Wake Up—And Don’t Smell The Coffee: Caffeine-Free Energy Boosters

Three non-chemical ways to get revved up in the morning.

By Beth Levine
clock happy wake up morning picture
Photograph: Illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal

For more explicit instructions, try Carlson’s CD, Ayurvedic Pranayama and Meditation for the Doshas(shop.kripalu.org). For demonstrations of the three-part breath and the two techniques that follow, do-in and Qigong, go to more.com/energyvideo.

I am a tired, bedraggled mess when I show up at Enrique Ramirez’s Face to Face NYC–Day Spa to learn how to perform do-in, an ancient blend of touching and breathing. After I leave, as light as a feather and dancing down the street, I ask myself, Am I peppy because this technique is so energizing? Or because my body really approved of having a man as attractive as Ramirez dabble with my pressure points? I withhold my judgment until I can try this technique by myself the next morning.

Do-in (aka dao yin) is a form of Chinese acupressure, but you don’t have to learn the whole map of pressure points. The idea is to get your blood flowing by pressing your hands or fingers on various spots of your body. At the same time, you increase your oxygen intake via steady breathing.

There are few scientific studies on the effectiveness of do-in as an energy booster, but there are encouraging findings on a related technique: massage. For instance, a study conducted by Tiffany Field, PhD, director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine, confirmed that being massaged made subjects more alert and relaxed. “Stimulation of pressure receptors under the skin seems to cause the heart rate to slow, and slowed heart rate is associated with increased attentiveness,” Field explains. Since do-in is a form of self-massage, I figure it should have similar results.

The Program
Total Time:
10 minutes
Effectiveness Tip: Apply pressure for three counts. Inhale with each press; exhale with the release.

>Face and Head: Using the tips of your fingers, press near your temples, underneath the browbones. Then press on your closed eyes (take out your contacts first!), down the sides of the nose and at the point where your upper and lower jaw meet. Pinch the bridge of your nose. Then pull down on your earlobes. Ramirez says this ear tug has the bonus of eliminating food cravings. (Jury’s out on that one.) With one hand, pull your head down to your chest. Then pull your head side to side. With each pull, press on the exposed part of the neck.
>Arms and Hands: Squeeze the inside of one arm, using the full palm of your opposite hand, starting near your shoulders and moving downward toward your wrists. Moving on to your hand, press your way up each finger, starting at its base and ending by tugging on that finger. Pull hand back and up and then forward and under. Repeat on the other side.

>Back: Press on your lower back, above your hip bones, with either the thumbs or palms of both hands.
>Front: Lie on your back. Apply pressure on the left lower quadrant of your abdomen with a flat palm (which stimulates your colon), then under the rib cage on the right (liver) and under the rib cage in the middle (stomach).
>Legs and Feet: Squeeze the top of one knee with a full hand. Then, using your fingertips, press behind the knee, down your calf and then on both sides of the Achilles tendon. Use your thumb to press into the arch of your foot. Press between each toe bone with your thumb and then pull each toe. Repeat on the other side.

My Rating: 3 cups of coffee
How do I feel after trying this by myself? While I am not floating, as I was post-Ramirez, I do feel really good. I am less sluggish and grouchy, and my bones and muscles aren’t as creaky. I actually do some yard work before popping into the shower—a big change from most mornings, when I’m happy if I manage to make the bed. 

For more instruction, get the new book Fountain of Youth Exercises by Naomi Sophia Call.

Qigong (the word is Chinese for “energy cultivation”) uses flowing, graceful movements to help you focus on body, breath and mind.

First Published November 9, 2011

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