Body Scan Meditation

Well, hello there…it’s been a while! 😉

Lots has happened in the last few weeks (including starting my new job) – I debated summarizing an update on the past month but will save it for a future post, as I’d really like to write about Body Scan Meditation.

It sounds very granola, doesn’t it? I’ve been having intense back pain and while I usually get a monthly massage my (amazing) RMT is on mat leave, so I’m about 2 months overdue.

Last night I had trouble sleeping and intense lower back pain…so I used the Body Scan Meditation technique (that I learned a decade ago taking a university yoga class for $18 – deal of the century!), and the results were pretty unbelievable.

There’s a few different ways to do Body Scan Meditation – but the steps I take are:

  1. Lie down, arms at my sides and focus on my breath (focusing on your breath takes some practice but some key tricks are breathing through your nose & feeling the sensation of your breath through your chest and other body parts).
  2. Focus on my left toes and imagine a warm sensation starting with my big toe, and slowly moving into the other toes, up through my foot, ankle, calf, knee, thighs and hip. As the warmth is moving, paying attention to how that part of the body is feeling.
  3. Do the same with the right toes/foot and all the way up the trunk of my body, fingers, wrists, forarms, upper arms, shoulders, neck and face.

The goal is to bring awareness to different points of your body and naturally release the tension. I’ve generally had some muscle relaxation, but last night I did this before bed (expecting it to last 5-10 minutes…………….it lasted 2 hours. TWO HOURS!) And for about 50% of the time my muscles were slowly moving themselves and working out the kinks without my focus (!!!).

It was like my body knew exactly how to move to bring itself back to it’s natural, relaxed state…and it was incredibly trippy to feel the muscles moving throughout my body and have my legs/hips/shoulders moving without my brain telling them to.

If you’ve ever had a massage where the RMT worked out the kinks or you could feel the knot moving down you’ll know it’s deeply satisfying. When your body/mind is working the kink out itself with no physical manipulation it’s on a whole other level.

It totally blew my mind.

A couple things I noted:

  1. It took a long time for me to get the initial warm sensation (likely because my body was so tense). Usually I get it in 5-10 seconds, but this took 2-3 minutes.
  2. There were several spots where it simply felt painful – the first time it happened I just kept breathing thinking “well this sucks” and to my surprise, after 8-10 breaths the muscle started to relax itself.
  3. My lower back/hips did the same relaxing/rotating cycle about 8 times (over the course of likely 1-1.5hrs). The sensation was in the glutes but had my legs and hips making small movements, almost like I was riding a bicycle in reverse.
  4. When my lower back was working out the kinks, I felt other kinks release at points in the back of my calf and feet…I suppose they’re all connected!
  5. Even as I’ve been typing this, if I briefly think about a body part (e.g. foot, calf, shoulder), the muscles twitch and relax themselves with little focus – probably because it had such intense practice last night!
  6. I wondered if this was more beneficial and effective at relieving stress than physical manipulation by an RMT.

Part of me thinks “I don’t get enough sleep already so to have my body use 2hrs of sleeping time to literally unwind feels semi-torturous” (it actually was semi-torturous with the pain and not knowing when it would stop, yet not wanting to stop my body from naturally relaxing itself).

So what do I do next?

  1. Increase my body awareness & mindfulness throughout the day. As I’m sitting on the couch, at the office, etc. – do a quick 5 second scan to see where I’m holding tension and release it.
  2. Do the full blown body scan again tonight and see what happens…instead of starting it at 1:30am (I know…I spent 3 hours folding laundry starting at 10:30pm…it was out of control and once I started I couldn’t stop), start it at 9:30pm or 10pm. A good trigger for me is to start it when I think I want to surf Facebook or people.com…things I think are relaxing but probably aren’t physically healing. 😉

If this is something you’d like to try do a google of Body Scan Meditation – if you’re a beginner there are various youtubes and recordings online (ranging from 2 minutes to 45 minutes) where someone will walk you through the technique.

Hope this helps for anyone else with body aches and/or stress!

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