Before you begin this exercise, you might want to record the instructions and play them back for yourself. If you do so, be sure to re record steps 12 through 20 (for the left side of your body) and steps 2 through 11 (the body scan, which is done near the start and again near the end).
• Prepare a space. Find a surface to lie on that’s firm but comfortable, such as a carpet or an exercise mat. If you feel you will need a pillow or towel under your head or knees because of neck or back discomfort, have these on hand.
• Stay within your comfort. If you feel any strain or discomfort, take one of these four actions: (1) Stop and rest. (2) Make the movements smaller or do fewer. (3) Find a way of doing the action that eliminates the problem. (4) Do the movement in your imagination. If you are still uncomfortable after doing 2 and 3, stop and rest. Rest whenever you need to. If you find your breath getting shallower and faster, you are trying too hard.
• Slow down. Most of us do everything too fast, as if we were trying to please an impatient parent or teacher, which makes it harder to really feel what you’re doing.
Try these movements slowly at first. Then you can experiment and find your own pace.
1. Take a moment to walk around a bit. Walk more slowly than you normally do and notice what you feel. Do you feel light and easy or heavy and encumbered?
How loud or soft are your footsteps? Can you feel your hips and upper body moving? Do your arms swing? Do your shoulders move as well?
2. Lie down on your back with your arms at your sides and your legs outstretched.
Note your emotion as you prepare to pay attention to your body. Notice as well any thoughts that arise about your body. If they are critical or judgmental, you might ask yourself, “Whose voice is that?” Notice what you feel about the room: Does it feel large and you small or the other way around? Is it dark or light, warm or cool, friendly or entrapping? Notice the level of comfort or tension in your body: do you allow the surface to support you fully or at only a few points of contact?
3. Follow your breath. Is it long and deep or shallow and fast? Are you breathing mostly in your chest, your abdomen, or somewhere in between? Experiment with bringing your breath into different areas and changing its rhythm and depth.
4. Now bring your attention to your head. At what point does it make contact with the surface? At the center of the back of the skull or to one side? Closer to the top of the skull (so your chin feels closer to the ceiling than your forehead) or to the bottom (so the chin seems slightly tucked into your neck)?
5. Notice your neck. Where do you feel it begins at the base of your skull and where does it merge with your back?
6. Where do your shoulders make contact with the surface? How is this different for one shoulder than the other?
7. Where do your arms make full contact with the floor, and where are there spaces? Are your palms up, down, or somewhere in between? How is this different on one side than the other?
8. Follow the line of your spine, noting how the different areas of your back touch the floor or curve away from it: the upper, middle, and lower back. If you note a space between the lumbar area and the surface, where does it start and end, and how high does it feel?
9. Notice your pelvis and buttocks. Do you feel more pressure against the floor on one side than the other?
10. Moving down the body, note any space under your thighs, knees, calves, and ankles. Does one leg touch the floor differently than the other? What about your heels? Is the pressure directly behind the heels or to one side?
11. Think of one side of your body. Does it feel heavier or lighter than the other?
Darker or lighter in color? Does it feel more supported by the surface or less?
Is there a change in your pattern of breathing? What are your thoughts and emotions regarding your body now?
Awareness Tip: If you notice critical or judgmental thoughts, ask yourself, “Whose voice is that?”
12. Now roll onto your left side in a comfortable fetal position with your legs bent and one on top of the other. Place your head on your arm or, if necessary, on a pillow.
13. Begin to rock gently forward and backward, so that your right shoulder and hip roll first slightly toward the floor, then backward. This should be a small motion, perhaps a light jiggle, as if you were a child being rocked to sleep. Is this movement comforting? Experiment with the rate of movement until you find the most pleasant way. After a while, stop and rest on your side. Note any thoughts or emotion.
14. Now begin to rock again. After a few moments, stop moving the shoulders and upper body but allow the pelvis to continue to move forward and back. Don’t worry about getting these movements “right.” Just follow the instructions to the best of your ability without strain. Rest on your side.
15. Return to the rocking motion. After you’ve done this awhile, stop moving the pelvis but continue to move the upper body forward and back. Does this feel awkward or smooth?
16. Roll onto your back and rest. Which side feels closer to the floor? What has changed on the right side? On the left? Check your emotions and thoughts.
17. Come once again to your left side. Bring the right shoulder forward and at the same time bring the pelvis back. Bring both back to the upright (neutral) position. Do this a few times, slowly and gently.
18. Reverse the action, bringing the right shoulder back and the pelvis forward and then bring both back to neutral. Stop and rest.
19. Now combine the movements: bring the right shoulder forward and the pelvis back, then move the right shoulder back while bringing the pelvis forward.
Explore this movement. What is the expression on your face? Smile.
20. Stop and rest on your back. Notice any changes. Which side feels closer to the floor? Heavier, fuller, darker, or lighter and airier? Which side feels more you?
Notice your thoughts and emotions and compare them to the start.
Awareness Tip: Ask yourself, not “Is this right?” but “Is this the most effective and pleasurable way for me?”
21. Repeat these movements on the other (right) side (steps 12 through 20).
22. Rest and repeat the full body scan (steps 2 through 11).
23. Slowly—very slowly—come to sitting and then standing. Notice any differences from before you lay down. Do you feel taller or shorter? If you do notice a physical change, is there an accompanying emotional shift?
24. Now begin to walk, slowly. Do your shoulders and upper body move more than they did before? Does your pelvis rotate? If your shoulders move, do they rotate in the same direction as the pelvis or in the opposite direction? Do you feel lighter or heavier on your feet? What kind of sound do your feet make now?
Is there an emotional feeling attached to this way of walking? Don’t worry about whether you are walking “the right way” or not. If you are even a little bit more aware of your body, you are doing very well. If there’s any internal criticism, ask yourself, “Whose voice is that?”
Source Credits: Creating Optimism: A Proven, 7-Step Program for Overcoming Depression, Based on the popular Uplift program, written by Bob Murray Ph. D., and Alicia Fortinberry, published by Mcgraw-Hill