How often do we pay attention to sensation in our bodies? “Autopilot” mode is very useful. We can use “muscle memory”, so that once we've learned to walk, run, cycle, swim, we can do it without having to think about it. We can even drive and eat a sandwich and worry about how bad the traffic is at the same time! However in daily life, our bodies often get ignored and used in a mechanical way, and we can find ourselves with very little awareness of what is going on in the body, unless something urgent, dramatic or painful happens.
Jon Kabat-Zinn's wonderful book “Full Catastrophe Living” describes the consequences of this state: a lack of awareness of the body's messages that allow us to know how it is doing and what its needs are. We can become insensitive to how our body is affected by our environment, actions, thoughts and emotions. It can become impossible to relax. This is where the body scan comes in. Kabat-Zinn explains that by systematically paying attention to each part of the body, we can become more attuned to what it is telling us, and better equipped to respond appropriately. We can also learn how to let go of tension and invite the body to relax, which is fantastic for promoting health and wellbeing. I used to practice relaxation exercises many years ago, without much success. It was only through practising the body scan, and not trying to relax - but just paying attention to sensation, that I learned to relax!
The body scan is the first meditation learned on the 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course developed by Kabat-Zinn - find out more about doing a course with me here https://www.birdwingsyogamassage.co.uk/mindfulness
Fancy having a go at home? Here's a link to my 30-minute guided Body Scan meditation:
We also practice the body scan as part of my regular workshops - "Relax and Restore" and "Mindfulness Boost" - find details of upcoming workshops here: https://www.birdwingsyogamassage.co.uk/yoga-workshops