Tag Archives: body scan

Falling asleep during the body scan

body scan thailand

I am sure that every one of us has fallen asleep or has dozed off at least once while trying to meditate…

I must admit this has happened to me a good number of times. This is especially so whenever I do the body scan.

It does not matter what time of the day it is, there’s one point where my mind disconnects completely. I am on the left leg, and all of a sudden I am on the right hand, not being quite sure what has happened…

At the beginning I must say I felt quite guilty about it, especially if I had snored, or I thought I had snored…

I felt bad, and that made me be on guard during my next body scan. Would that happen again…? Would the person lying next to me complain of my snoring?

Then I realised that falling asleep could be part of the process, of the experience, of my experience… and as such, I just had to embrace it, to accept it. I had and have to treat myself with kindness and gentleness, also when I meditate…

Having said so, I was taught a couple of tricks that have proved really helpful. One is doing the body scan with my eyes open. Second, if I still feel tired, I raise my arms, and try to maintain them raised for a while. This helps me just for a while, because shortly after I have started doing so, I get cramps in my arms…

And if in spite of these hints, I still fall asleep, I try to treat myself with gentleness… Catching up with the body scan wherever in the body the rest of the group is.

And trying to live in the moment the rest of the time that is left before the body scan comes to an end…

Practising the body scan

Body scan. Thailand

“We can surrender completely to the embrace of gravity, and let go into the floor or mat or bed and let it do the work. Sometimes it can feel like you are floating, and that can be very pleasant and increase your motivation for taking up residence in your body and in the present moment.”

Jon Kabat-Zinn
Coming to Our Senses. Healing Ourselves and the World through Mindfulness. New York: Hyperion, 2005.

“All you need to do is lie here and feel different regions of your body and then let go of them. The body scan is systematic in the sense that we move through the various regions of the body in a particular order. But there is no one way to do it. It could be done scanning from head to feet or from feet to head or from side to side for that matter.”

Jon Kabat-Zinn
Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life. New York: Hyperion, 1994.

Body scan

body scan mindfulness

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.