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Body Scan with Deep Breathing

1.  Find a relaxing location, and sit comfortably with your eyes closed. Make sure all extremities are uncrossed. Sit up straight enough to give your diaphragm room to expand.

2.  Pay attention to the rhythm of your natural breathing, and tell yourself to "let go of all thoughts and feelings for now."

3.  Inhale through your nose to the count of four, hold your breath for a moment, and then exhale slowly through pursed lips to the count of four. Breathing should be slow, deep and regular.

4.  Repeat this exercise several times until you begin to feel yourself "letting go." You may feel a slight tingling or warmth in your hands and feet - a sign that there is increased blood flow to your extremities. It only takes 3 or 4 deep breaths like this to return your body to a state of calm.

5.  Scan your body by progressing through the muscle groups below, from head to toe, and determine where you are experiencing tension. Every time you inhale and exhale, allow yourself to become even more relaxed, and pay special attention to the areas that are most constricted. For example, check your forehead and eyes. If you feel any tension, release it by saying to yourself, "forehead let go," or "eyes let go." As you progress through each muscle group, periodically recheck your breathing to make sure it is slow, deep and regular, and relax even more with each exhalation.

Muscle Groups:

  • Forehead and eyes
  • Jaw-chin-cheeks
  • Neck and shoulders
  • Upper arms, lower arms
  • Chest
  • Stomach/Abdomen
  • Upper back, lower back
  • Hips/buttocks
  • Thighs
  • Lower legs
  • Feet

When you are finished, quickly rescan your body starting at the head and working down to the feet. Wherever you spot tension, just release it.

Quick Body Scan

This is a good technique to use just before or during a performance, e.g., just before a meeting, important event, going on stage, an athletic competition or during an event when you are under pressure to perform well. If you don't even have 5 minutes to spare, quickly scan your body in the same sequence as the 5-minute body scan (head to feet). Take four deep breaths, as outlined above, focus on each area where you are tense and say, "I am loose and relaxed." You will be relaxed and poised for ‘peak performance!'

Edited from several sources by Jan E. Sturges, M.Ed., LPC