When traveling on the Tibetan Plateau, one will often encounter groups of pilgrims clad in heavy leather aprons making the journey by prostrating, marking their progress by the length of their bodies. They leave their native areas and make their way towards Lhasa, or other holy pilgrimage sites, such as Mount Kailash or Amnye Machen,  often taking several years to reach their goal and leaving telltale marks on their bodies, such as prominent forehead bumps, from touching it to the ground as many as a hundreds thousand times.  

Prostrations are a means of purification. Buddhists believe that every human being has the potential for enlightenment but that this power is obscured by a thick veil of afflictions accumulated over many lives that prevent one from seeing the true nature of things. The Buddha is an object of refuge and inspiration, the example to follow on the path towards liberation from suffering. By respecting this ideal represented by the accomplishments of the Buddha, Bodhisattvas, and other enlightened beings, one purifies the body, speech, and mind, gradually removing this veil and coming closer to one’s goal.

There are two types of prostration: half and full body, the latter involving lying flat on the ground and extending the arms above the head, palms joined. Each prostration is preceded by the gesture of joined palms gathered on the forehead, meaning the body, at the heart for speech, and at the heart for the mind. It is a way of slicing through pride, an experience of humbling oneself towards an ideal one seeks to attain. 

Prostration is considered a preliminary practice, a detoxing of the spirit, one that will clear the path of obstacles towards attaining realization.