When I'm teaching mindfulness meditation courses, one of the first practices that I introduce is the body scan meditation. In fact, most evidence-based mindfulness programs that I've come across begin with a body scan. This week, the new participants in Deepen Your Practice: Mindfulness for Occupational Therapists are invited to practice the body scan daily.

What's the body scan?

The body scan is a practice in which we bring awareness to each part of our body in turn. Most people do this lying down or sitting but it can be done in any position. We can lead ourselves or listen to a teacher guide us. There is no movement needed in the practice, just bringing our attention to the body.

Why start with the body scan?

Connecting with our physical body is the first step in bringing awareness to our present life. As we bring more awareness to ourselves, its like we're peeling back layers. The outer most layer is the physical body. The body scan is not necessarily relaxing. It's about increasing our awareness of what's present and, if we're in pain or distress, that's what we'll notice. With repeated practice, we may gain some insight which can inform our decisions about how we take care of our body. Becoming more aware of our bodies can also help us learn to recognize emotions in our bodies when we move our mindfulness beyond our physical self.

How do I do a body scan?

1. Arrange to have 10-30 minutes of time when you're likely to be able to stay awake.

2. Find a space where you're unlikely to be disturbed.

3. Set yourself up in a comfortable sitting or lying position. You may want to use some pillows, blankets or an eye cover to support your practice.

4. Turn off your phone (or put it on "do not disturb" if you're listening to a guided meditation on your phone).

5. Close your eyes or let your gaze fall softly in front of you.

6. Bring awareness to your breathing, without the need to change it.

7. Bring awareness to the sensations in your feet. Take some breaths here.

8. Gradually, move up your body and pay close attention to each area.

9. If your mind wanders (which it will), bring it back to the last body part that you can recall or continue from where your teacher is now leading you.

10. Spend a few more minutes noticing your natural inhale and exhale.

11. Get up slowly.

Can I listen to a recording?

If you would prefer to listen to a recorded version, I've got one on the Insight Timer app. You'll need to sign up for the free version of the Insight Timer to gain access. Its available at http://insig.ht/gm_155618