How To Calm Down Instantly By Doing A Short Body Scan
Body scanning—the act of bringing awareness to and relaxing all areas of the body—is an excellent way to help calm the physical body, and in turn, the mind.
And according to sophrologist Niamh Lyons, founder of American Sophrology, body scanning can also be a powerful way to tap into your subconscious.
How to scan your right hand to relax in minutes.
If you're unfamiliar with sophrology, it's an alternative health modality that was popularized in Europe in the 1960s. It's all about harnessing the power of the mind to relax the body.
As Lyons explained to mbg, her sessions follow this format: Clients start with a few minutes of breathwork, then she guides them through a complete body scan, followed by more breathing. And finally, once the client is in a state of total relaxation, they are guided through practices like visualization and shadow work.
In a normal session, a sophrologist would be guiding you through the scan (audiobooks are available for this now too), but here's the gist of how to do one, focusing first just on the right hand.
Note: You'll want to warm up with a couple of minutes of breathing in for three counts, holding for three counts, and exhaling for six.
- Sit comfortably without crossing your arms or legs, eyes closed. Breath out slowly through your mouth, as if you're slowly blowing out a candle. Breathe in through the nose, exhale through the mouth slowly, and consciously begin relaxing the body—the shoulders, chest, stomach, arms, legs. Continue breathing at your own pace.
- Place your hands palm-side down on your legs or the surface in front of you, eyes still closed. Bring your awareness to your right hand, noticing the air around the top of your hand, the temperature, as if noticing it for the first time, with curiosity, like a child. Notice any sensations. Become aware of the surface below your palm, and the sensation of touching the surface.
- Become aware of your pinkie finger. Consciously relax it, the knuckles and the muscles. Become aware of the length of the little finger, the surface above, and the surface below. Notice the fingernail. Relax the finger.
- Now, move attention to the fourth finger. Consciously relax the fourth finger, noticing the length, all the way down to the nail. Consciously relax the muscles and the bones. Now the middle finger, relaxing the middle finger all the way down to the tip of the finger. Now, the index finger, relaxing the muscles and the tendons, bones. Become aware of the shape of the index finger. And now the thumb, relaxing the entire length of the thumb.
- Move your focus now to the wrist, the top and underneath. Bring awareness of the top of the right hand, then the palm side, and then the wrist, all the way down to the fingertips.
- Now compare your right hand to your left hand. Compare the size, the weight, the sensations, and the temperature.
Scanning only your hands can be a quick, stand-alone practice. But if you wanted to take it further, you could apply those same scanning techniques to the entire body, working from bottom to top.
The benefit of this hyper-focused body scanning.
As Lyons explains it, "By just consciously relaxing your right hand, you are giving energy to your right hand." You are turning your attention away from your thoughts, which can help promote feelings of relaxation and presence.
And when you achieve this state of Zen, where you arrive in the place between awake and asleep (almost like hypnosis), Lyons adds, you can begin to go deep. "You begin to tap into memories and the past, and even emotions." Here are some practices that you can use to follow up your relaxing scan:
The bottom line.
Isolated body scanning is simply a wonderful way to ease the body—and mind—into a total state of relaxation whenever you need it. From that calm place, the sky's the limit.
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Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Writer, as well as a registered yoga instructor. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from SUNY Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.