Ryūtai Undō: Dragon Body Exercises

We often wake in the mornings a bit stiff, our bodies not yet ready for the work ahead of us. This stiffness can also impact the effectiveness of our meditation, as the muscles and connective tissues are inflexible, lacking proper blood flow. Along with proper blood flow, appropriate energy flow (prana) is important. These exercises increase the potential of your body, while also directing energy correctly. Throughout our lives we've all been taught to not only think in ways that are counter-productive, but even to move in ways which are limiting. The ultimate goal of any such exercises is to develop "shizentai", or the natural body; a body that is functioning as it should, without unnatural habits of slouching, sitting on our spines in chairs, walking with our heads down, etc. Understanding that this is the case, I'm providing a set of gentle exercises you can do to begin your day and "wake" your body, getting the blood and energy flowing freely. These are known in Kobudo (martial arts) circles Ryūtai Undō, or more commonly, Dragon Body Exercises, and I teach them to my students in both martial arts and spirituality. I hope you find them helpful.

1. Rolling Head-Slowly and gently roll your head nine times in each direction, right and left. Be certain you do so with full range of motion, allowing your head to roll as if disconnected from the neck. You will likely hear popping noises as you do so, freeing up the connective tissues to move more smoothly. With each rotation, inhale at the beginning, and exhale at the end. When done, allow the head to rest in a normal upright position for nine seconds.

2. Rolling Shoulder-Place one hand on the center of your chest, at the Anāhata chakra, and gently rotate the opposite arm nine times forward, and nine times backward. The key is to relax as you do so. Inhale at the beginning of the rotation, exhale at the end. Switch to the opposite hand at the center of your chest, and rotate the opposite arm the same directions and number of times. Once both arms have been done, relax with arms at your sides for nine seconds.

3. Relaxed Seat-Sit with the legs drawn inward, the bottom of each foot against the other. Slowly lean forward, putting your stomach on your lap as your hands hold your feet. Exhale as you lean forward, inhale as you sit up straight. Repeat nine times.

4. Extended Seat-Sit with your legs straight out, bend at the hips, bringing your stomach to your thighs and grasp your feet (if you can). Exhale as you lean forward, inhale as you sit up straight. Repeat nine times.

5. Spinal Rotation-Standing up, place your feet slightly more than shoulder width apart. Keeping your hips forward at all times, slowly rotate your spine over the hips, attempting to look behind you. Inhale as you turn, exhale as you come back to the front. Do this nine times to each side. Then, bring the feet together, bend forward, bringing the torso to the thighs. Inhale as you begin, and your exhale should end when you stop forward motion. As you rise straight up again, inhale, then bend again and exhale as you do. Repeat nine times.

6. Tension Release-Stand with feet slightly more than shoulder width apart, and tense every muscle you can, holding it for three seconds. Inhale as you begin, and at the end of the three seconds, exhale. Do this nine times. Then standing in the same place, close your eyes and allow your facial muscles to relax completely, holding no expression. Allow the shoulders to drop naturally, the arms and torso to just relax, the leg muscles, calves and feet. Stand like this for as long as you wish.

These are very basic exercises and are the foundation for a more advanced physical practice which releases prana at an increased rate. The advanced exercises are taught to personal students as part of their spiritual practices. Namaste.


  1. I love doing these exercises every morning before my meditation. Highly recommend them to anyone looking for something to wake them up naturally in the morning.


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