Try the following body scan any time during the day when you are feeling stressed or tense, or at nighttime to help fall asleep.
Lie down on your back with legs stretched out, feet slightly wider than the hips. Arms are about 45 degrees to the body with palms of hands facing upwards.
In order to feel relaxed you must first of all know what it feels like to be tense. Chronic tension can be so habitual and so prolonged that it feels like it is a natural state to be in. It contorts the body and mind and you may not even be aware of it. Do the following exercises before attempting to scan the body.
Flex your right foot and tighten the calf muscle, knee and thigh. Hold for a second, then breathe out and release the whole leg, letting go of all the tension. Repeat with the left foot and leg. Feel the difference.
Make a fist with the right hand and squeeze hand, arm and shoulder muscle. Hold for a second, then breathe out and release the whole arm and relax the hand. Do the same with the left hand and arm. Feel the difference.
Now take a couple of deep breaths, in through the nose and out through the mouth. Place the tip of the tongue behind the top teeth and continue to breathe through the nose only throughout the body scan. You can begin at the feet or at the head, whichever feels more comfortable. I shall begin at the head.
Relax the top of the head, the scalp, the forehead, allowing all worry lines to fade away. Close the eyes and feel the eyelashes against the skin. Let the eyes relax beneath the eyelids. Allow the muscles of the face to soften, the jaw to relax, the mouth to open slightly. Relax the back of the head and the neck, feeling it lengthen. Allow the shoulders to drop slightly and sink back into the surface beneath you. Relax the chest, abdomen, upper, middle and lower back. Relax the arms, from the top of the arm and downwards into the hands and fingers.
Continue to release tension in every muscle, joint and bone of the body, working your way downwards through the hips, buttocks, legs, feet and toes. Be as detailed as possible. Each time you exhale imagine your body sinking gently further and further into the space that holds and surrounds you, becoming heavier and heavier. Feel as if your whole body is being absorbed and cradled by warmth and softness, at the same time expanding and opening up to lightness. When the body is tense, it feels contracted and small; when it is relaxed there is an expansion, and energy can flow freely.
Take your time and be aware of any area that feels especially tense. Focus on it, breathing in fresh healing energy and exhaling the tightness and stress. When you have finished the body scan, repeat it, this time visualizing any negative thoughts or problems floating away and dissolving on each exhale. When you feel completely relaxed stay in this position for as long as time allows before slowly turning to one side, getting up and resuming normal activities. Or continue to breathe gently until you drift off into a delightful sleep!
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