Doing a short body scan meditation at the start of a meditation, yoga or relaxation session is a great way to bring the mind to the present moment, focussing on the here and now. It brings our awareness to the body and allows the tension to gradually release letting us relax and let go.
Although the focus is on the body during your body scan, it is the mind that is working, we are training our mind to concentrate on one thing at a time and become aware of how our body feels.
This body scan or body awareness meditation is also a type of autogenic relaxation technique. Autogenic relaxation is where you tell yourself that you are relaxed and the body follows. Suggesting to the mind that you feel relaxed and calm allows the body to respond in the same way. The continued suggestion that each body part feels relaxed and heavy results in the physical body responding in the same way. This can have a calming and soothing effect on the mind and give the body a chance to let go, relaxing tight muscles and relieving aches and pains.
To do a body scan meditation you start at the top of your head, scanning the body from top to bottom, noticing any areas of tension, gently allowing the tension to release before moving on. You can include visualisations such as a sphere of white, gold or blue light, which you imagine above your head, feeling the warmth or light radiating down through the body, relaxing and releasing the muscles as it goes. You may also wish to include the breath by taking deep breaths and imagining that with every out breath you release tension, pain and difficult emotions. You could also start at the feet and feel the body releasing as you draw the awareness up the body finishing by being aware of the breath, noticing the inhale and exhale – breathing naturally but with awareness.
So your body scan can be simple with awareness just on the body or it can be developed to include the breath or visualisations. The main reasons to do the exercise in whichever form you choose is to bring awareness to body and mind and to relax in preparation for further meditations.