The Five Tibetan Rites
The Five Tibetan Rites are five simple exercises (movements through two or more poses) that can be completed in less than 20 minutes and will help you live the long healthy, vigorous life of a Tibetan Monk. Just look at the Dalai Lama, who doesn’t want to look as young, vigorous and happy as he is!
The Five Tibetan Rites, the Five Tibetans or the Fountain of Youth exercises as they are often referred to, are considered to be over 2,500 years old.
Their origins in the west are based on a book by Peter Kelder published in 1939 entitled The Eye of Revelation. In this book Kelder claims to have met a retired British army colonel who shared stories of living in a Tibetan Temple (Lamasery) learning from Tibetan monks (Lamas).
The five sets of movements in modern yoga terms would be considered a vinyasa flow. Vinyasa is described as two or more asanas (poses) strung together with a transition that turns the poses into dance or tai chi like movements.
The British army officer, Colonel Bradford (not his real name BTW, it’s a pseudonym, but who wouldn’t want to be known as the inventor of the Fountain of Youth?), describes traveling in Tibet where he met lamas who taught him the rhythmic movements that aided the lamas in living a healthy, vigorous, long life. Although Colonel Bradford is said to have brought these rites to the west after WWI, they have recently seen a great renewal in interest. Dr. Oz has touted the benefits of the Rites on his TV show as well as numerous other health related magazines and books.
Benefits of the Five Tibetan Rites:
• Balance the chakras
• Reverse the aging process
• Enhance memory
• Relief from joint pain and arthritis
• Improved strength and coordinationA significant increase in energy—more the endurance type of energy as opposed to the revved up caffeine type of energy. You feel like you can keep going and going.
• Emotional and mental health – Feel calmer and less stressed.
• Develop significant mental clarity with a razor sharp focus.
• Feel stronger, more flexible and less stiff.
• Enjoy seeing muscles appear on your arms, stomachs, hips, legs and backs. Good for toning flabby arms and tightening the abdomen.
• Sleep better. Some people have more vivid dreams.
• Overall improvement in your health, don’t seem to catch colds etc. as often.
• Helps with depression and anxiety—lifts mood and improves well-being.
• More centered and at peace.
• Improved self-discipline and sense of purpose.
• Feel younger and more powerful.
• Improved breathing—deeper, slower and more conscious.
• Increased levels of Qi (chi, prana, life-energy, etc.)
• Better posture.
• Develop good core strength—provides a strong foundation for all forms of exercise and modern living.
• Some people lose weight—most find it easier to control weight and desire healthier foods.
• Improved digestion and elimination.
• Helps with the transition and symptoms of menopause.
• Helps with the symptoms of menstruation.
• Improved libido.
Chris Kilham, a yoga teacher who wrote The Five Tibetans (Healing Arts Press, 1994) states regarding the origins of the practice, “Perhaps they come from Nepal or northern India…As the story has it, they were shared by Tibetan lamas; beyond that I know nothing of their history. Personally, I think these exercises are most likely Tibetan in origin. The issue at hand, though, is not the lineage of the Five Tibetans. The point is [their] immense potential value for those who will clear 10 minutes a day to practice.”
The 5 Tibetans represent a great way to keep your body in shape when you have limited time for a physical workout or limited space for a complete yoga routine. You can easily do the exercises in the space at the foot of the bed in most hotel rooms.
How do I begin to benefit from the 5 Tibetans?
If you are not used to exercise or have not been formally introduced to yoga techniques of breathing and relaxation, then your first tip is to start out slowly. Start by performing one to three repetitions of each of the movements one time each day. Pay attention to what your body is telling you and do not strain or force any position that causes pain that indicates possible injury. A little soreness is perfectly okay but really you should start out slow enough not to have any physical hindrances the following day.
Where should I perform the Tibetans?
Anywhere you have room is perfectly okay. Make sure to use a carpet, towel, yoga mat or padding to prevent discomfort caused from too hard a surface.
What is the best time of day to perform the 5 Tibetan?
The entire series of movements may be performed 2 to 3 times per day. As with all forms of holistic body work, sunrise and sunset are great times to be honoring your body with physical work. These are the best times to start your practice, but you may work them into your schedule as you see fit.
How many time should I repeat each exercise?
You want to work toward performing each of the movements 21 times. When you first begin, try to do 1 or 3 repetitions of each exercise. After a week, try to do 3 repetitions, then pause and try 3 more. You will certainly feel stronger in some of the movements than others. If you have trouble performing a complete set of 21, try to break it down into 3 sets of 7 repetitions with a pause between each set. Once you’ve achieved 21 repetitions of each exercise, you don’t need to go on to more repetitions. These exercises are for restoring energy, not necessarily building strength. If you feel great after doing 21 repetitions of each movement, feel free to add another session later in the day to perform another set of 21 repetitions each.
What is the recommend breathing pattern?
We recommend a specific breathing pattern to follow with each exercise. If you feel tired or light headed while performing these movements, make sure you are not holding your breath.
Remember your breath is the key to every movement in yoga. Move with your breath, inhaling on the exertion and exhaling on the release. Also there are variations or modifications to each of these poses that will make every body able to complete these exercises in some form.
The Five Rites Exercise Program
Start slowly if you have not been practicing a vigorous exercise or yoga program. As always ask a physician if you have any question as to your health in relation to any new exercise regime. If you are overweight or have been inactive for a period, do not do Rites #4 and #5 until you have developed some strength and endurance.
Rite 1: Tibetan Spin
Stand erect with arms out to the side, horizontal to the floor, palm down. Alternatively lift your index finger and keep your eyes on it as you spin. This helps with the potential dizziness. Start to spin in whichever direction your body and mind feel most comfortable. Counting your rotations, stop on an odd number when you begin to become dizzy or complete all 21 rotations.
Breathing: breath in and out of your stomach. An opera singer, stage actor/actress or yogi experiences the benefit of breathing from this point of the body. When you stop spinning, breath even more deeply from your stomach until your head stops spinning and your balance returns to normal.
Tips and Recommendations: Work your way up to 21 spins. Speed is not so important, just try to spin 21 times and stop.
Rite 2: Prone To Upward Staff Pose
Leg Raises, Bending at the Waist, Tummy Tucks
Lie flat on the floor, face up, palms on the floor. Lift your head and tuck your chin to your chest. As you lift your chin, raise your legs vertically, knees straight, feet flexed. Slowly lower your legs and head back to the prone position. Repeat up to 21 times, timing your breath to the movement.
Breath In: Raising your legs and head
Breath Out: Lowering your legs and head
Tips and Recommendations: When starting out, bend your legs until your stomach strengthens. If your feel discomfort, place your hands (palms facing down) under your buttocks to support your lower spine. As you progress, straighten your legs and try to raise and lower them at the same speed. Once you have worked up to 21 repetitions, try to move at a nice steady rhythm without stopping.
Rite 3: Rabbit To Camel Pose
Kneel on the floor with your toes curled under and your forehead tucked down toward your knees. Arch your back and tuck your belly button up toward your spine (Rabbit Pose). Slowly lift your chest and extend out through your head as you use your abdominal muscles to bring your body erect. Place your palms on the top of your buttocks muscles keeping some pressure there to remind yourself to extend through your spine. Lower your head back while extending and opening through your quadriceps, belly and chest (Camel Pose). Inhale and lift up through your chest as you return to an erect position. Move forward to Rabbit, etc. back and forth through up to 21 repetitions.
Breath In: Going backward
Breath Out: Coming forward
Tips and Recommendations: When you start this exercise, use the weight of your head to come forward instead of forcing your chin to your chest with your muscles. When you lean back, avoid craning your neck, simply let it drop with its own weight. Eventually, you can bring your shoulder blades towards each other when you’re in the back position. Keep a steady movement while going backward and forward. Keep your eyes open to maintain balance. Later, try the movement with your eyes closed to feel the difference and see if you can relax even more in the backward position.
Rite 4: Staff To Upward Plank Pose
Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you and your feet about hip width apart (Staff Pose). Your palms are on the floor and your fingers are facing toward your feet. Tuck your chin to your chest, drop your head back and raise your body so that your knees bend while your arms remain straight. You should look like a a table (or upside down table pose). Alternatively, you can come to upward plank pose which leaves your knees straight while lifting the center of your body into an upward facing plank or an upside down push up. Another modification would be to come to bridge pose. Remember to use your ujjayi breath as these are tough! Complete 21 repetitions or end on an odd number.
Breath In: Raising off the ground
Breath Out: Returning back to sitting position
Tips and Recommendations: When you begin this exercise, just try to get from the starting to ending posture. It’s easier to do it than read about it. In the beginning, you might not be used to your body weight on your wrists. Doing some wrist warm-ups before you begin can prevent discomfort. Once you have worked your way up to 21 repetitions, try to perform the movements without stopping.
Rite 5: Upward Dog To Downward Dog
These are two standard yoga poses that are done in almost every yoga class. You have all completed these two wonderful poses many, many times. Flow through the poses back and forth concentrating on your breath and alignment. Alternatively you could do upward puppy (upward dog while keeping the tops of your legs on the ground) to child’s pose. Which feels fabulous on your spine. And of course you could combine these four sets of poses for a total of 21.
Breath In: Raising hips up into an ^ shape – downward dog.
Breath Out: Hips down & head coming up into cobra.
Tips and Recommendations: In the beginning, you will need to find where to place your hands and feet to make a complete inverted-V shape. You may do this exercise for years and never get your feet flat on the ground (a symptom of western living and always sitting in a chair). Once you’ve worked your way up to 21 repetitions, work on keeping a steady rhythm while going in and out of each position.
Finishing Posture Recommendation
After Exercise 5, lay flat on your stomach with your arms stretched out from side to side like Christ position. Keep your chin on the ground and close your eyes. Feel you heart pumping and blood circulating through your body. Wait until your hearth beat and breath returns to normal. Turn your head to once side and take a few deep breaths. Relax for 1 minute.
Whatever the origins of the practice are, the Five Rites are potent in their intensity. If done properly and with breath and intent, the rites can bring about great change in the body and mind. Begin your day or continue with your morning yoga routine or physical work out. You should have more than enough energy to get you jump started. If you perform the 5 Tibetans before bed , make sure you have 30 or 45 minutes to relax after Rejuvenation your energy.
The monks who developed the Rites did not describe specific benefits. They stated that the specific purpose of the Rites is to regain health, youth and vitality:
…”The body has seven centres, which, in English, could be called Vortexes. These are kind of magnetic centres. They revolve at great speed in the healthy body, but when slowed down – well that is just another name for old age, ill health and senility. The quickest way to regain health, youth, and vitality is to start these magnetic centres spinning again. There are but five practices that will do this. Any one of them will be helpful, but all five are required to get glowing results. These five exercises are really not exercises at all, in the physical culture sense. The Lamas think of them as ‘Rites’ and so instead of calling them exercises or practices, we too, shall call them ‘Rites.”…
Legend has it that hidden in the remote reaches of the Himalayan mountains lies a secret that would have saved Ponce de Leon from years of fruitless searching. There, generations of Tibetan monks have passed down a series of exercises with mystical, age-reversing properties. Known as the Tibetan Rites of Rejuvenation or the Five Rites, these once-secret exercises are now available to Westerners in Ancient Secret of the Fountain Of Youth.
I hope this information was helpful to you.