Five minutes is all you need. The secret is activating your nervous system through six simple movements—and you don’t even have to get out of bed.

Routines are a great way to hack your mind and body into performing the way you want. We all know that meditation and exercise have positive effects on our overall wellbeing, but sometimes there just isn’t enough time in the day for a full workout or meditation practice.

What I love about this five-minute routine is that it can be practiced anywhere and it activates many of the same feel-good parts of our system that get activated during exercise and meditation.

Pratapana: The Six Movements of the Spine

woman stretching with yoga block

As a yoga teacher, the first thing I offer in every class is the six movements of the spine synchronized with the breath. This particular sequence is known as pratapana. Pratapana consists of moving the spine through flexion, extension, lateral side bends, and twists on each side. These shapes move the spine in all directions, massaging the tissues and stimulating the nervous system. In yoga, they are known to also move the prana, or life-force, through the body.

The Science

When we move the spine in all these different directions and activate the nervous system, it can help us to feel happy, relaxed, and respond to stress with more grace and ease. When we experience stress, especially chronic stress, it has an immense impact on the body. By working to promote a healthier nervous system, we can train our bodies and our minds to move more fluidly,

The nervous system is a complex network of nerves and cells that carry messages to and from the brain and spinal cord to various parts of the body. Within the nervous system is a part known as the Autonomic Nervous System which is responsible for a variety of mostly unconscious motor and sensory functions in the body, as well as being in charge of the "fight-or-flight" and relaxation responses of the body.

The "fight-or-flight" response is controlled by the sympathetic nervous system, while the relaxation response is controlled by the parasympathetic system. Within the parasympathetic nervous system is a nerve that has gained more and more popularity over the years: the vagus nerve.

TLDR; The vagus nerve is the body’s way of regulating itself through stress or trauma. It releases acetylcholine, prolactin, and oxytocin into the body, which helps us feel a sense of comfort and ease.

How to Practice Pratapana

illustration of yoga poses

All of these movements can be practiced laying down (supine), sitting in a chair, or standing up. Here, we will walk you through each of the six movements with options for practicing them in different variations, and how to match your breath with each movement. The following movements can be practiced with longer hold times (taking about four breaths per movement) or you can practice these as dynamic movements where each movement has one breath, and you repeat a couple of times.

1: Flexion

Breath: Inhale.

As you inhale, arch your back and melt your shoulder blades together.

2. Extension

Breathing: Exhale.

Exhaling, round the spine pressing your shoulders forward.

3. Right Lateral Side Bend

Breath: Inhale as you extend upwards, exhale to bend.

Inhaling, reach your right arm up over your head. On your exhale reach your fingertips over to the left side of the room as your right hip stays planted.

4. Left Lateral Side Bend

Breath: Inhale as you extend upwards, exhale to bend.

Inhaling, reach your left arm up over your head. On your exhale reach your fingertips over to the right side of the room as your left hip stays planted.

5. Right Twist

Breath: Inhale as your extend upwards, exhale to twist.

Inhale, lifting the crown of the head away from the hips. On the exhale, twist to the right, keeping your hips aligned.

6. Left Twist

Breath: Inhale as your extend upwards, exhale to twist.

Inhale, lifting the crown of the head away from the hips. On the exhale, twist to the left, keeping your hips aligned.

After a few days, you may find yourself easily extending your practice to some more stretches or maybe even hopping on Insight Timer to start your day with an inspiring meditation.

We hope you found this tutorial helpful. If you are interested in mindfulness practices, you may also enjoy 10 Signs and Symptoms You Might Not Realize Are Anxiety and Natural, Herbal, and Holistic Remedies for Stress and Anxiety.

13 Non-traditional Holiday Dinner Ideas 13 Non-traditional Holiday Dinner Ideas
Can You Smoke CBD? The Ultimate Guide to Inhaling CBD Can You Smoke CBD? The Ultimate Guide to Inhaling CBD
12 Elf on the Shelf Ideas for the Lazy Parent 12 Elf on the Shelf Ideas for the Lazy Parent