Mindfulness meditation, loving-kindness meditation, zen meditation — with so many different types of meditation out there, it can be difficult knowing where and how to get started.
If you’re looking for a meditation to help reduce stress and to strengthen your ability to stay focused and in the present moment, body scan meditations are a great place to begin.
Read on to learn more about what body scan meditation is, its benefits and how you can get started with meditation with your EEG headset.
What is body scan meditation?
Body scan meditation involves paying attention to the different sensations in your body. The practice is grounded in bringing awareness to your physical experience on a deep level and learning to listen to the signals of your body. It’s also a great stepping stone to more difficult forms of meditation as it helps you train your focus on something tangible happening within you.
Most of the time, we don’t recognize our bodily sensations, or we ignore them in the pursuit of our goals, but our body can tell us a great deal about how we’re truly feeling. Its signals can key us into parts of ourselves that could use some tender love and care. In this way, body scan meditation offers us a different pathway to relieving stress and cultivating relaxation, taking a physical approach when talking isn’t working.
Because we don’t often tune into our bodies, the practice can feel a bit uncomfortable at first as we begin to identify and sit with the sensations in our bodies. These sensations can appear in a lot of different ways and are completely unique to each of us.
You might recognize these sensations as:
- Heat or coolness
- Discomfort or disease, and more.
Body scan meditation versus progressive muscle relaxation
Although the two sound similar, body scan meditation and progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) are two very different techniques. Where body scan meditation involves exploring the body for discomfort and tension with acceptance and curiosity, progressive muscle relaxation involves systematically tensing then relaxing different parts of the body.
The benefits of body scan meditation
Clinical research exploring the effects of body scan meditations have found that the practice can offer numerous benefits. One study found that body scan meditations (compared to progressive muscle relaxation, and two control groups) over the course of 4 weeks led to greater increases in Respiratory Sinus Arrhythmia (RSA). RSA is a measure of parasympathetic nervous system activation, better recognized as our “relaxation” response. 
Another series of studies found that body scan meditation was as effective at reducing the desire to smoke and withdrawal symptoms as isometric exercise. 
As a core practice in Jon Kabat Zinn’s Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Programs, body scan meditations are also often associated with stress relief. Additionally, research has found that mindfulness-based interventions like body scan meditation can:
- Decrease anxiety 
- Reduce depression 
- Lessen experience of pain 
- Reduce stress 
- Improve sleep 
- Sharpen focus and improve working memory 
- Greater self-awareness 
Make it easier to activate a relaxed state 
Aside from physiological changes, body scan meditation allows you to tune into your experience on a deep level. This meditation can change our relationship with discomfort by teaching us to remain present when experiencing unpleasant feelings. It can make it easier to experience discomfort without running away from our emotions, going numb, or blaming others. It also helps us to remain present, even when we’re angry or not feeling our best, which leads to greater clarity and decision-making.
How do you do a body scan meditation?
If you're new to meditation, this type of meditation is considered one of the most accessible and easy to get started with. Start with a short practice of five to ten minutes to train your abilities without becoming overwhelmed.
Here are 5 steps to do a body scan meditation:
Find a comfortable place: Get quiet and comfortable where you can tune out the world and focus into yourself. It’s best to sit or lay down for this meditation — choose whatever’s most comfortable for you. You may choose to close your eyes, or leave them gently resting open.
Ground yourself: Start taking a few deep breaths. As you inhale, explore the sensation of the oxygen traveling in through your mouth, down your throat, filling your lungs. Gently notice how your body feels as you inhale and exhale.
Bring your attention to your body: Continue bringing your attention further within your physical experience. Explore the places where your body is making contact with the ground, the feeling of the chair or floor beneath your pelvic bones, your shoulders, your feet.
Consider the heat or coolness different parts of your body feel, how contact with the surface feels, what the surface feels like. Consider the weight, pressure, vibrations, and anything else you feel.
Explore: You can continue exploring the sensations in your body in a few different ways. You may prefer starting at the top of your head, and slowly working your focus down your body. Or, you may resonate more with focusing your attention on the parts of your body that call out to you, or feel discomfort.
Take your time as you explore the subtleties of your experience. You can also use this opportunity to release tension in these areas by breathing into and exploring the tension.
- Bring your awareness back: When you’re ready, take another, final deep breath and begin bringing your awareness back to the world around you.
Start your meditation practice with Muse
The Muse 2 Headband and the Muse S Headband, are great tools to enhance your meditation practice. These meditation headbands are equipped with advanced EEG technology that tracks your body's natural rhythms during meditation.
When paired with the Muse app, it provides personalized meditation soundscapes tailored to your heart rate, breath patterns, and body movements, helping you to tune into your body.
Try the body scan meditation with your Muse today and experience deep relaxation and improved focus. For more body-focused meditations, check out our Body Biofeedback Meditations series that provide you with real-time biofeedback results.
- Read about The MBSR Body Scan in Clinical Practice HERE >>
- Explore the effects of mindfulness meditation on psychological stress and wellbeing HERE >>
- Discover how an 8-week body scan intervention can impact stress markers HERE >>
- Learn about the effects of mindfulness meditation on sleep quality HERE >>
- Explore the impact of mindfulness based interventions on attention and memory HERE >>
- Discover how a brief body scan meditation can improve somatosensory decision-making HERE >>