Finally, a good excuse to simply lie down and do nothing! Although, it would be misleading to say that the body scan practice is simply about relaxation. Rather, the aim is to be aware of the different regions of your body, and allow yourself to experience how each part feels, without trying to change anything. Just being with what is there.
In Mindfulness for Dummies, Shamash Alidina describes the body scan as a way to get in touch with the body, let go of feelings of needing to get stuff done, and release pent-up emotions. Just like other forms of meditation, the body scan also trains attention. Alidina says:
The body scan alternates between a wide and narrow focus of attention; from focusing on your little toe all the way through the entire body. The body scan trains your mind to be able to move from detailed attention to a wider and more spacious awareness from one moment to the next.
You can begin the practice by lying on the floor, or a mat, or your bed. Basically, you can begin by focusing your attention at the top of your head and then move down the body, or vice versa. It’s good to start with a guided practice to get a sense of how to move your attention up or down the body. Mindfulness for Dummies comes with a practice CD that contains the body scan practice, but there are also some instructional videos available on YouTube.
Elisha Goldstein‘s 10-minute body scan practice gives a brief but effective take.