Do a Body Scan to Check for Stress
Learning to do a body scan is from “Body Awareness” in The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook. This chapter discusses how the mind and body interact, how to recognize tension in your body, and exercises to recognize and let go of tension in your body.
The body scan is explained on page 16: “Close your eyes. Starting with your toes and moving up your body, ask yourself, “Where am I tense?” Wherever you discover a tense area, exaggerate it slightly so you become aware of it. Be aware of the muscles in your body that are tense. Then, for example, say to yourself, “I am tensing my neck muscles….I am hurting myself. I am creating tension in my body.” Note that all muscular tension is self-produced. At this point, be aware of any life situation that may be causing the tension in your body and what you can do to change it.
On pages 42-43, the authors offer the following inner exploration to open each part of your body:
1) Begin by becoming aware of the rising and falling of your breath in your chest and belly. You can ride the waves of your breath and let it begin to anchor you to the present moment.
2) Bring your attention to the soles of your feet. Notice any sensation that is present there. Without judging or trying to make it different, simply be present with the sensation. After a few moments imagine that your breath is flowing into the soles of your feet. As you breath in and out you might experience an opening or softening and a release of tension. Just simply observe with no expectations.
3) Now bring your attention to the rest of your feet, up to your ankles. Become aware of any sensation in this part of your body. After a few moments imagine that your breath, instead of stopping at the diaphragm, flows all the way down to your feet. Breath into and out of your feet, simply noticing the sensations.
4) Proceed up your body in this manner with all parts of your body—lower legs, knees, upper legs, pelvis, hips and buttocks, lower back, upper back, chest and belly, upper shoulders, neck, head, and face. Take your time as you really feel each body part and notice whatever sensations are present, without forcing them or trying to make them be different, then breath into the body part and let go of it as you move on to the next body part.
5) Go back to your neck and shoulders or any place that has pain, tension, or discomfort. Simply be with the sensations in a nonjudging way. As you breathe, imagine the breath opening up any tight muscles or painful areas and creating more spaciousness. As you breathe out imagine the tension or pain flowing away.
6) When you reach the top of your body, scan your body one last time for any areas of tension or discomfort. Then imagine that you have a breath hole at the top of your head, much like that of a whale or dolphin. Breathe in from the top of your head, bringing the breath all the way down to the soles of your feet and up again. Allow your breath to wash away tension or uncomfortable sensations.
7) Allow 20-30 minutes for a body scan.
Book: The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook: Fifth Edition. Authors: Martha David, Elizabeth Eshelman, and Matthew McKay. ISBN: 1-57224-214-0