Mindfulness Methods: Body Scan
This post is part of our Mindfulness Methods series, a collection of blogs dedicated to exploring different techniques we use to enhance our float experiences. Let me emphasize that there’s no wrong way to float, but sometimes we need a little help to get the most out of our time in the tank.
“It is amazing how many hints and guides and intuitions for living come to the sensitive person who has ears to hear what his body is saying.”-Rollo May
Your Body Has Something To Tell You:
Studies show that floating increases our internal awareness, but those of us who float don’t need a study to tell us that. It is an incredibly common occurrence for floaters to share stories with Michelle and me about how they could hear their heartbeat or feel their tightnesses and imbalances in an extraordinary way. They’ve heard their eyes blink and felt their food digest. Pregnant women often report a deeper intimacy with their unborn child because of the sensitivity they have to every movement. Some can even hear their baby’s heartbeat alongside their own.
While these sensations are fascinating, they can also be useful. The state of our body becomes so apparent while floating that we can use it as a diagnostic tool and a way to track our progress. We can use it as a way to better connect to our body and understand what it’s telling us. Then, we can use that insight to help us make adjustments in our lives that improve our health and well-being.
Let me give you an example. My chiropractor uses a machine that measures the electrical output throughout the body. If the output is weaker in one limb, it suggests an impingement somewhere between the brain and that endpoint. That gives him an idea of what needs adjusting to open those pathways up again. You can do a similar test in the tank. Once you quiet yourself enough during a float, you can actually feel the strength of electricity in you. About a month ago, I scanned my body while floating, and noticed that the right side of my abdomen had less feeling. It was like it was turned off.
I considered 2 things: 1) I may have an impingement in my spine where the nerves to the right side of my abdomen branch off, and 2) that’s where my liver is; there might be some stagnation there (those of you more familiar with meridians or the chakra system might have other ideas as well). I’ve since been incorporating more yoga into my routine, focusing specifically on spine mobility, and I stopped doing exercises that compress the spine. I’ve also cut down on sugar and alcohol, and I’ve been drinking herbal teas that help the liver. In my float last night, I checked in and was happy to feel that part of my abdomen humming in sync again with everything else.
Now, I’m not a doctor, and I’m certainly not saying that you should use my experience to tell you what your own body needs. But what I am saying is that you can use your own experience to tell you what your body needs. And the more we listen to our bodies, the more adept we become at hearing and understanding the messages they are sending.
“To connect with our bodies is to learn to trust ourselves, and from that comes power.”-Merka Knaster
The Body Scan in Practice:
Here’s a framework for how you can use the sensitivity available in the tank to scan your own body. This is a great practice, as it calms the mind as well.
First, bring your awareness to one part of yourself. I usually start with my feet and work my way up, but do whatever works for you. Just sense it. How’s it doing? Is it tight? Does it hurt? Does it have much sensation at all? You can encourage it to relax deeper by squeezing the muscles there as tight as you can and letting go. Did that help? Spend a moment longer before moving on to the next body part. As you get to a joint, check to see if it is aligned with its neighboring joints. Notice if it’s symmetrical and balanced with the same joint on the opposite side of the body. If not, survey the surrounding muscles to discover where that imbalance might be coming from.
After you’ve moved through each body part, bring awareness to your body as a whole. What comes to the surface? What still isn’t relaxed? Make a mental note of each thing you discover. Squeeze every muscle in your body all at once, and then slowly let go of anything you’re still holding on to as you let go all that tension. Notice the emotions that release as your muscles do the same. Make a note as you sink into an even deeper relaxation.
After my floats, I generally like to copy any thoughts or things of note into a journal. This can be especially helpful after a body scan, as I’m sure you’ve discovered at least a couple of problem areas that might need extra attention. You can use those notes to either make a game plan yourself, or to help a qualified practitioner create something for you. A body scan is a simple and effective way to understand and connect with your body. Give it a try next time you’re floating and need an intention to help you go a little deeper.
If you’d like more guidance, there several meditations online that can walk you through this type of practice. We’d be happy to hook one up so you can listen to it during your float if you’d like. Just ask!
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