One of my 9-year-old twins is an early riser. Paul is up the minute the sun pulses over the mountain. Grace, on the other hand, likes to sleep until the last possible moment. It takes some doing to wake her up. But you wouldn’t know she’s a groggy-head in the morning by looking at her. She’s drenched in the beauty of childhood, dewy-eyed and radiant. (Maybe it’s all that beauty sleep she’s getting!) So you wouldn’t think that she might need the five Tibetan rites, the five yoga movements that some have called the fountain of youth.
This morning, she asks me, “Mom, what are those exercises that help you wake up?” Earlier this year, I scheduled one-on-one time with Grace for the very purpose of showing her a morning routine that blended in a mindfulness practice. I had found that too many mornings we were rushing out the door in a multitasking frenzy. We weren’t always dignified about this. We weren’t always kind to each other. But we did get to school on time.
I wanted to show Grace a better way. It’s important to me to start my day with a form of mindfulness practice – meditation, yoga, journaling or writing practice. It was time to teach her what I knew. The benefit, of course, was that I was going to gain someone to practice with.
That morning I showed her the five Tibetan rites from yoga. Today, she asked me to do the routine with her. So there we were, spinning clockwise, together, two fall leaves whirling in the breeze. Paul came in and joined us for the second Tibetan rite, which builds abdominal strength, or as he put it, “six packs.”
The five Tibetan rites build serenity into your day, and it is said that practicing them for 15 minutes every day adds longevity to your life. The exercises build flexibility, and they ground you. They improve eyesight and activate the metabolism. You may do them simply as exercise or as preparation for a meditation session.
Each rite is repeated 21 times.
FIRST TIBETAN RITE | Clockwise whirling
Stand with your feet hip distance apart, feet firmly grounded with toes spread and weight distributed through all four corners of your feet. Raise your arms out from your sides, shoulder height. Fix your gaze on a central point. Whirl clockwise 21 times, returning your gaze to the central point each time you pass through.
SECOND TIBETAN RITE | Leg raises
Lie on the floor or your mat on your back. Fully extend legs, with feet flexed. Fully extend arms, placing palms on the floor. Inhale as you raise your legs vertically until they are perpendicular to the floor, raising your head at the same time. Keep legs straight. As you exhale, lower your legs and head, keeping your legs straight and feet flexed.
THIRD TIBETAN RITE | Camel
Kneel on your mat with knees hip-width apart. Tuck your tailbone in, and square your hips. Curl your toes under. You may place your palms on the backs of your thighs, your shins or your ankles, depending on what’s comfortable. Inhale, arching backward. Exhale, bringing your chin to your chest.
FOURTH TIBETAN RITE | Reverse table
Sit on floor with legs stretched out, feet flexed. Sit up tall, tummy tucked and shoulders down. Place hands, palm down, on the floor next to your hips. Tuck your chin. As you inhale, raise your torso so that you make a flat tabletop. Your knees are bent, and your arms remain straight. Tense every muscle in your body. Exhale, lowering yourself to the floor. Tuck your chin to your chest.
FIFTH TIBETAN RITE | Down-faced dog, Up-faced dog
Take a good down-faced dog pose. Start on your knees. Place your hands on your mat with fingers spread, rooting the ball mound of your fingers into your mat (especially your forefinger ball mound). As you inhale, push back, arching your back and lifting your hips in the air. Let your heart melt. Stretch your spine. As you exhale, swing your torso forward, arching your back slightly. Move back and forth rhythmically with your breath 21 times.
As you can see, this is an all-around workout for the body, strengthening all muscle groups and enhancing flexibility of the spine. The chin tuck of the camel and reverse table activates the thyroid. This is why these rites are now Grace’s wake-up exercises. And mine, too.
As for Paul, we’re still working on Mr. Six Pack. He still defines a wake-up exercise as throwing the puppy on Grace’s head.