In the high peaks of the Himalayas, there are spiritual seekers known to have extraordinary endurance and youthfulness, not to mention that ever-elusive inner peace. Their secret? A centuries-old series of daily yogalike postures known as the Five Tibetan Rites of Rejuvenation. "The monks found this routine to be a key to their age-defying vitality and inner fulfillment," says Carolinda Witt, a teacher of the rites and author of The 10-Minute Rejuvenation Plan (Three Rivers Press, 2005). Thanks to Witt, who has adapted the rites for those who can't travel to the Himalayas, you can experience the power of these five exercises in your own home. The moves target the chakras—the spinning energy centers that extend from the base of your spine to the crown of your head—and get them to spin rapidly, and in unison. "The rites rev up your chakras to their fullest potential," says Witt. "It's like turning on an inner power switch." Besides a boost in energy, flexibility, and core strength, Witt's students report handling stress better, feeling more focused, having a stronger sense of purpose, and experiencing an overall feeling of connectedness.
THE FIRST RITE
PHYSICAL BENEFITS: Increases energy flow; improves balance and coordination; enhances circulation.
EMOTIONAL BENEFITS: Creates a sense of joyfulness and freedom.
A. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your arms straight out to your sides at shoulder height, palms facing down. Relax your shoulders and gaze forward. Begin spinning in place, clockwise.
B. Pivot on your right heel (but keep your right foot pressed into the floor—you'll be sliding your toes in a clockwise circle) and step your left foot next to your right foot. Move at a speed that's comfortable, and breathe normally through your nose. Avoid taking short, choppy steps with your left foot-the goal is to spin as smoothly as possible. Keep count of every turn by softly focusing on a stationary object, like a door or piece of furniture, and noting each time you pass it.
TO FINISH: When you've completed all your repetitions (for your first week, do three), stop and place your hands on your hips for balance. Close your eyes and take three deep, cleansing breaths.
TO PROGRESS: Turn on both feet instead of anchoring yourself with your right foot, and increase your speed.
THE SECOND RITE
Modified Leg Raise
PHYSICAL BENEFITS: Strengthens the core, hips, lower back, legs, and neck.
EMOTIONAL BENEFITS: Promotes mental clarity and inner confidence.
A. Lie on your back on a yoga mat with a folded towel under your lower back. Keep your legs together and straight and place your hands behind your head, fingers interlaced. Contract your abdominals and press your pelvis toward the mat; keep your abs tight throughout this exercise. Inhale and lift your head and shoulders off the floor slightly. Hold your breath as you bend your right knee and bring it directly over your right hip, keeping your lower leg parallel to the floor.
B. Straighten your right leg and flex your foot, pointing it toward the ceiling.
TO FINISH: Exhale and bend your right knee until your lower leg is again parallel to the floor. Then bring your right foot to the mat and slide it down to meet your left foot as you lower your head and shoulders to the mat. Repeat the move with your left leg. When you've completed all your repetitions (for the first week, do three), take three deep, cleansing breaths.
TO PROGRESS: Instead of raising one leg at a time, raise both legs. And instead of bending at the knee, use your abs to lift your legs straight off the mat and bring your feet toward the ceiling, keeping your lower back in contact with the mat.