Originally published on Kate’s blog
Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, known as MBSR, is a structured stress reduction program developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn that uses mindfulness as a strategy to reduce stress and treat a variety of ailments. In Ontario, many MBSR programs are run by medical doctors and therefore partially covered by the provincial healthcare system.
The Body Scan is a common practice used in MBSR programs that guides you through becoming aware of your body bit by bit. This technique provides a structured approach to building mindfulness of your physical body as a means to relaxation and stress reduction.
One thing that can turn people off on the Body Scan is that sometimes it takes a LONG TIME to do, usually 45 minutes as a guided meditation, sometimes 20. However, you can really make it as long or short as you want. As I’ve written before, I am meditating daily for 10 minutes only, so when I do the body scan, I only do 10 minutes. If I finish my whole body in that time, awesome, but if not, I just stop wherever I am. So don’t worry about the time, just focus on meditating every day, even if it is just for 10 minutes.
Body Scan meditation
- Lie down on your back (or you may sit in a chair), making yourself comfortable.
- Close your eyes.
- Take a few deep breaths in and out, letting your belly expand on the inhale and deflate on the exhale.
- Bring your awareness to your feet. You can start with both feet, just one foot, just one part of your foot (eg: toes), or one toe at a time.
- Notice the sensations in this area, such as temperature, tingling, tension, pain, etc.
- Simply observe what you feel, without judgement.
- Imagine your regular breaths sending fresh oxygen into this area, nourishing and revitalizing this area.
- Consciously release and relax this area. You may choose to physically flex or extend this area, intentionally tightening the muscles, then releasing.
- Finally, notice the vitality present in this area, the energy that animates this area as a living part of your body. You may choose to visualize a white light suffusing the area.
- Repeat steps 4 through 9 for other areas of your body, such as your ankles, calves/shins, knees, thighs, buttocks, abdomen, chest, back, hands, wrists, forearms, upper arms, shoulders, neck, scalp, and face.
- You may choose any areas you choose at any level of detail and spend as much time as you like on each. This will make the entire exercise longer or shorter.
- When your mind wanders (which it will!), simply return your awareness to the area you are scanning.
- Once you have completed a scan of your entire body, take a few deep breaths in and out, letting your belly expand on the inhale and deflate on the exhale.
- Open your eyes and return to your surroundings.