The materials you need include an outline of a body and colored pencils, crayons or markers. Starting with a blank piece of paper, the first step is to draw a general outline of your body. It does not have to be accurate, just as long as it is identifiable as a human body. If you plan to do this exercise more than once, you can make copies of it. Trace it, scan it into your computer and print it out, or take it to any place that has a copy machine, or can make copies for you. Make your body outline any size you like. You can do this regularly and keep it in a binder or journal, 8 ½” x 11” would be most convenient for this.
Find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed for 15-20 minutes, and have your materials ready. Sit comfortably and close your eyes. Take in a slow, deep breath, and let it out slowly. Do this 2-4 more times. As you do this, try to relax your muscles with each breath out. Starting at your head, scan your body slowly. Focus in on any area where you notice sensations such as pain, pulling, tingling, tickling, heat or cold. Is it sharp, throbbing, localized, radiating? Try to visualize what it would look like: colors, lines, shapes. Continue scanning the rest of your body, down your neck and your torso, each arm and each leg, stopping and focusing wherever you need to. When done, open your eyes and draw what you visualized. Not everyone is able to visualize sensations, for many people it takes practice. If you were not able to visualize, go ahead and draw anyway. What colors and shapes seem to fit with the sensations? Try not to think about this too deeply. Just pick up a pencil or crayon, and begin. Let your intuition guide you. The goal is not to have an artistic masterpiece, but a graphic rendition of how your body feels. Squiggles, scribbles and blobs are more truthful than finely shaded contours.
When you are finished with your body map, spend a few minutes looking it over. Any surprises? Are there any areas you had not noticed before that are speaking up? Are there areas that usually bother you that are calm today? On the back of your paper, jot down your observations and thoughts. Be sure to date each picture you do.
If you do this exercise regularly, either daily, or 2-3 times per week, you will begin to notice that you are developing your own visual language. You will discover that you use certain colors or lines consistently for certain sensations. You will see over time what sensations stay the same, what changes. You can share these pictures with your doctor, or other healthcare person, to help guide treatment.
You can follow up your body mapping session with another, related exercise, which may help you transform or reduce your pain. Draw or get out another body outline. Using your first body map as a guide, think about what might help each area feel better. Massage? Heat? Cold? How would you apply that modality to your body part? You may visualize the sun’s rays warming and relaxing your muscles, or a cool stream of water flowing by, taking the pain away. Draw it, and as you do, focus your mind on feeling the heat, or the coolness, or whatever you think would help.
Visualization takes practice. If you try this and it feels awkward, or doesn't seem to work for you, try again another time. Give yourself as much time as you need to relax and observe your body's sensations. For the second exercise, try to see and feel the sun's rays or the cool stream and how it would affect your body.