No, I’m not talking EEG, MRI, or any other kind of medical machinery. I’m talking about a mindfulness technique that cultivates relaxation and balance within the body/mind relationship.
The best part is- it’s extremely simple to do…
Start by making yourself comfortable, and after you’ve settled into a space of stillness, close your eyes and start to feel into what’s happening inside.
Take a moment to acknowledge whatever is present; notice all thoughts, emotions, and sensations that are currently illuminating your inner world.
Now, turn your focus to just the body, resting and breathing.
Feel the heart beating…
From here, there are infinite paths that can be taken as awareness slowly travels through the different physical structures that compose the body.
Take your time as you carve out your own pathway, blessing each body part with loving kindness as you go.
Inquire within: are there any areas that need more attention, more care, more breath?
As you notice any areas that feel tense, restricted, imbalanced, or strained, linger in those structures a little longer as you invite the body to relax more fully.
You can be as thorough with your body scans as you’d like, but always take your time. In Satyananda’s style of Yoga Nidra, body scans always move from the gross to subtle, like so (you can read this list as a guide when starting off):
Right hand thumb, index finger, middle finger, ring finger, and little finger.
Palm of the right hand, wrist, elbow, shoulder, right side of the chest, armpit, right side-body, waist, hip, knee, ankle, heel, sole of the right foot, the right big toe, second toe, third, fourth, and fifth toe.
Pause and feel the entire right half of the body, open and relaxed.
Move through the left side of the body in the same way…
Left hand thumb, index finger, middle finger, ring finger, and little finger.
Palm of the left hand, wrist, elbow, shoulder, left side of the chest, armpit, side-body, waist, hip, knee, ankle, heel, sole of the left foot, the left big toe, second toe, third, fourth, and fifth toe.
Pause and feel the entire left half of the body, open and relaxed.
With both sides of the body having been blessed by the light of awareness, feel both sides, together.
Feel the front of the body, the back of the body, the sides of the body, and every layer of tissue in between, all together, as a whole.
This is one of the most simple and straight forward body scans that can be done, and it is a wonderful place to start. Greater explorations of form can expand from this practice.
Other approaches may begin at the top of the head and move down through the body, or one can begin at the feet and work their way up, alternating between left and right sides as awareness climbs the lattice of living flesh.
Do what works for you…
If you are knowledgeable of human anatomy, make use of this knowledge and mentally dissect your own body with nothing more than the light of your own awareness.
Now you may be wondering, “What’s the point? Why should I spend my time doing this???”
1. It’s incredibly relaxing, for both body AND mind. Most of us relax with some form of activity, like exercise, writing, making art, or we relax with passive streams of sensory input like music and television. In all of these seemingly relaxing scenarios, the mind is simply pacified as the body continues to work.
By withdrawing awareness from the external world and turning our attention fully to hear the subtle whispers of body/mind communication, we can actively support the healing and rejuvenating properties that the body contains.
2. We get to know and love our bodies as they actually are. General body awareness improves and self image is likely to improve alongside it. One may even gain insights as to what factors may be slowly moving the body and/or mind out of balance, so that appropriate, health-building changes can be made in our daily lives BEFORE full blown illness occurs.
3. Giving the mind a task like this to do, gently guides it towards a single point of focus, which is the aim of any meditation. Continued practice trains the mind to find clarity and balance with ease. Any mental turbulence comes to stillness as thought-waves are channeled into a steady stream of relaxed awareness. You can even assign an image to your awareness and imagine light or water flowing to the different parts of your body as you do your scan, cleansing each area as you go.
Do this practice as often as you’d like, but I encourage daily! It’s easy to slip into your nightly routine just before sleep or it can be done as a short break during the day. It can even be done in the midst of movement.
Experiment and explore for yourself! Notice how this practice shifts your daily experience, and share your discoveries here!
Guided recordings of this practice can be done with Yoga Nidra here. Each one begins with a body scan and continues on with a full tour of the other koshas (layers of consciousness).
New sessions are now available every Sunday! Be sure to follow my SoundCloud page for weekly reminders.