A body scan is a very simple mindfulness routine that helps us train awareness on body sensations, accomplishing two things: first, allowing us to assess how we physically feel and second, pulling our mind into focus and giving us a few moments of relative peace.
Start by sitting comfortably in a chair with your feet planted on the floor and hands loosely in your lap. Close your eyes and begin to notice your breath. After a moment, bring all of your attention to the bottoms of your feet. Feel the sensation of your feet against your shoes, against for floor. Feel your feet spreading to fill your shoes. Moving your attention slowly upward, feel your ankles and lower legs. Notice the sensation of them touching socks, pants, or air. Breathe and relax your calf muscles, letting your attention follow the change in sensation.
After a few moments, move your focus to your thighs. Feel the chair against the back of your thighs. Feel your clothing against the fronts of your thighs. Again, try to relax and feel the muscles spread and loosen. Gradually, bring your mind to your hip creases. Notice if they are tight, pulling you forward. Breathe and relax into the support of your chair.
Let your mind move to your stomach and lower back. Notice sensation and use your breath to relax the muscles. Upward in this way, notice small areas of your body—mid-back, chest, shoulder blades, upper arms, neck, wrists and hands, etc. Feel any touch or temperature sensations, notice any tension, and using calm and steady breath, exhale to dissolve into relaxation.
End with several moments of attention on the muscles of your face. Break your study into small parts—jaw and teeth, tongue, lips, cheeks, nostrils, eyeballs, eyebrows, temples, forehead. As before, notice touch, temperature, and movement, as well as clinching, grinding, or tightness. Exhale and relax part by part.
A body scan can just take a few moments. It can also be incredibly effective if you’ve already identified areas that tend to get tight, like your face and shoulders. You can stop periodically and scan just those areas, allowing them to relax.
A body scan can also be an extensive, deep meditation where you explore ever smaller and smaller slices of your body. You could even try breaking it down muscle by muscle, spending an hour or more in meditation.
As you finish your tour, sit a few final moments with all of your awareness on your breath. Then slowly blink your eyes open to return to your day. You’ll be wiser about your body and clearer in your mind.