The Body Scan
Take a few moments; you can be standing or sitting. Close your eyes; it helps to keep your focus inwards on your body sensations rather than outwards on the surrounding environment.
Start at the top of your head and work your way down to your feet. Begin by noticing the top of your head, notice any aches or tension in your head and whether it’s located at the side, the back, top or front. Or notice if your head is open and clear or brimming with ideas and thoughts.
Now drop down into your forehead and notice if it feels soft and relaxed, or whether you have furrows in your brow. Then move to your eyes, are your eyelids lying relaxed over your eyeballs, you may have watery eyes, your eyelids may be flickering or you could have pictures behind your eyes.
Now notice your nostrils. Is the air moving in and out freely, or is there any congestion? If so is it more on the right or the left?
Notice the quality of your hearing. What do you notice in your left and your right ear? Drop down to your mouth and jaw. Is your tongue relaxed in your mouth? Is your jaw tight? are you clenching your teeth? and if so is it more one side than another?
Now notice your throat. Does it feel open and clear? is it sore? Do you have a lump in your throat? What about the muscles in your neck, are they relaxed or do you have any tightness or tension?
Now drop your awareness down to your shoulders. Do they feel level? Is one shoulder lower than the other? Are they drawn up towards your ears or are they back and down or maybe slumped forward?
Now bring your awareness down through your right arm to your elbow, through your forearm to your wrist and into the fingers of your right hand. You may notice a hot, cold or a tingly sensation. You might even have noticed an old injury and if that is the most prominent sensation, that’s fine too. Now do the same for your left arm and notice your left upper arm, elbow, forearm, wrist and into the fingers of your left hand.
Now notice your breathing. How is it right now in this moment? Don’t try to change it in any way. Is it quicker than normal? Is it normal and regular or is it erratic? Were you even holding your breath when you first brought awareness to it?
Now bring awareness to your solar plexus. Does it feel soft and relaxed or is there any anxiety or excitement there? Then drop down to your abdominal area, does it feel calm and relaxed or is it churning and gurgling?
Now notice your lower back and also the alignment of your upper, middle and lower back. Are you standing tall through your back or is there any tightness anywhere? Now bring awareness to your pelvic area and your genital organs.
Then move down through your right hip, your right thigh, knee, calf, ankle and into your right foot and notice how it’s placed on the ground. Do you have more weight on the toe, heel, or the outside or inside of your foot? Now bring your awareness to your left hip, left thigh, knee, calf, ankle, and notice how your left foot is placed on the ground. Are your feet placed firmly on the ground or do you feel as though you are floating over the ground?
Now that you have moved your awareness through your whole body you may have noticed two or three sensations, but I want you to choose the one which is most prominent, right now in this moment.
When you have located this sensation, take a couple of deep breaths and imagine sending oxygen and awareness to this sensation and allow it to expand in whatever way it wants to. So if your sensation is a tingle in your right hand, allow the tingliness to be as prominent as it wants to be. Then imagine having a dialogue with the sensation and ask the tingliness in your hand what information it has for you, right now, in this moment. Be open to what comes, it might not make sense to your conscious mind. It could be a colour, a word, a memory, the tune of a song, an image, a favourite TV programme.
When you have received the information go back to the original sensation. Is it the same, has it got greater, is it beginning to soften, has it moved or has it gone completely?
If it’s about the same generally you’ve missed it, perhaps you discounted the first thought or image, so go back to check again.
If it’s increased then it’s your body’s way of saying ‘Great, now you are listening I have more information for you’ so go back in again and ask what other information there is.
If you notice the sensation softening, moving or it’s gone completely then that is your body’s way of telling you that it has given you the information it was intending to.
Open your eyes. Make a note of the prominent sensation and the information you’re received.
You may now be aware of another sensation because they are changing all the time and are one of the ways to connect with your authentic self.
Some common queries:
Some people say ‘I don’t know if I’m doing this right.’
Well you can’t get it wrong. Sometimes you may find that you bring awareness to a sensation and yet you cannot access any information, yet when you go back to the original sensation, it’s gone. In this case your body received the information, even though it was not made conscious. Over the years I’ve learnt to accept that this may be because I’m not ready to be consciously aware of the information, or that I’m not ready to reveal it in the company that I’m in. But it often informs what happens next for me, on a subconscious level.
Other people say “I don’t know”
‘I don’t know’ is information, so check back with the sensation and see if it has changed in any way. Sometimes it has gone and this is another example of the body receiving the information it required, without the conscious mind needing to know. At other times the fact that the person was allowed or able to say ‘I don’t know’ loosens you up and when you go back to the sensation again, some information is forthcoming. This is often the case if part of you wants to ‘get it right’ and is fearful of giving a wrong answer.
But you can’t get it wrong, because your body gives you the feedback not your mind! If you received the information intended for you your body sensation softens. That’s your evidence!
Sometimes you can’t choose between two sensations as they both seem equally prominent. That’s ok, you can process both, simply decide which one you want to process first.
It’s normal for us to try and block our true feelings and suppress our emotions and disconnect.
Some people say ‘What if I can’t feel anything?’ and that’s ok too.
It’s not unusual for people to say that they can’t feel anything. If you have not been listening to your body for a while you might feel vulnerable and afraid to honour your feelings. Perhaps you are worried that you will be overwhelmed, once you allow them to be present.
If you can’t feel anything, it’s not because the sensations are not there, you have simply disconnected.
Notes about the process:
Taking the time to be present and to simply notice the flow of body sensations is a good first step. When you are ready to go to the next step you can do the Body Scan, identify one sensation and access it’s intended information.
You make a deal with your body that you only want to notice one prominent sensation and take it one at a time. E.g. If you had 6 horses to take out of a field and you were on your own, just imagine opening the gate wide enough to take one out at a time.
It’s a good idea to do a conscious body scan each day and keep a journal. You are, in fact, doing body scans all day long, it’s just that you don’t always bring the sensation or information into conscious awareness.
A body scan gives you the opportunity to know how you are feeling in any moment. Do a Body Scan before you go into a new environment; e.g. in a different space, with a friend, colleague, family member or with your horse. Then notice what new sensation and new information arises from your connection to the new environment.
I often have clients email me and tell me what they’ve noticed since their session or workshop. They write about what’s gone well for them and share any challenges and then at the end of the email tell me that they still don’t get this ‘body scan’ thing. It always makes me laugh because they couldn’t have noticed all that information if they hadn’t been listening to their bodies!