Dr Joanne Stuart
A Body scan is a relaxation technique that can help us to control anxiety or unhelpful emotions. It works in two ways: firstly, it helps us to reduce the physical symptoms of anxiety but also, because we are focusing on something, it helps by providing the mind with a focus other than worrying or stressful thoughts. When we first start doing body scans, it is sometime difficult to feel anything inside of our body but with time and practice, we realise that we can actually feel quite a lot. The most important thing is to just have a go…there is no right or wrong way.
Obviously, it is much easier to follow someone talking you through a body scan and so this can be found on our youtube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCtLMWcLLzIYRkMQ7MA5cI2A
Firstly, find a comfortable position, either lying or sitting down. Make sure that all of your body is able to rest against a bed, chair or floor. If you are lying flat, place a pillow below your knees, otherwise your lower back may start to feel tense. Place your hands gently on your stomach. Take a slow gentle breath in through your nose and then, as if you were blowing through a straw, gently breathe out through your mouth. Do this a few times and as you do, close your eyes. Try to keep the slow gentle breathing rhythm throughout this practice. Gentle breath in through your nose and gentle breath out, as if you were breathing through a straw.
Now, place your hands by your sides, or in a comfortable position.
I want you to bring your attention to your right foot. See how your right foot feels. Does it feel hot or cold? Tense or relaxed? How ever your foot feels just notice that. If you feel tension in a particular part, which part is that? You may feel nothing and that is fine too. As you breathe gently in and then as you breathe out, just relax the muscles inside your foot a bit more. Imagine the foot dropping down slightly or imagine the muscles relaxing as you breathe out – you may hardly notice this but see if you can feel the muscles just relaxing a fraction.
I want you now to focus on your left foot. How does your left foot feel? Again, is it hot or cold? Tense or relaxed? What ever you notice, just mark that. Maybe there is another way you would like to describe what you feel here? Remember, there is no right or wrong. Take a gentle breath in through your nose and, as you slowly breathe out through your mouth, just imagine the muscles in your left foot relaxing ever so slightly. Feel your foot dropping down either in to the floor or the bed. Breathe gently in and gently out.
Now, let us focus on the bottom of the right leg – the area from the ankles, up through the calf and around the shin area. Does this area feel hot or cold? Tense or relaxed? If you can feel any difference in temperature or tension, just notice that. Where is it? Do you feel tense or relaxed in a particular part or is it over the whole area? As you breathe gently in and gently out, again as if you are blowing gently through a straw, just let any tension release. Try to imagine your muscles dropping down a fraction. Feel them drop slightly in to the floor or bed.
We now move on to the bottom of the left leg – the area from the ankles, up through the calf and around the shin area. What do you feel in this area? Does it feel hot or cold? Tense or relaxed? Maybe there is another way you would like to describe what you feel here? What ever you feel, just mark that feeling as you breathe gently in and gently out. Just imagining this area of the left leg dropping down slightly as you relax the muscles.
Now bring a focus to both feet and the bottom half of both of your legs. Breathe gently in and as you breathe gently out, see if you can relax the muscles in this area a bit more. Just imagine the muscles dropping down slightly as you feel it relaxing. If you are lying on a bed, it might be as if this area moves slightly down in to the bed, as it relaxes. Feel the chair or the bed beneath you – this solid mass holding your body.
The next area that we are going to bring our attention to is the upper part of the right leg. From the knee area, around the thigh and the back of the leg up to the buttocks. What do you feel in this area? Is it hot or cold? Tense or relaxed. Are there particular parts that feel tenser than others? What ever you feel, just note that. As you breathe gently in and gently out, just relax all the muscles in this area. Drop them down in to the chair or the bed.
Now let us move on to the upper part of the left leg. Again, from the knee area, around the thigh and the back of the leg up to the buttocks. How does this area feel? How does it compare to the right leg? Does it feel the same or different? More or less tense? Is the temperature in this area of your left leg different? What ever you notice, just mark that. Take a moment to focus back on the breath and make sure that you are gently breathing in and gently breathing out. As long as the breath is gentle and you are taking a full breath in and breathing fully out, you are doing just fine. As you breathe in and as you breathe gently out, just allow the muscles in this area of the leg to drop down – imagine them releasing and relaxing.
As you are sitting or lying there, I want you now to focus from the top of both of your legs and down through the knees, the lower legs, ankles and feet. As you breathe in and breathe out, if you can, imagine any tension flowing down through the legs and out through the toes. If this is difficult to do, as you breathe out, just relax your muscles down a bit. Feel your legs dropping slightly more into the chair, bed or ground.
We are now going to move on to the back. This is often the area where people hold tension. We will come on to the shoulders next, so for this one, focus on the area of the lower back and up to the upper back just below the shoulders. Can you feel any tension in this area? If you feel uncomfortable in any way, slightly shift your body so that you move in to a more comfortable position. Focusing on this area, how does it feel? Hot or cold? Tense or relaxed? You may be someone plagued by lower back pain – or upper back pain. Try to not allow your thoughts to be distracted by this. Just focus back on to the back area and see what you feel there. As you breathe gently in and gently out, let any tension that you feel go.
An area that many people hold tension is the shoulders and neck. If this is something that you feel is familiar to you, try to make sure that throughout your day, you move your neck and shoulders around. Gently rolling your shoulders back and forth and moving your head in a circular motion – first one way and then the other. For our current practice, we want to keep things as calm as possible. If you are feeling tension in this area, you may want to do a few gentle movements to help to release some of the tension here. Remember to breath gently in and out as you go. Focus now on this area. Do you feel any tension here? Are there other ways that you would like to describe what you feel? What ever that is, just mark it. As you breathe in and breathe out, just drop your shoulders down a little. Try to release any tension in your muscles as you breathe out.
We will now focus on the right arm and right hand. How does this area feel? Does it feel relaxed as it is resting on the arm of a chair or on the floor or bed? You may feel tension in this area? You may feel that it is hot or cold or you may want to use other words to describe it. What ever you notice, or even if you notice nothing, there is no right or wrong. As you breathe gently in and out through the mouth, as if you were breathing out through a straw, just imagine any tension you are feeling dropping down. You may feel the muscles slightly relaxing or you may be able to imagine any tension flowing down from your shoulder and out through the tips of your fingers.
Let us now move on to the left arm. You are familiar now with bringing your attention to these areas. What do you feel here? You may feel something or you may feel nothing? There may be some tension in a particular part or you may feel your arm feels hot or cold or maybe it feels just right. What ever you feel, just note that. As you breathe gently in and gently out, imagine the muscles in your arm dropping down in to the arm of the chair, in to the floor or sinking a little further in to your bed.
One final area we are going to focus on is the face. It is interesting to me that actually, we do sometimes hold tension in this area. Just focus on your face and as you breathe in and breathe out, let your muscles drop a bit. You may notice that your mouth drops slightly open or your cheeks feel a little droopier.
As you sit in your chair or lie on the bed or floor, take a few last gentle breaths in and out. As you do so, focus on the whole of your body. Imagine any last bits of tension dropping down through your body gently breathing in and out. Now, when you are ready, slowly open your eyes.
As you go through your day, remember this feeling and, if you can, take a few moments to scan your body. Do a few gentle breaths and try to let some or all of your tension go.