Everyone has a morning routine — a way they like to start their day and set the tone for whatever’s to come over the next 24 hours. For you, maybe it’s taking a second to lie in bed reviewing your to-do list, or standing next to the coffee machine as the caffeine drip-drops into your pot. But if you’re the type of person who goes through the motions of the morning sleepy-eyed, have you ever considered trying a reflective activity to jumpstart the day? For example, Julianne Hough practices a body-scanning meditation routine every morning, and swears by its power to unite all the many parts of yourself — body, mind, and spirit. It might be worth a try if the first thing you feel when you blink open your eyes, is a disconnect.
The concept of body-scanning is actually pretty simple, but I can definitely understand how the term might sound like something straight out of a medical encyclopedia. Rest assured, high-tech machinery isn’t required to perform a body scan, nor will you need any equipment. What’s more, a body scan can be done in the comfort of your home, at your office desk, even in a bathroom stall at school. Wherever, whenever you need it, all it takes is a few quiet minutes, or seconds, if that’s about all you can spare to check in with yourself.
So now that I’ve mapped out all the things body-scanning is not (i.e. performed by a doctor, an expensive wellness fluke, dependent on location), let’s talk about everything body-scanning is. But before I dive into that, let’s chat about Hough’s connection to the practice. On Tuesday, Jan. 8, the professional dancer posted a photo to Instagram capturing her posture: Sitting upright, Hough's legs are in the shape of a pretzel, while one hand rests on her stomach, the other over her heart.
At first glance, the snapshot could easily blend in with the thousands of yogi pics floating around social media, but what sets this upload apart from the others is the performer’s step-by-step breakdown of her daily practice.
“Starting the week off right, and one of the ways I do that is by scanning my body. Ever tried it? It’s something I try to do daily, or sometimes multiple times a day depending on what’s going on in my life,” Hough wrote. “It’s the easiest way for me to reconnect with all parts of myself.”
Like most meditative practices, body-scanning can be approached in a number of ways. But before I get into the 30-year-old dancer’s breakdown of how she practices body-scanning on a daily basis, I asked Kyle Michaud, a yoga and wellness expert who runs the annual Yoga Expo in Los Angeles, to briefly explain what body-scanning generally entails.
Basically, your body becomes "very tense" when you feel stressed, Michaud tells Elite Daily, and body-scanning is a way to "return to a relaxed state,” he explains. The concept is that, through body-scanning, you’re able to hone in on any areas of discomfort, and picture in your mind that the tension is literally leaving your body. Michaud says this type of meditation can help both your muscles, and your mind, relax.
As for the benefits of body-scanning, Michaud says the practice offers both physical and mental perks. Obviously the main focus is to ease your mind and unravel any knotted, tension-stricken muscles, but it’s also an exercise that can allow you to work through your emotions calmly, logically, and it puts the role you play when it comes to your overall health into perspective.
“I’ve found the benefits of body-scan meditation to be a stress-reliever and relaxation technique,” Michaud tells Elite Daily. "It really brings me back down to earth and helps me realize that I can control certain physical and mental components of stress."
Trust me, I know from experience how intimidating it can be to sit in complete silence with just your busy thoughts and body to keep you company. But if you’re someone who experiences stress, whether anxiety is a constant uphill battle for you or something you’ll encounter once in a blue moon, knowing how to scan your body when you need it the most can definitely be beneficial. To make the practice a little less scary and a little more rewarding from the get-go, Hough was kind enough to break down her routine in the caption of her Instagram photo.
To begin, Hough wrote that she likes to rub her hands together to create a little heat and friction right off the bat, separating her hands to really get a feel for the energy. From there, she explained, she closes her eyes and begins scanning, starting at the top of her head, and working downward.
“While floating your hand over your body, concentrate on where you feel a strong connection (for example, could be your heart, your solar plex, or your third eye,),” Hough wrote. After you’ve pinpointed the areas that are most vibrant, Hough said she then places a hand on that area, breathing deeply in through the nose and out through the mouth for just a minute or so. Next, repeat that sequence, Hough wrote, only this time around, focus on the areas where you feel a disconnect.
“Once you find that place, place your hands on the spot and breathe into it, and speak the words ‘I feel disconnected,’” she wrote. “One more thing I like to do during this is make a sound... if the area that feels disconnected isn’t easy to breathe into, make a sound that reflects the discomfort (sound is one of the best healing methods).”
Bringing it all together for your last few breaths, Hough suggested bringing one hand to the part of your body that feels most connected, and taking a nice, big inhale. On your exhale, she explained, rest your other hand on top of the area that feels more disconnected. Breathe deeply into this posture, and do so until you notice a calming shift in your breath, as well as "a peace within," Hough said.
It might take a few tries to get the hang of this, but Hough is confident that, by the end, you'll feel "a total connectivity to all parts of you." Which, in my opinion, sounds like something worth working toward, wouldn't you agree?