The Body Scan and Progressive Relaxation

Activities 27 and 28 from Being You: A Girl's Guide to Mindfulness




Body-Based Practices for Mindfulness or Relaxation 

Meditation has helped on my bad days. When I go to bed and I’m worried about what’s coming next and I can’t fall asleep, I get frustrated. That’s when I start to meditate and it helps me to clear my mind. Sometimes I count [my breath] or I do a body scan. It makes me feel calm and eventually I fall asleep.
—Paola, age 17


A body scan is a type of meditation where you very slowly move your attention from one end of your body to the other. I prefer to start from my toes and gradually bring my attention up to my head. If it works better for you to do it the other way, that’s fine. You can start from your head and gradually move your attention down to your toes.

A lot of people find that a body scan helps them to relax, but it’s OK if you don’t feel relaxed. The purpose is to notice the sensations in your body, not to feel a particular way. 


Progressive relaxation is similar to a body scan. The difference is that instead of noticing whatever sensations are already present, you’re consciously trying to relax your body. 




The Body Scan 



Very slowly bring your attention from one end of your body to the other, simply noticing whatever sensations you feel.

Find a comfortable spot on the floor where you have enough room to lie down. You might want to lie down on a yoga mat, an exercise mat, or a towel, and you can put a pillow under your head if that’s more comfortable for you. If you’d prefer not to lie down, you can sit in a chair instead.

Close your eyes if that’s comfortable for you.

Bring your attention to your toes.
 


Do you feel any sensations in your toes? For example, you might feel tingling, or you might feel where your socks touch your skin. Whatever you’re feeling, that’s fine. Just notice it.

Now bring your attention to your feet. 


Do you feel any sensations in your feet? Again, this could be tingling, or your socks touching your skin. Or maybe you feel your heels pressing against the floor. Whatever you’re feeling is fine.

Very slowly and gradually bring your attention up the length of your body.

  • Notice any sensations in your lower legs, then your knees, then your upper legs. 
  • Notice any sensations in your belly, then your torso, then your chest.
  • Notice any sensations in your shoulders, then your neck.
  • Notice any sensations in your hands, your lower arms, your elbows, and your upper arms.
  • Notice any sensations in your head and in your face.

After you’ve slowly scanned through your whole body, open your eyes (if they were closed) and bring your awareness back to your surroundings.

How did it feel to focus your attention on your body?

What types of sensations did you notice?





Progressive Relaxation 


Directions: Slowly bring your attention to each part of your body. Feel it tense and tighten, then release into a more relaxed position. If you’re not sure how to do this, try pressing that part of your body against the floor (for example, your arms) or scrunching it up (for example, your face).

Find a comfortable spot on the floor where you have enough room to lie down. You might want to lie down on a yoga mat, an exercise mat, or a towel, and you can put a pillow under your head if that’s more comfortable for you. If you’d prefer not to lie down, you can sit in a chair instead.

Close your eyes if that’s comfortable for you.
Scrunch up your toes, then release them.

Now point your feet, then release them.

Very slowly and gradually tighten and release the muscles up the length of your body.

  • Tighten and release the muscles in your lower legs, then your upper legs. 
  • Tighten and release the muscles in your belly.
  • Tighten and release the muscles in your hands, then your arms.
  • Tighten and release the muscles in your shoulders, then your neck.
  • Tighten and release the muscles in your face.

Whenever you’re ready, open your eyes (if they were closed) and bring your awareness back to your surroundings.


How did it feel to tighten and release your muscles?


Do you feel more relaxed now than you did a few minutes ago?



How did this feel different from the body scan? 







Adapted from Being You: A Girl's Guide to Mindfulness, by Catharine Hannay. 
© Prufrock Press, 2019. Used with permission. www.prufrock.com
Being You: A Girl's Guide to Mindfulness
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