Body Scans and Processing Emotions

I’ve started to practice doing Body Scans as a way to reconnect to my emotions and bring more awareness to my body.

We store our emotions in our bodies – sometimes, and quite commonly, for years! – and if we are unaware of these emotions, maybe due to a lack of awareness or because we simply do not want to feel these emotions, they can manifest as symptoms in the body, from tightness and tension to digestive issues and many other more serious health problems.

There is a lot of information on the mind-body connection. Some of these resources provide “maps” of where emotions commonly store themselves in the body. Here’s one such article from Lonerwolf on muscle tension that is worth checking out.

The fact of the matter, after all, is that processing uncomfortable emotions is completely necessary to lead happier, healthier, and more fulfilling lives. If we don’t process and integrate our emotions through witnessing and feeling them, they become like a ball and chain around our ankles or like a heavy sack that we must carry on our backs year after year.

These emotions can seep into our lives in subtle and not so subtle ways and negatively impact our lives.

Dealing with uncomfortable or painful emotions is hard! That’s why it’s so much easier to zone out, turn on the TV, eat a bunch of crap, and generally just avoid. But easy isn’t the point here. I think anything worth having, anything of value will require a degree of blood, sweat and, tears and usually more than just a degree!

There are many modalities for dealing with and working with the body but I want to share one that I’ve found that is both incredibly powerful – and free. It is called a Body Scan.

It can be guided, by listening to a someone lead you through the scan or you can do it without one. It can take a few minutes or you can devote 20, 30 minutes or more to the practice.

In a nutshell, a Body Scan is the practice of bringing attention, extreme attention, if you will, to all parts of the body and feeling them with your awareness.

I like to start in either my fingers or my toes. Start by feeling a single digit or single toe. What does it feel like? A good question to ask is “if I didn’t know I had (insert body part), how would I know it was there?”.

Using the Big Toe of the left foot as an example, begin to bathe your toe in awareness. What sensations are there? Immerse your attention in the feeling of having a toe. Then move your attention to the next toe, and then the next and so on. Next feel all your toes as one. Feel the top of your foot with the toes. Then the sole of your foot. Then feel the entire foot. Move up to the ankle and so on.

Continue to scan your body with awareness until, ideally, you have traversed the entire body.

You may find it difficult to feel into certain parts of your body, likely in areas of unprocessed emotion. That is okay. Feel what you can feel. What’s most important is lending your attention to the physical body.

Try not to judge what you experience. Instead, just feel. Be a witness. Challenge yourself to go deeply into the different parts of your body. You are waking it up with your conscious awareness.

You may feel positive emotions, too, or moments of lightness and clarity. This is all part of reacquainting yourself with the feeling of the body and the feelings stored within.

Do this practice whenever you feel called to do it, or build it into your morning routine. But when you do it, devote yourself to the practice. Give yourself the space and the time to give your body the gift of your attention. You will be amazed at what it gives you in return.