For Audio: Lama Nyndak of Tibet
There are three ways to do prostrations
1) Five Limbs Prostration (ཡན་ལག་ལྔ་པོ་ས་ལ་རེག་པའི་བསྐུམ་ཕྱག) is also called Kum Chag(བསྐུམ་ཕྱག) in Tibetan; Two knees, two palms and forehead must touch the ground.
2) Body length or full body on the ground Prostration (ལུས་ཐམས་ཅད་ས་ལ་ཕབ་པའི་བརྐྱང་ཕྱག); From standing upright position to full-length body with arms stretched forward on the ground.
3) Hindus, not Tibetan, greet their elders with hand touching the heart and the foot of the elders or priest; བྱིད་པ་ལ་མཆོད་པའི་ཕྱག
Tibetan Buddhism follows 2 types of locations on your body-length where you place your folded-hands while doing Prostration. They are 3 locations and 5 locations. However, 3 location is the most common practice which is discussed here.
First location represents the Body/OM(ཨོཾ). Place your folded hand on “top of the head/crown of the head/སྤྱི་གཙུག” to symbolize Body(སྐུ).
Second location represents the Speech/AH(ཨ). Place your folded hand on Throat(མགྲིན་པ).
Third location represents the Mind/HUM(). Place your folded-hand on the Heart(སྙིང)
How to fold your hand
Palm of your hand are kept apart, do not touch, with finger tips touching each other and both the thumbs are bending inside the hollow palms.
How Prostration is done
Five limbs Prostration is less physical, quick and most often practiced. Above folded-hand locations ( crown of head, throat, heart) are done while standing upright or with slight bow. After reaching the third (heart) bring knees, forehead and palm of your hands to touch the ground. Hands and knees support your body weight. As soon as forehead touches the ground stand-up but maintain the feet position.
Repeat the process three times. Except for the hands, body looks more like a fetal position when forehead touches the ground.
Full body-length Prostration
Warning: Full body-length Prostration is strenuous and heart beat picks up rapidly.
Full body-length prostration is very good cardiovascular exercise too. It is for those who practice preliminary Buddhist initiations. Hand gestures are similar to above but body is stretched out in full length on the ground. A smooth surface, knee caps and hand pad will help ease pain. In the beginning it is painful.
Many Tibetans do it every day, at home, between 50-100 times. Tibetans do such full body length prostration circumnavigate a holy Mountain, Temple or historical Ruins such as BodhGaya, Sravasti, Nalanda, Tsopema.
Recitation may change according to Guru’s instruction.
For preliminary Buddhist initiation, it is customary to do full-body prostration 100,000 times. There are, generally, five or eight different preliminaries and this is one of them. It is a test for endurance, commitment and physical fitness per se. Such initiation also clears away any blockage in Central Channel.