Beginner’s Body Awareness Exercises

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Beginner’s Body Awareness Exercises

Have you ever felt an intense burst of emotion that (seemingly) came out of nowhere? You may have felt unable to control your thoughts, words, or actions. Many people experience difficulty coping with or regulating emotions once they become very intense. However, losing control may have left you feeling betrayed by your body; why would it not have told you this was coming? The truth is, your body was probably telling you that you were having an emotional reaction long before you listened.

Think about a time your body told you something (i.e., you were too busy for lunch and the loud growl of your stomach told you to eat, you felt a twinge in your shoulder that reminded you to get up from your computer and stretch, you felt your eyes well up and noticed you were sad). Our bodies constantly send us signals about our needs; these signals usually start subtly and become more intense over time, though we often miss those signals until our bodies are practically screaming.

Body awareness refers to a person’s ability to recognize subtle bodily cues. Some people are naturally good at this while many of us have to practice and strengthen our body awareness. Although it can take time, strengthening our body awareness can help us quicken our response time when our bodies are sending signals, making it easier to handle challenging thoughts and feelings.

Think of body awareness as a skill built through practicing ongoing, conscious, awareness of your body’s experience of and reactions to itself and its environment. 

Practicing exercises that promote body awareness can help us react to our body’s experiences and regulate our emotions before they become too intense or challenging. This gives us more control over our actions and reactions. Whether you’ve tried body awareness exercises before and felt lost or tense or this is your first time, trying these Beginner’s Body Awareness Exercises may be right for you!

 

Body Awareness Exercises

Below are two exercises designed to encourage body awareness. These exercises are simply about noticing your body, but you may find yourself relaxing your muscles, becoming more comfortable. In these exercises, you will notice and accept your body in its comfort and discomfort. Try not to distract yourself or numb yourself from pain or discomfort, just acknowledge it as present. Try not to worry about how long the exercises take; allow yourself to be in the moment, paying attention to the sensations in your body. If thoughts intrude during this practice, that’s okay, just notice the thoughts and gently bring your attention back to your body. It may feel odd or intimidating to allow yourself to notice your breathing, your body, without judgment. Please, do not judge yourself for these feelings, just notice them and acknowledge the bravery you’re showing by pushing through this discomfort. 

You may want to record yourself reading these scripts so that you can practice these exercises without distraction.

 

Basic Body Scan

To prepare find yourself a quiet place, turn off your phone, and dim the lights. This is your time to take care of yourself. Sit or lie down in a comfortable position, loosening any tight clothing. Just make sure that you are comfortable. Let your hands rest loosely on your lap, or by your side. 

Begin this practice by taking a few slow, deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. Try to feel the air moving through your body. You may find it helpful to picture the air flowing through you, inflating your lungs, and returning to the world.

Now, starting with your feet, pay attention to the physical sensations in them: any pain, discomfort, coolness, warmth, tension, tightness, whatever you may feel. Simply pay attention to the physical feelings and sensations without judging them as good or bad or trying to change them. 

Slowly bring your awareness up to your lower legs, pay attention to the physical sensations in them: any pain, discomfort, coolness, warmth, tension, tightness, whatever you may feel. 

Then slowly bring your awareness further up your body, to your upper legs, pay attention to the physical sensations: any pain, discomfort, coolness, warmth, tension, tightness, whatever you may feel. 

Again, slowly bring your awareness further up your body, to your hips, buttocks, and pelvic region. Pay attention to the physical sensations: any pain, discomfort, coolness, warmth, tension, tightness, whatever you may feel. 

Now, slowly bring your awareness further up your body, to your lower abdomen and lower back. Pay attention to the physical sensations: any pain, discomfort, coolness, warmth, tension, tightness, whatever you may feel. 

Then slowly bring your awareness further up your body, to your upper abdomen and back. Pay attention to the physical sensations: any pain, discomfort, coolness, warmth, tension, tightness, whatever you may feel. 

Now, slowly shift your awareness to your fingers and hands. Pay attention to the physical sensations: any pain, discomfort, coolness, warmth, tension, tightness, whatever you may feel. 

Then slowly bring your awareness to your lower arms. Pay attention to the physical sensations: any pain, discomfort, coolness, warmth, tension, tightness, whatever you may feel. 

Now bring your awareness upward to your upper arms. Pay attention to the physical sensations: any pain, discomfort, coolness, warmth, tension, tightness, whatever you may feel. 

Again, slowly bring your awareness up your body to your shoulders and neck. Pay attention to the physical sensations: any pain, discomfort, coolness, warmth, tension, tightness, whatever you may feel. 

Then, slowly bring your awareness to your head, noticing your forehead, temples, eyes, cheeks, nose, mouth, and jawline. Pay attention to the physical sensations: any pain, discomfort, coolness, warmth, tension, tightness, whatever you may feel. 

Lastly, let your awareness drift gently and slowly back down your entire body, noticing any other places where there is pain, discomfort, or tension until your awareness settles back at your feet.

 

Stretch and Release (Alternative to Tense and Release)

During this exercise, you will be asked to stretch various muscles throughout your body. Please do this without straining. You do not need to exert yourself, just stretch each muscle comfortably and gently as you breathe in. If you feel uncomfortable at any time, you can simply relax and breathe normally. 

To prepare find yourself a quiet place, turn off your phone, and dim the lights. This is your time to take care of yourself. Sit or lie down in a comfortable position, loosening any tight clothing. Just make sure that you are comfortable. Let your hands rest loosely on your lap, or by your side. 

To begin this practice, close your eyes. Become aware of your breathing. Notice how your chest and abdomen rise and fall with each breath. Take a long, slow, deep breath in through your nose, down your throat, all the way down into your stomach. Hold that breath for just a moment, and then exhale through your mouth. As the breath leaves your body, imagine the air traveling back out of your body carrying all of your stress and tension.

Take another slow breath in through your nose, filling your lungs completely. Hold that breath for just a moment…and release it through your mouth, emptying your lungs completely. Take another deep breath in, hold it for a moment, and let it go. Feel the change in your body as the tension starts to loosen. Now let your breathing rhythm return to normal.

Bring your awareness to your feet and toes. Breathe in deeply through your nose, and as you do, gradually point your toes forward. Hold your breath for just a few seconds and then release the muscles in your feet as you breathe out. Feel the tension in your feet wash away as you exhale. Notice how different your feet feel when stretched and when they are relaxed. Take another deep breath in again, flex your foot back toward you, and hold this position for a few seconds. Now release. Feel yourself relaxing more and more deeply with each breath.

Now bring your attention to your lower legs, to your ankles and calf muscles. As you draw in a nice deep breath, slowly roll your feet in a circle clockwise. Hold that breath for just a moment, and then go limp as you exhale. Once again, draw in a deep breath and slowly roll your feet in a circle counterclockwise. Hold that breath for a few seconds, and then let it all go. Feel your muscles relax, and imagine the tension washing away with your out-breath. 

Now bring your awareness up toward your knees. In a moment, you will stretch your knees. If you are lying on your back, you can bend and lift your knee slightly off the floor. As you draw a nice deep breath, bring your lower leg up as you straighten your knee. Feel the muscles throughout your leg supporting you and you hold for a few seconds. Then gently release and slowly bring your body back to its starting position on your exhale.

Now bring your attention to your upper legs. Take a deep breath in, and squeeze your legs together. Hold for just a moment, and then release everything. As you do this, the blood flow to your muscles increases, and you may notice a warm tingling sensation. Enjoy this feeling of soothing relaxation in your thighs. Breathe in deeply and spread your legs apart. Hold for a moment. Now release. Focus on letting your muscles go limp and loose. 

Now bring your attention to your buttocks. Draw in a nice deep breath and lift your left leg, placing your left ankle on your right knee. If comfortable, lean slightly forward to deepen the stretch. Hold this for a few seconds, and then release. Feel the tension leaving your muscles. Feel them relaxing completely. Breathe in deeply and lift your right leg, placing your right ankle on your left knee. If comfortable, lean slightly forward to deepen the stretch. Hold for a moment. Now release them. You are becoming more and more deeply relaxed. 

Now bring your awareness to your abdomen. Draw in a nice deep breath and then engage these muscles. Imagine you are trying to touch your belly button to your spine. Now release your breath and let your muscles relax. Notice the sensation of relief that comes from letting go. Once again, draw in a deep breath and then tighten your abdomen muscles. Hold that breath for a few seconds and then let them relax as you exhale and relax. 

Bring your awareness to the muscles in your back. As you slowly breathe in, arch your back slightly. Now release your breath and let your muscles relax. Again, take a deep breath in and then stretch your back muscles. Hold that position for a few seconds and then relax and release. 

Now, bring your attention to your shoulder muscles and the muscles in your neck. As you slowly draw in a nice deep breath, pull your shoulders up towards your ears. Now breathe out and allow your muscles to go limp. Again, pull your shoulders up towards your ears and feel the tension subside as you relax and breathe out. 

Feel the weight in your body now. Feel yourself becoming heavier and heavier, more grounded in the surface beneath you. Feel yourself becoming more and more relaxed. You are calm, safe, at peace. 

Now it’s time to move to your arms and hands, starting with your upper arms. As you breathe in, move your arms straight out to the side next to you and gently push back. Hold that position for just a moment and then gently lower your arms and breathe all the way out. You may feel a warm sensation in your muscles. Repeat this movement one more time, following the flow of your breath. 

Now bring your awareness to your forearms. As you breathe in, curl your hands inwards as though you are trying to touch the inside of your elbows with your fingertips. Now relax and breathe out. Once again, take a deep breath in, and repeat the motion. Hold it for a moment, and then release.

Now, take another breath in and stretch your hand open, hold for a few seconds, and then release. Notice any feelings in your hands, your fingers. Your hands are becoming very soft and relaxed. Take another deep breath in and stretch your hand again, holding for just a few seconds before releasing. Let your fingers, arms, and hands go limp. Take a couple of nice long slow breaths now, and just relax. 

Now, bring your attention to your face. Open your mouth wide and raise your eyebrows and as you do, breathe in fully. Now breathe out and relax all your facial muscles. Feel your face softening. Now, breathe in deeply while you scrunch the muscles in your eyes and lips, and release. 

You are now completely loose and limber from the top of your head to the bottom of your feet. Please take a few more minutes to relax, allowing yourself to slowly start to notice the space around you, returning to your day with feelings of energy and flexibility.

 

Great job! 

You have completed your Beginner’s Body Awareness Exercises and taken a big step toward strengthening the connections between your mind and body. As you build body awareness practice into your everyday life, you may choose to do both exercises, just one, part of one, or you may find alternative body awareness exercises you prefer. There is no one right way to incorporate body awareness exercises into your everyday life, so do what works for you!

If this new experience left you with more questions than answers or in need of support, schedule an appointment with one of the highly-skilled therapists at The Center For Growth (215) 922- 5683 x 100.