When we hear the term body scan, it can conjure up all sorts of thoughts and mental associations.
Body scan is one of the formal meditation practices which are part of mindfulness-based stress reduction or MBSR, and it is the first kind of meditation which is taught in the MBSR course.
It is a type of lying down meditation in which we focus our attention on the different parts of our body, in a systematic way.
Usually it is done lying down on a mat , with our arms parallel to the body. But it can also be done sitting down, or adopting other positions like, the astronaut pose (body on the floor, and knees bent on a chair).
While we do the body scan, our eyes are usually closed, but if this makes us feel uncomfortable, or we feel that we are falling asleep, we can leave them open.
While we are lying down, relaxation can occur, but it’s not the ultimate goal of this meditation. Throughout the exercise, we are invited to stay alert and awake. But again, if we happen to fall asleep, it is okay, we just resume the exercise in the part of the body where we were just before our attention drifted away.
We do not pretend to change anything, or achieve any particular goal, just being aware of how we are and what we feel as we check each area of our bodies.
In the body scan, we go through the different parts of the body, acknowledging what is happening in that particular point, in that particular moment. Accepting whatever sensation or feeling we may have, or accepting (why not?) that there is no particular sensation or feeling.
We move our awareness through the different parts of our body, following a particular order, but there is no one best way of doing it. We can start from the toes and end on the head, or the other way around.
Again as what happens with sitting meditation, it is a matter of experiencing the experience, accepting whatever is there for us in the here and now.