What is a Body Scan Meditation?

Here at Les Sources Sacrées, we encourage our mindfulness meditation retreat guests to relax, as much and as often as possible. I am convinced that stress worsens and causes many diseases. Even though the peace and tranquillity that reigns at Les Sources Sacrées are conducive to relaxation in its own right, we do not just tell our guests to relax, we introduce them to practical methods of doing so – the body scan meditation is one such method.

When we are feeling stressed, it is common to focus the feeling in one or another body part: a thunderous frown, a clenched jaw, scrunched-up shoulders, balled fists, tummy doing flip-flops, tightly curled toes…A body scan meditation can be performed daily or even several times a day, as needed, to help you identify what you are feeling, where you’re feeling it and to help you release the stress in your body…and also in your mind.

Body scan meditation is one of the meditation techniques taught by MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, developed by Prof Jon Kabat-Zinn) instructors like Trish Magyari, who explain that the purpose of the body scan is “to bring awareness to each part of our body sequentially, to see how it is today — not to change or judge the body, which we are often so quick to do, but just to experience it and see what’s there.” The purpose of this body scan mindfulness meditation is simply to notice your body, simply being aware of your body, in this present moment.

According to Prof Jon Kabat-Zinn, “In the body scan, we are developing a greater intimacy with bare sensation, opening to the give-and-take embedded in the reciprocity between the sensations themselves and our awareness of them. As a result, it is not uncommon to be less disturbed by them, or disturbed by them in a different, a wiser way, even when they are acute. Awareness learns to let them be as they are and to hold them without triggering so much emotional reactivity and also so much inflamed thinking about them. We sometimes speak of awareness and discernment differentiating and perhaps naturally “uncoupling” the sensory dimension of the experience of pain from the emotional and cognitive dimensions of pain. In the process, the intensity of the sensations themselves can sometimes subside. In any event, they may come to be seen as less onerous, less debilitating.”

Usually, our response to bodily pain or discomfort is to distract ourselves or to try and numb/ignore the pain. In this exercise, we notice with patient curiosity if our bodies are comfortable or uncomfortable. The body scan cultivates our ability to be present in our bodies, in the moment, exploring the experience with curiosity and receptiveness, breathing quietly during discomfort and examining our discomfort instead of avoiding it/suppressing it.  

One could start with one’s feet, paying attention to the physical feelings in them: pain, discomfort, coolness, warmth, tension or tightness. Simply pay attention to the physical sensations.

Usually, when people find something in their body they don’t like, they meet it with judgement; the body that’s in pain is your enemy,” Magyari says. “It’s a very radical concept to meet the body with friendliness.”

You then take a tour of your body – mentally – by noticing and experiencing each part. Once a part is scanned, one allows awareness of that part to fade away as we move to the next area. Slowly allow your awareness to drift up from your feet to your lower legs, again simply paying attention to any physical sensations in that part of your body. Let your awareness drift further up your body – to your thighs, hips, buttocks, pelvic region, belly, chest, your lower back, upper back, fingers and hands, lower arms, upper arms, shoulders, neck, your head, forehead, temples, face – eyes, cheeks, nose, mouth, jaw. 

This whole process can take 5 to 30 minutes. You can body scan in as short as 5 minutes although it is said that the most benefits are achieved during 30 minutes body scans. Body scanning trains your mind and narrows your focus moving from one body part to the next and ultimately your body as a whole.  Each time your mind drifts, notice what it was focusing on without judgement and bring your attention back to your breathing. At the end of the exercise, as you breathe in, imagine your in-breath starting at your toes and reaching the top of your head. As you breathe out, your out-breath sweeps from the top of your head down to your toes. 

At the very end, we’re lying with the awareness of our wholeness in that moment. We’re not thinking about what’s right or wrong with us, our state of health, but just that sense of physical wholeness,” Magyari says.

According to MBSRtraining.com, bringing mindfulness to the body can help you learn what your body does and does not need in order to thrive. “The body scan meditation is a deep investigation into the moment-to-moment experiences of the body. By bringing awareness and acknowledgement to whatever you feel or sense in the body, the body scan can be very helpful in working with stress, anxiety, and physical pain.” 

Prof Kabat-Zinn says, “The body scan is not for everybody, and it is not always the meditation of choice even for those who love it. But it is extremely useful and good to know about and practice from time to time, whatever your circumstances or condition. If you think of your body as a musical instrument, the body scan is a way of tuning it. If you think of it as a universe, the body scan is a way to come to know it. If you think of your body as a house, the body scan is a way to throw open all the windows and does and let the fresh air of awareness sweep it clean.”

If you are interested in joining us on a stress-busting mindfulness and meditation workshop here at Les Sources Sacrées in the south of France, please fill in the form below – your e-mail address is 100% safe – or e-mail me on welcome2gascony -at- gmail.com. To find out more about our mindfulness meditation workshops, please CLICK HERE.

dr_margaretha_montagu_v3I have written a book about the mindfulness and meditation techniques we introduce our workshop participants to here at Les Sources Sacrées. Each chapter starts with a letter or an email from someone who would like to attend a workshop here, explaining why they are interested in our workshops. The book is called Mindfulness and Meditation in the South Of France: Staying focused in a fast-paced World. It differs from other books about mindfulness and meditation in five unique ways:

1. This book proposes a technique, in the form of a questionnaire, to help you choose the meditation method will work the best for you. Meditation is not a one-size-fits-all exercise. We are all different, we each have to find a meditation method that suits us, mentally and physically.

2. This book will help readers solve real-life problems. In each chapter, an everyday person with everyday challenges explains his/her problem. There is

  • someone who struggles to lose weight and keep it off,
  • someone with relationship problems,
  • someone who can not sleep,
  • someone with an overwhelmingly stressful job,
  • someone whose new business is faltering,
  • someone who is trying to make a long-treasured dream come true,
  • someone who wants to grow spiritually…

The rest of each chapter demonstrates how each of these people can solve their problem with mindfulness and meditation.

3. This book helps people who do not enjoy traditional sitting meditation to find a realistic alternative. Not everyone can sit still for 60, 30, 20 or even 10 minutes at a time.

4. This book is an interactive and practical aid – each chapter contains a selection of links to further resources, carefully chosen to help the reader discover and experience the various meditation methods presented. There are also links to scientific studies that back up the effectiveness of the methods described in the book.

5. This book exclusively contains a chapter about equine-guided meditation, one of the meditation methods we introduce our mindfulness meditation workshop participants to. This chapter includes instructions on how to practice equine-guided meditation in the absence of horses.

I have written this book because I believe that mindfulness and meditation are effective stress management strategies that can help practitioners avoid the physical and mental damage that stress can cause. That is why it is of primordial importance to me to help my readers find a meditation method that suits them, personally. A method that they will be able to incorporate into their daily lives without having to sacrifice too much of their precious time and that they will be able to continue practising daily, for the rest of their lives.

If you would like to find out more about mindfulness and meditation and how it can benefit you in a practical and sustainable way, this could be the book for you.

It is currently available on Amazon. Click Here to find out more.

coming-our-senses-jon-kabat-zinnYou can read more about the Body Scan Meditation as described by Prof Kabat-Zinn by clicking here The Body Scan Jon Kabat Zin

Click here to download a script: The Body Scan Meditation script.

Further reading

  • Brief body-scan meditation practice improves somato-sensory perceptual decision making – Laura Miramsa, Ellen Poliakoffa, Richard J. Brownb, Donna M. Lloyda Consciousness and Cognition Volume 22, Issue 1, March 2013, Pages 348–359 – sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1053810012001675
  • Immediate effects of a brief mindfulness-based body scan on patients with chronic pain – Michael Ussher, Amy Spatz, Claire Copland, Andrew Nicolaou, Abbey Cargill, Nina Amini-Tabrizi, Lance M. McCracken J Behav MedDOI 10.1007/s10865-012-9466-5 – academia.edu/2491669/Immediate-effects-of-a-brief-mindfulness-based-body-scan-on-patients-with-chronic-pain

body scan meditation


A Reformed MD, assisted by six talented Horses, hosts Workshops and writes Books in the south of France

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