Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Body Scan for Self-Cultivation

By Junie Norfleet, L.Ac.

Many of us get home from work stressed from the day’s activity. A way to speed the relaxation process and shedding the day’s stresses is to take ten minutes to do a body scan. This scan can also be done a part of the routine preparation of bedtime to assist falling asleep more quickly.

Sit or lie comfortably. Close your eyes and begin this exercise by noticing where there is tension in the area of the head. Notice the lips, the jaw muscles, the eyes, the space between the eyebrows, the scalp, the occiput, and the neck. You are just noticing any place in the region of the head where you feel tension, tightness, or that energy is not moving. Take one deep breath for each of the spaces in which you noticed tension, and image the breath going into the space in which you feel that energy is not moving, or that there is tightness or tension.

Next move to the region of the chest. Notice where the ribs meet the sternum, the space between the ribs, the area of the collar bone, and the shoulder joints. Again, once you notice where the tension and stagnation are, image one breath going into each area to help create space and relax the muscles and tissues.

Now move your attention to the abdomen and the area below the navel. Notice the abdominal muscles, the muscles of the groin and the thighs, the knee joints, the calf muscles, the ankles and feet, especially between the many bones in the feet. Once again, use the breath to create space and relax the area. Continue this exercise by moving to the back of the body.

Pay attention to where the ribs join the spine, the low back and sacral areas, and the hip joints. The sacrum has four small holes on each side in which a great deal of stagnation can gather, and the spine tends to stiffen with tension as we go through our day. Once you have used the breath to help move stagnation and tension and create space in these areas you will feel rejuvenated and relaxed -- ready to enter the routine of “home.”

This exercise can be done on three levels. You can just notice the tension on the surface of the body, which is pretty easy for all of us. As you do this exercise more and more, you will begin to notice tension in the deeper levels of the muscles, and then begin to notice tension and stagnation in the organs of the body. Using the breath to help relax the body in all three of these levels may take more than ten minutes, but will add years to your life.