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Though doing a body scan while stretching would seem intrinsic to any stretch technique, a search of this site with the word "scan" produces no results, and I dont remember it being explicitly mentioned anywhere. But maybe it appears in other guises.

During a stretch, I've been doing a scan of the areas affected - and other areas as well. So for instance in a held single leg standing hamstring stretch, I first feel what is happening in the toes, then the balls of the feet, the arch of the foot, the instep, the ankle, the Achilles tendon, the calf muscles, the back, sides, and front of the knee, the different thigh muscles (in so far as I can distinguish them), the buttocks, the hip, the waist, the back, the shoulders, the arms, the neck, the head, the other leg. In other words, though I concentrate in more detail on the areas most closely involved in the stretch, I scan the rest of the body as well. This enables me to form a total picture of how the whole body is involved in the stretch. Then I can try relaxing areas that seem tight or that are being worked unnecessarily, and focus my attention on the areas that are being stretched, or that I intend to work on.

This may seem slow and tedious, but after the first time I do it, I find I form a mental picture that means I can slip into it very quickly on later attempts. It would seem that doing something like this could help, and indeed be essential, in body awareness and body work.

I’ve only tried it a little myself so far, but hope to tell my students about it soon, in case anyone finds it useful. I wonder has anyone tried it (whether in this form, or another one) and what has been your experience?

Thanks,

Jim.

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Hi Jim,

Personally, I equate this with the concept of stretching "with full awareness in the body," which Kit and Olivia emphasize as a fundamental part of ST. You are basically describing interoception, I think. For those with good awareness of their internal state, I think doing something like this will happen naturally to some extent. For the more disembodied practitioner, it's not likely to make much sense at all even if you explain it and suggest they try. But it's definitely a skill that can (and in general, I'd say should) be developed.

Body scans are a popular form of meditation (Goenka-style vipassana, for example), and Kit uses body scans in a number of his lying relaxation recordings, as well. That's one way to develop better body awareness, but simply trying to be more aware of the body during stretching, or any physical activity, will be beneficial as well. It certainly can't hurt to encourage your students to be as fully aware as possible during their stretching. It takes time to develop, so it's never too soon to get started.

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The difference from saying "with full awareness in the body", is that what I am describing is progressive, so you focus on multiple small areas in turn, and dont miss any parts. It helps you to concentrate on the parts which are NOT feeling a sensation, as well as those that are - the latter naturally tend to attract our attention - but I think it is important that we become aware of the limits around the parts that ARE being strongly affected, and their border with those that are not.

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Actually, I understood what you were describing. It's basically exactly what is done in a standard, early-stage body scan type of meditation. And one of the goals is exactly what you are describing - to expand the scope/sensitivity of your awareness to include the "neutral" parts that we normally ignore/don't notice. As your sensitivity increases, one option is to begin to sweep over the body more quickly, and eventually you will get to a point where the whole body is included very clearly in the awareness. To me, "full awareness in the body" ideally points to (closer to) the latter extreme of this range. Notice it is not "full awareness in the target muscle," because we know that things are happening throughout the body during a stretch (or during anything).

That said, body scans while sitting very still for an extended period of time will obviously not be the same as scanning during a stretch. I think both can potentially be very useful. You might be interested in trying one of Kit's lying relaxation body scans if you haven't yet.

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  • 9 months later...

@Jim Pickles: you say "scan"; we say "feel". 

On 8/6/2020 at 3:45 PM, Jim Pickles said:

It helps you to concentrate on the parts which are NOT feeling a sensation, as well as those that are

This, explicitly, is a core part of Stretch Therapy and has been for a long time. It is also the beginner setup instruction for the guided relaxations; I explain this in different ways, but it goes something like this: "over the next few minutes I'll be mentioning different parts of the body, and you have a choice of whether to visualise those part, or to feel them, and in particular note the ones that you cannot feel today".

I deliberately do not use the term "scan" because it's fundamental to the Goenka approach to teaching Vipassana, and that's why it does not appear as a headline in any post. And awareness can be very specific (focused) or more general (whole body or the space in which you are practicing) and anywhere in between. 

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