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What are Body Scan Meditations?

by BetterSleep
Nov 28 2022 • 7 min read

Have you ever had a nervous churn in your stomach before going on a first date? Or have you felt slightly lightheaded and jittery before giving a presentation? This is your body reacting to the emotions in your body.

While it’s normal to experience these bodily sensations, there is a way to calm yourself down and better manage your emotional and physical feelings in stressful, overwhelming situations. The body scan meditation helps you recognize these feelings by mindfully scanning each body part for tension, pain, and anything that doesn’t feel right.

By developing a greater awareness of your body, it can help you feel more connected and help you gain a better insight into what might be causing these unwanted sensations.

Armed with this knowledge, it’s easier to deal with anything wrong, allowing you to achieve a more balanced body and mind.

What is a Body Scan Meditation?

Body scan meditation is a type of mindfulness meditation that has similar benefits. With mindfulness meditation, you notice your thoughts and feelings while sitting or lying in a relaxed position.

The purpose is to notice your thoughts without judging them as good or bad. This helps you to rest and calm the mind while you meditate.

During a body scan meditation, you put your attention on different parts of your body and how each bit feels. While in a relaxed position, you mentally scan yourself from the head to the feet (or reverse) slowly and deliberately.

Studies suggest that a daily 20-minute body scan meditation practice may reduce physical and mental stress levels.

Benefits of Body Scan Meditation

Deliberately focusing on your body and how it’s feeling can increase awareness of how physical sensations are connected to emotions. This information may lead to improved physical and mental well-being, among many other benefits, such as:

Reduce Stress and Anxiety

When stress and anxiety levels are high, cortisol levels are high, which can lead to weight gain, poor sleep, a weak immune system, difficulty concentrating, and high blood pressure.

While it’s hard to avoid stress altogether, finding ways to manage it can help keep your cortisol levels in check. By doing a regular body scan, you can recognize where you hold tension and work towards releasing it.

Improve Sleep Quality

Getting enough quality sleep is essential for mental and physical health. Not getting enough can lead to high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, anxiety, and depression.

A regular body scan meditation can help to reduce tension in the body that may be keeping you awake. One systematic review showed how a mindfulness meditation practice, such as a body scan, may help treat some sleep disorders.

Treat Chronic Pain

If you have pain in your body for longer than three months, this is classed as chronic pain. Alongside the physical pain, there’s often a psychological component, with some people suffering anxiety and depression.

Body scan meditation cannot stop the pain, but it can help alter your thoughts and outlook on pain. Even mini-body scans can help, with one study showing that a 10-minute body scan meditation alleviated chronic pain in some participants.

Increase Self Awareness

During a body scan meditation, you pay attention to your physical symptoms instead of just ignoring them. You may have chest pain, a racing heart, or a gurgling stomach.

Or you may experience behavioral symptoms such as restlessness, trouble speaking, or feeling agitated. If you don’t know why you’re feeling like this, a body scan meditation helps you to become aware of these feelings without judgment, which can help you build self-compassion and increase overall well-being.

Helps You to Relax

One cause of tension in the body is when you ‘hold it all in’. Whether physically or mentally, anxious thoughts and tense muscles can lead to increased cortisol levels, which can cause insomnia, pain, inflammation, and multiple different symptoms.

Most meditation programs, including body scan meditation, fire up your parasympathetic nervous system, which helps you to relax. During a body scan, you breathe deeply, which decreases the activity of the sympathetic nervous system, which is your stressed fight or flight response, so you can relieve tension and relax.

Improves Concentration and Focus

During a body scan, you calmly pay attention to different areas of your body. By mentally scanning, you’re enhancing your focus, attention, and concentration skills, which is beneficial in today’s busy world.

How to Perform a Body Scan Meditation?

Follow these few simple steps to practice the body scan:

  1. Get in a comfortable position. Lie down or sit in a chair and gently lower your eyes.
  2. Start to breathe deeply. Allow your breath to slow down as you breathe deeply into the abdomen. Let your shoulders relax, and allow your belly to expand and contract.
  3. Bring awareness to your physical self. Start at your feet and move up through the stomach area, bringing awareness to each body part. If you feel any pain, accept it and your feelings about the pain and focus on breathing through it.
  4. Continue scanning your entire body. Notice the areas that are holding the most tension. For many people, this could be the back, shoulders, or neck area. Continue to acknowledge areas of pressure and tightness and send a breath to those areas, which may help to relieve it at the moment.
  5. If your attention wanders, slowly bring it back to the body. Your attention will most likely wander at some point. Don’t let this stress you out; just gently pull your attention back to a specific body part again.
  6. Notice how your body feels as a whole. After scanning each body part, spend a moment noticing how your body feels overall. Take a few last deep breaths and slowly open your eyes to finish your practice.

How to Make Body Scan Meditation Part of Your Life?

The thought of performing body scan meditation regularly may seem overwhelming in the beginning. If you have a busy schedule, you might wonder where to fit it into your life.

However, mindfulness-based stress reduction, such as a body scan meditation, is well worth the effort. Here are some simple strategies to make it a part of your life without getting overwhelmed:

Develop a Routine

Put aside a specific time each day for your body scan meditation. With time, your body will be conditioned to do this every day, and it’ll become an automatic habit.

Choose a Time that Works for You

There’s no right or wrong time to do a body scan. Some people prefer the morning, while others get more benefits from doing it before bedtime.

Try Guided Body Scan Meditation

When you first try body scan meditation, it might be difficult to relax into the process on your own. To learn the method, try a guided body scan meditation on an app such as BetterSleep.

Don’t Aim for Perfection

Know that meditation isn’t about attaining perfection. It’s about doing the best you can in a way that’s best for you.

Start with a Few Minutes and Build Up

Telling yourself, you have to do 30 minutes of meditation straight away can increase stress levels. Aim for a quick body scan of 2 - 5 minutes when you start out and build up as it feels comfortable.

Tips to Get the Most from Body Scan Meditation

You may notice an immediate improvement in your physical and mental health after your first body scan. However, you might feel more discomfort in tight areas, or you may not feel any effect at all.

While this might make you want to give up, aim to commit to trying out a few more sessions to see if things improve.

It’s pretty common not to feel the benefits of meditation right away. But, with time, you’re likely going to experience physical benefits and a reduction in psychological stress.

Here are a few tips to get the most from body scan meditation:

Don’t have Specific Goals

While you might have specific goals for a body scan, such as reducing tension and eliminating anxiety, try not to focus too intently on these, as this can stress you out more.

Instead of focusing on your goals, focus on the sensations of your body and acknowledge them with kindness.

Practice Meditation Anywhere

Just got out of a stressful meeting at work? Had an argument with your partner? Whether you’re sitting at your desk or on a train, you can take five minutes for a quick body scan.

And there’s no need to lie down or sit in a cross-legged pose. If it helps, you can sit in a comfy chair, stand up, or even perform a walking meditation out in nature.


Body scan meditation is beneficial for anyone and offers increased psychological well-being and improved wellness in the body. While body scan meditation is safe, it can worsen anxiety and depression in some people.

If you notice unwanted emotions or dark thoughts, check in with your doctor before carrying on.

Check out the BetterSleep app for guided meditation, curated sleep music, and bedtime stories that’ll reduce stress and help you sleep faster and longer.

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