A helpful way to disconnect from the distrubance that arises from anxiety or PTSD is to ground and orient into the present moment.
May you take shelter in the safety of the present moment.
The Body scan is a common mindfulness practice that is used to anchor the mind to the present. It can be done as a guided practice by listening to someone else’s audio or you can do it for yourself silently. It involves coming into a still position, either seated or lying down. Essentially, you are taking a pause from your activity and then scanning your body with mindful attention. The activity of the mind is that of open awareness with the attention directed toward the body. If your mind judges, analyzes, or assesses the object of your attention, then once you recognize that this habit of mind has begun, then you let go of the thought and resume non-judgmental awareness of the object of your attention.
Let’s go over what I mean by this. Let’s say you direct your mind to your feet, then your legs, and when you get to your low back, you may notice an ache. Then your mind may begin to think about that ache and wonder why its there. Next it may start to review your last workout, or the last 24 hours when you didn’t move as much, or maybe you lifted something wrong. Then your mind may begin to criticize you for whatever it has landed on. It may think “its your fault that your back hurts. Its been going on for weeks and you keep ignoring it. This is what you always do…” And so on, and so on. This is the nature of an unattended, undisciplined mind; it tends to judge, criticize and assess us or other people unless we direct it.
The practice of the body scan is an invitation to engage with mindful awareness of the present and to release judgement once we notice it has arisen. Uncomfortable sensations are noticed and allowed. Pleasant sensations are noticed and allowed. Neutral sensations the same.
There is no ‘goal’ of the body scan beyond practice. We are training the mind to remain openly aware, without judgement, of the moment to moment experience of being. This is mindfulness. The body scan is just one particular technique for practicing mindfulness.
Sit comfortably and connect with your breath to deepen the connection between the mind and the body. Bring your awareness into the body, possibly scanning for any sensations or feelings you become aware of.
You can do a systematic body scan, in which you start in one location and travel up or down the body. You can begin peripherally – hands, feet, scalp, eyes – then move to the interior – legs, arms, throat, chest, belly.
Alternatively, you can connect to your contact with the present – body touching the chair, hand touching the lap, back touching the back of the chair or back sitting up right, legs touching the back of the chair, etc...
If you notice your mind has wandered to a thought or a judgement or the past or the future, then a good way to bring the mind back is to become aware of the breath. Find where it is, then pause the mind there, feel yourself settle into yourself, and then continue with mindful presence.
Body Scan does not need to be a long process. You could spend as little as 30 seconds in the body or as much as 5 minutes. Think of it as conditioning; you are conditioning the brain to be present, in the here and now.
When you do take a break from or end a body scan session, try to remain aware that you are. In other words, notice that you are choosing to take a break from it and go back to what you are doing. Don’t be surprised if the first several times you do this, you realize that you got up and started doing the dishes or checking your email before you consciously acknowledged ‘I’m going to stop now.’
Welcome to the world of the habits of your mind. Enjoy the show.
A helpful tool for clearing unconscious tension or stress is to make contact with the sensations of the areas of the body. Follow this guided meditation and see if your tensions eases.
This practice is a longstanding traditional yoga pranayama practice.
[Prana means breath/life force yama means work or effort]
Many teachers instruct it. This particular instruction is taken from Nischala Joy Devi’s book The Healing Path of Yoga (p. 103). Alternate nostril breathing is often used to ‘cleanse the nadis’ or clear the energy channels. It is calming and relaxing for the mind and body.
Posture and hand position:
Take a comfortable seated position and use the same deep and steady breathing that you use in the three part breath (breathing into low belly, ribs to upper chest).
Rest the left hand comfortably in your lap. With the right hand, drop the pointer and middle finger down into your palm, leaving the thumb and the ring and pinky fingers extended.
Gently close the right nostril, allowing the left nostril to stay open.
Alternate and gently close the left nostril and release the right nostril.
This is the hand position and motion for nadi shodhana. Now we will move on to the breath part.
Breathing and counting:
To begin, take a complete and easy inhale and exhale through both nostrils. Prepare yourself so that after the next exhale you will close the right nostril and inhale through the left nostril. Close off the left nostril with the fingers and inhale through the right nostril. Exhale through the right nostril. Close off the right nostril and inhale through the left nostril. Exhale through the left nostril. Close off the left and inhale and exhale through the right. To conclude, end with an exhalation on the right.
This continues on for anywhere from 3 to 10 cycles of breath when you are new to the practice. Gradually, you can work you way up from one minute of this practice to three minutes or longer.
In short hand, once again, to begin…
If you feel short of breath, release the practice and breath normally until you are ready to resume.
At the end of the session, pause and notice any balanced sensations or ease of mind and body that this practice can bring. You may proceed into mediation at this point if you have allowed yourself time as nadi shodhana effectively clears and calms the mind and is a very good precursor to mediation.
Copyright © 2018 Gretchen Mallios, LCSW, RYT - All Rights Reserved.