The Five Tibetans

We’ve been doing the Five Tibetans lately and it’s been awesome. It’s helped me get back into a groove. I think the first one is particularly ingenious. The series of five exercises starts with spinning. It’s so easy and fun that it leads me in, reduces the threshold to getting started. Doing the same set of exercises every morning gives me a check-in about how I’m feeling, what my energy level is, a good thing to know first thing in the day.

At this point, knowing what I know about the physical body, I focus on stretching the fascial lines. You could look at these exercises as being about the muscles, or the cardiovascular system, or a meditation to focus on the breath. To me it’s a source of endless fascination how many angles there are to look at the same thing. For now, for me, this practice is mostly about the fascia, and I think of these exercises as sort of flossing the fascial lines, through their full range, keeping them freed up so they can be elastic.

I’ve been surprised when I’ve mentioned to friends and family that I’ve been doing the Five Tibetan Exercises, how many other people I know do them or have gone through phases of doing them. People often say they did them for a while but got bored. I can understand that. It’s exactly because of the repetitiveness that I find them so useful. They are a good entry-level series for people who don’t have a morning exercise routine. They provide a nice little ramp to getting started for anyone who’s having a hard time with motivation.

Different sources have different recommendations on how to end the sequence. Whatever the case, I think it always brings more benefit to end an exercise session with lying down in stillness. In personal training sessions, I’d have my clients lie down while I stretched them, in yoga classes it’s called Corpse Pose and in some versions of the Five Tibetans there’s the suggestion to lie face down with arms extended at least until the heart rate slows down. The way I think of it is that during exercise the body receives many stimuli. In the moment of stillness, it has time to coordinate and set a plan for how to react. The benefits of exercise are in the repair processes that follow, and these processes will happen more smoothly when the body has time to plan them. And I love that sweet moment, lying on the floor, doing nothing, going passive, trusting my body, satisfied.

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