What is an Interoceptive Body Scan Meditation?

iStock_000002128470XSmallI have completed my first month of daily meditation and it is going very well.  I have been doing a combination of breath awareness, body awareness and lovingkindness meditation. 

The body scan is a form of body awareness meditation that involves shifting attention from one part of the body to another, observing any sensations that you become aware of with an attitude of curiosity about your somatic experience, while systematically covering the entire body.  I have been doing a variation of the body scan taught by Dan Siegel, author of the books Mindsight, The Mindful Brain, and The Mindful Therapist.

Dan Siegel incorporates interoception into his body scan.  Interoception is the skill of sensing our internal bodily states. He refers to it as our sixth sense and a crucial aspect of our self-monitoring function, that also serves as a gateway to our ability to attune to others.  So in addition to focusing on external body parts, his body scan includes tuning into internal organs, etc.  I have created my own version, that also incorporates aspects of HeartMath heart coherence training.

Heart rate variability is believed to be an important indicator of autonomic nervous system (ANS) balance, physiological resiliency and behavioral flexibility, which reflect a person’s capacity to adapt to stressful circumstances.  The two branches of the ANS (the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches) are continually in the process of speeding up and slowing down the heart, like the accelerator and brakes of a car. That is why the interval between two successive heart beats is never identical. This heart rate variability (moment-to-moment and beat-to-beat variations in heart rate) is a sign that the accelerator and brake are working properly.  Too little and too much variability in heart rate are both detrimental.

Heart coherence training is like giving your heart a tune-up.  With practice, you can develop a finely tuned brake that can be counted on, even when circumstances are difficult, because the ANS is more flexible and responsive and easily adjusts to stressors.

The steps of the HeartMath Quick Coherence Technique are as follows:

  1. Heart Focus- Focus your attention on the heart region of your body
  2. Heart Breathing- Imagine breathing through your heart
  3. Heart Feeling- Think of something or someone for which you are grateful

Here is an audio excerpt of my body scan meditation:

 andrea_goldberg_body_scan_meditation_excerpt

I would love your feedback about this post. Anybody who leaves a comment will receive an audio file of the full 10 minute version of my body scan, as a token of my appreciation.


4 comments on “What is an Interoceptive Body Scan Meditation?
  1. Dorlee says:

    Andrea,

    Thank you for sharing with us this wonderful sample of your body scan meditation. I found the breathing part very relaxing.

    With the attention shifting part, I found myself able to shift my attention as requested although I did get “itchy” midway a few times. I also noticed that I couldn’t necessarily feel all the different body parts you requested us to shift our attention to.

    Is this the way one typically feels when one starts doing this type of meditation? Does one’s capacity to feel one’s different body parts increase with practice?

    • Andrea Goldberg says:

      Dear Dorlee,

      You’re welcome!

      It is very common during body scan meditation to be unable to feel some body parts.There are certain parts of the body that I cannot feel unless I move them, such as some of my toes, so I just bring my attention to that area of my body and focus on it’s physical location, even though I can’t experience any sensation there. The main goal is to bring your awareness to each part of the body and to notice any sensations that you do experience, without expectation or judgment.

      My own experience has shown me that I have become more able to attune to body sensations with practice, but it was unclear to me if it’s due to improvement in attention or somatosensory awareness. Recent research supports the notion that body scan meditation practice actually improves somatosensory perceptual capacity. In the March 2013 edition of Consciousness and Cognition, there was an article on a study by Miriams, Pollakoff, Brown, and Lloyd that demonstrated that brief body-scan meditation practice improves the accuracy of somatic signal detection.

      Thanks for sharing your experience with the body scan meditation. I hope you also enjoy the full version I am sending you.

      Warmly,
      Andrea

  2. David says:

    Wow, the audio was surprisingly good! Thank you for sharing this.
    I’ve never done body scan before but I intent to practice it since I tend to be little detached from emtions..

    Again, thank you Andrea.

    • Andrea Goldberg says:

      You’re welcome, David! I’m glad to know you like it. Becoming more in touch with your body can definitely help you to get more in touch with your emotions, especially if you practice every day. I am also sending you the link to the full version. Enjoy!

      Warmly,
      Andrea

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