Relaxing Body Scan
This exercise was developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst Medical School to manage stress and chronic pain.
It’s a great way to relax your mind and body before bedtime. The practice can help you begin to recognize and process difficult memories and emotions you may be subconsciously holding onto.
- Lie down on your back either on your bed or a place where you’ll be comfortable and undisturbed. Switch to nasal breathing and begin to deepen your breath as you focus your attention on the movement of your breath, quieting your mind.
- Move your attention from the back of your head, your shoulders, your back, your hips, the backs of your legs, and your heels touching the ground. Let your body relax and sink into the ground supporting it.
- Return to attention to your breath as you continue to breathe naturally, gently, deeply, letting go of thoughts or distractions.
- Begin by bringing your awareness to the sensations in your feet. Bring your attention to the toes of your right foot, tuning in to any feelings of discomfort, breathing gently into any tension in your toes as you visualize letting it go. Tune into each part of your right foot; the arch, the ankle and heel of your right foot, carefully noticing the sensations in each part of the foot, visualizing breathing tension release into every part.
- Do the same thing slowly for your left foot, for every part of your body as you move up from right to left; each part of your legs, hips, back, torso, hands, arms, shoulders; to each ear, each eye, your nose, mouth, to the entire head.
- As you scan your body, imaging sending healing energy to every place that holds pain or tension. You can slow down and extra attention to anywhere you need it. The body scan helps you connect with and become safely aware of every experience of your body.
- Practice being especially mindful of the places you tend to hold tension, or store difficult emotions; your belly, your heart center, and your throat and jaw, areas that may hold unconscious somatic memories of shame, anger, or fear. Be ready to meet these feelings by noticing them, labeling them, and breathing deep self-compassion into them, as you begin to decouple them from the anxiety response.
- End this practice by tuning into your body as a whole. Cultivating the self-compassion and self-acceptance that all humans need and deserve.
Through this exercise, you are creating a larger awareness and acceptance of your body. Later, if you experience difficult memories or emotions, the body scan creates a safe method for processing the feelings that arise, as you label them and return to that place of self compassion.