Body scan meditation (BSM) involves bringing attention to sensations occurring in different parts of the body. This practice can help a person become more aware of their bodily sensations, feelings, and emotions.

Meditation is an ancient practice that helps individuals develop an improved awareness of the present moment. There are many types of meditation.

BSM may help a person gain a greater understanding of their body and mind. Through BSM, people may learn about the sources of their negative or unwanted thoughts and feelings. They may also learn ways to respond to them more appropriately, which can lead to a more positive outlook on life and improvements in overall well-being.

This article outlines the benefits of meditation, including BSM. It also provides a step-by-step guide on how to practice BSM and offers some tips on meditating in general.

An older woman sat in lotus position on the floor performing a body scan meditation.Share on Pinterest
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A 2020 article states that meditation can have beneficial effects on a person’s emotional and physical well-being. Some potential benefits include:

According to a 2018 study, regular meditation is also associated with improvements in cognitive functions, such as:

  • attention
  • working memory
  • long-term memory
  • spatial abilities

BSM is a type of meditation that involves focusing the attention and awareness on sensations occurring in the body. This form of meditation may help a person develop their interoceptive awareness, which is the ability to identify, interpret, and respond appropriately to internal signals.

A person can think of BSM as a scan of the body that starts at the head and slowly works its way down to the toes or vice versa. During this scan, a person focuses their attention on the sensations happening within the different parts of their body. These sensations may include the following:

  • tingling
  • pulsing
  • tightness
  • pain
  • discomfort
  • temperature

Beginners in BSM should dedicate at least 15 minutes to the practice. Over time, they can increase the duration. Starting on a meditation journey can be challenging, so it is best to start off small and work up to larger increments of time.

A person can try BSM either lying down or sitting in a comfortable position. For people who are prone to falling asleep, sitting should help them stay awake.

Step-by-step guide

People can perform a BSM by following these steps:

  • Step 1: Get into a comfortable position, either lying or sitting down.
  • Step 2: Close the eyes.
  • Step 3: Deepen the breath and bring awareness to the body.
  • Step 4: When ready, breathe in and bring awareness to either the head or toes. If sensations are already occurring in another part of the body, bring awareness to that body part instead.
  • Step 5: Notice and pay attention to any sensations, such as tingling, tightness, or discomfort. Not noticing anything is also fine.
  • Step 6: After scanning one part of the body, move on to an adjacent part. For example, if starting at the head, move on to the neck, then the shoulders, then the chest, and so on. Continue in this way across the entire body.
  • Step 7: Once the body scan is complete, get up slowly. Periods of stillness may cause a drop in blood pressure, so getting up too quickly may result in dizziness.

During the meditation, a person may notice their attention wandering. They should acknowledge this without judgment and then try refocusing their attention on their body. It is normal for the mind to wander, especially for those starting out in meditation. As a person continues with their meditation practice, they will likely notice that their mind becomes more focused.

Making meditation a habit can be challenging. A person can take steps to help them make BSM a part of their daily routine. These include

  • Meditating first thing in the morning: Meditation may be more challenging later in the day, when a person becomes busy or tired. Setting aside time to complete the practice in the morning can help ensure that it becomes part of the daily routine.
  • Meditating in the same place: If a person always meditates in the same place, their brain will start to associate the location with their meditation practice. Over time, this makes it easier to get into the right mindset.
  • Getting comfortable: A person should get comfortable before they begin each meditation. This may mean lying down on some days and sitting upright on others. Some people like to sit cross-legged, but others find the position uncomfortable. A person should try different techniques to find which works best for them.
  • Setting a time limit: A person can set a timer on their phone to ensure that they wake up if they happen to fall asleep. This may be especially important for beginners and people who fall asleep easily during waking hours.
  • Giving themselves grace: Starting a new practice can be difficult. With meditation, it takes some time to develop focus. If a person finds that they are losing focus, they should remind themselves that this is fine and that perfection is not the goal.
  • Meditating with a friend or family member: Establishing a meditation routine with another person can help with motivation.

Advocates of meditation promote it as a way for individuals to improve their mental health and overall well-being.

People may find that body scan meditation is a particularly good way to become more aware of sensations within their body and more perceptive of their feelings and emotions.