Having fallen hook line and sinker for nutrition, fitness and all that jazz over the past few years (I am a paleo poster girl (not literally) and a fully-fledged member of the cult of crossfit) falling off the healthy wagon on holiday just isn’t an option.
Regardless of the baggage allowance, space is made for gym kit, healthy snacks (almonds, dates, snack bars like Get Raw) and maybe even a skipping rope if I am feeling adventurous. I also pack the lifting gloves and the Rehband knee sleeves so I can drop in to a crossfit ‘box’ (they’re not ‘gyms’ – no mirrors or TVs in crossfit) on my travels. There are over 13,000 crossfit affiliates worldwide and, provided you’ve done your fundamentals/foundation course, you can rock up at a foreign box and do a pay-as-you-go WOD (workout of the day). Everyone’s jolly nice and welcoming.
But, holidays should be about experiencing something new, not lifting and shifting your ‘normal’ life to a different address, so in South Africa I mastered a novel morning ritual of Five Tibetan Rites, rebounding and inversion – on the beach.
As with all ancient arts, there are a fair number of different interpretations masquerading on the t’interweb, but here’s my understanding of the Five Tibetan Rites. Also known as the “Fountain of Youth” (yes, read on ladies…) it is a series of simple exercises devised by Tibetan monks to help them live long, vibrant and healthy lives. Intended to open up all your chakra systems, stimulate energy flows, and strengthen and stretch all the main muscles in your body – they also help with balance. Furthermore the Rites only take a few minutes to do.
Ideally done in the morning, before food (but after a nice glass of water), you can start by doing three, five, seven, repetitions of each Rite, but the goal is to build up to 21 (and no more). You must do them in order. To learn how to perform them properly properly, take a look at a site like this, but here’s a quick summary:
Rite One – Stand arms outstretched, palms down, and spin 21 times in a clockwise direction. Inhale and exhale as you go. (This is the least subtle and most daft-looking one. As I have no private garden/outside space/large living room, I do my Rites on the local beach and I have to zone everyone else out so as not to feel awkward. It gets easier.)
Rite Two – Lie flat on floor, arms by your side, palms facing down. Inhale, lift your head off the floor, tuck your chin in, and simultaneously raise straight legs into a vertical position. Exhale, lower your legs and head to the floor. (Not very Tibetan, but this is a great ab workout too!)
Rite Three – Kneel on floor, body upright, place palms on backs of thigh muscles, tuck chin to chest. Inhale, throw head and neck backwards, face to sky, and arch upper part of back, bracing your arms on your thighs for support. Exhale, return to original position.
Rite Four – Sit down, legs slightly apart stretched straight in front, back upright, and palms face down on floor next to your bottom. Inhale, raise your body off the floor, bend your knees, arms straight, face to sky (sort of a table-top pose). Relax, exhale, and return to starting position.
Rite Five – If you know anything about yoga, this is basically a swing between upward- (chest off floor, arms straight, head back) and downward- (hips up, back and spine stretched, chin tucked in) facing dog. Inhale as you rise into downward dog, exhale as you lower into upward. (PS True story. A random beach-frolicking dachshund literally licked my mouth in the middle of downward dog two days ago, I actually downward-faced a dog.)
And that’s it. You will be young and healthy in no time. Allegedly.
I also add on a touch of rebounding (jumping up and down, in-out-shake-it-all-about style, two minutes) to get the lymphatic/immune system going and to strengthen the bones, and round off with a bit of inversion, that is to say a headstand (one minute minimum), a move which is also good for the lymphatic system and sends a nice lot of blood and therefore oxygen to your brain making you smarter and more awake.
I’ve been following this morning routine, rain or shine (although I will be honest it hasn’t rained once!), for over two weeks and I can tell you it helps to get your mind and body straight for the day. Try it.*
*consult with a doctor before doing things you shouldn’t blah blah