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Episode 12: The Surprising Power of the Body Scan Exercise

Video Highlights

A better body, better movement and better overall health starts with freedom
from muscle tension . . . and relaxing!
An awareness of your breathing, what we call conscious breathing, helps to have a full awareness of your body.
The Body Scan exercise helps to reduce stress, helps you move better and more easily, and helps you manage day-to-day emotions much better.

Hi everybody. Dr. Cobb again.

Today we’re going to talk about doing a body scan.

A body scan is what I call a lead domino. There’s a great book out there called The One Factor, and it reminded me of the story of the biggest domino kind of extravaganza ever.

One domino started a cascade event where over 4 million other dominoes fell. Now I always loved watching that on TV. I used to build those things when I was a kid. What most people don’t realize is that there was also another experiment done a while back, that shows that the momentum created by one domino falling can topple a domino that’s slightly larger, about 50% larger.

If you think about that, if you get just a little bit of momentum happening, you can begin to knock over bigger and bigger obstacles that sit in your way.

One of the things we talk about in training athletes and people from all walks of life to deal with pain and improve performance is learning how to relax.

We’re going to start off with what I consider to be the one thing, the big factor, in starting to develop a better body, better movement, better health, more enjoyment in your activities of daily life, and that is learning to relax.

So, we’re going to start off with the simplest possible thing called a body scan. What I’m going to ask you to do, wherever you’re at, I want you to take just a couple of deep breaths in and out. Focus on making the exhale a little bit longer than the inhale.

Do that one more time. Breathe in through your nose and out through the mouth. Now, making breath conscious is a really good way to start to build a little bit of body awareness.

Now I want you to shift your attention to your feet. I want you to think about your feet, and I want you to consciously try to relax them. Try to let your toes relax, your midfoot, the muscles around your arch and heel, and just let them go.

If you have to, some people say to breathe into that area. However you want to do it, I just want you to pay attention, do a scan , notice how much tension you have in your feet and see if you can relax them.

Now, I want you to begin moving your attention up progressively. Think about your ankles, your calf muscles, the muscles in the front of your shin, try to relax those.

Graphic image of a body being scanned and evaluated.

Next, move up to your knees and now your thighs. I want you to think about the front, the side, the inside, and the back. Just try to let again all the musculature relax. Anything that you don’t need to be doing what you’re doing, standing, sitting down.

Now think about your hips and pelvis, your low back, and your abdomen. Again, you’re relaxing everything. You can be breathing to help this process.

Think about your chest, your mid-back, your upper back, and shoulders. Now think about your arms, your biceps and triceps, your forearms, wrists, hands, and fingers. You’re letting all those go.

Now I want you to think about your neck, the back of your neck, and your throat, and try to relax all the musculature in there. Again, you’re scanning right now. You’re just kind of drawing your attention through your body, noticing how much tension you’re carrying.

Finally, after you’ve done your throat and neck, go to your head. Think about your scalp. Think about the area around your jaw, the muscles here on the side of your face, and then your forehead, your cheeks, and your eyes.

Last but not least, this one’s going to sound kind of weird, but I want you to think about the inside of your mouth. Think about your throat, your tongue. How much tension are you carrying?

Now as you do this little body scan, what you start to realize for most people is that you are carrying an enormous amount of tension that you’re unaware of most of the time.

So, if you’re looking for one factor, one domino, that can begin to create a tremendous cascade, a positive cascade in your life, to improve, like I said, pain, movement, performance, simply learning to be aware of the tension that you’re carrying and letting go of it throughout the day, it’s enormously powerful.

I’m going to ask you to do this. Set a timer. Every 30 minutes to an hour, do this quick body scan. With a tiny bit of practice, literally by the end of one or two days of practice, you should be able to do this in probably between 10 and 20 seconds.

Just go through the body. Let everything relax. The more often you do that, the more you’re going to notice that you’re handling stress better, that you’re moving better, that you’re feeling better, and at the end of the day when you’re done with work, and you haven’t had energy to play with your kids, and take care of yourself, you’re going to start to find that your energy reserves have been built up by carrying less and less tension through the day.

So that’s our one factor that I want you to focus on this week.

I hope you’re having a great week.

I look forward to talking to you again.

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