair. Once you're comfortable, you can follow the next few steps to start practicing a body scan meditation:
- As you breathe, imagine your breath going down your body and into your toes.
- Expand your awareness to the sole of your foot.
- 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.
- Gently shift your awareness around and down the right leg, to the toes and in your right foot.
- Become aware of your pelvis, hips, buttocks and all the delicate organs around there. Move up the lower torso, the lower abdomen and lower back.
- Bring your attention to your chest and upper back.
- Go to both arms together, beginning with the fingertips and move up to the shoulders. Focus on your neck. Imagine a space in the top of your head and soles of your feet.
- Now let go of all effort to practice mindfulness. Acknowledge the time you've taken to nourish your body and mind. Come out of this meditation gently.
So when is a good time to do this meditation? Since the body scan meditation asks you to lay down, it fits perfectly into a bedtime routine. Many times we rush from our hectic day right into bed without releasing the energy of the day, and this can contribute to poor sleep and the inability to fall asleep. Taking just 5 minutes to check in and bring some relaxation to your mind and body will help you slip right into a deep, quality sleep each night.