Meditation: Body scan

older man walking with dog - body scan
Meditation: Scanning the Body

The most common scan technique is the “body scan.”

A body scan uses the felt sense of touch. Often a guided meditation, you move the attention from one part of the body to another, “scanning” the body with your attention.

Going back to our camera analogy, a “scan” is exactly as it sounds, except the “camera” (your attention) is placed on one specific body part at a time.

Here’s one to try:


Start by paying attention to your toes. Let your awareness sink deeply into them. What do you feel there? Are there pleasant or unpleasant sensations? Simply notice them. Remain open to them no matter what quality the sensations may have. Stay with your toes for a few seconds.

Next, move to the rest of your left foot. Focus your full attention there. What sensations arise when you do that? Be awake to those. Let the sensory impressions do whatever dance they may do as you observe. Stay with your foot for a few seconds.

As you scan, ideas and connections may arise. This is normal.

Gently bring your attention back to the body part where you left off.

Continue this meditation through various parts of your body from the bottom to the top. When you reach the top of your head, intentionally move your awareness back down your body, part by part, again. Your interval in this exercise is however long it takes to move your awareness from your feet to your head and then back down.


Use this same mode of awareness—scanning—in movement meditation. As you move, slowly sweep the camera up and down the body, gradually noting any sensations.

Begin your movement practice. Place your awareness on your left foot. Settle your mind on your foot as you allow your attention to drop in. Get curious. Notice any sensations. Let your attention soak into those sensations. Keep your attention on your foot for at least a minute.

When you feel ready, move your awareness to your left ankle. Allow your attention to settle there. Do any sensations arise? What is “ankle?” What does “ankle” feel like? Allow your attention to stay with your ankle for at least a minute.

Next, move up to your shin and calf. Let your mind sink into that area. Open your mind to it exactly as it is. If you feel a preference, notice that. Stay awake, but relaxed.

When your mind wanders, gently bring it back to the part of your body you were last scanning. This is normal. Give yourself a tiny mental pat for remembering to return.

Continue moving through each part of your body with this mode of scanning awareness until you reach the top of your head and, if you like, travel back down again with your awareness. That is your interval.

Note that it is fine to use the right foot throughout, or to alternate sides either during one meditation period or from one to the next if you like. I have a personal preference for my left foot due to my health history. Do what works best with your body/mind.

For a full, guided, body scan, visit my website,

I have included more than twenty “Your Turn” exercises in the book Make Every Move a Meditation.

This excerpt is from Make Every Move a Meditation by Nita Sweeney which is available now through Amazon and Mango Media.