The Five Tibetan Rites of Rejuvenation were brought to the West in the late 1930’s by a Westerner who went under the pseudonym of Colonel Bradford. The story of his experience and the instructions he received from the Tibetan Lamas were recorded by the writer Peter Kelder who published the original manuscript titled ‘The Eye of Revelation’ in 1939 (download it free here). This book was republished in 1985 under the name ‘Ancient Secret of the Fountain of Youth’.
I co-instructed with my teacher for a while (who taught the original method) and noticed a recurring pattern of people developing lower back and neck pain. This percentage was small in the first week or two of learning, but I had concerns for the long-term when they (& others) would be increasing their repetitions to twenty-one times each movement over a 10 week period.
It is important now to describe the type of people who were attending our workshops. It will help you understand how important it was for me to work with other health practitioners to make the Rites safer & more achievable for our typical western lifestyle:
- Most had never done yoga before, and were attracted to the Rites for their anti- aging, energy raising benefits.
- Those who did practice yoga or other exercise were time poor and wanted something they could fit into their busy days. They wanted to fit in more exercise than they were currently able to.
- Came to improve their flexibility (meaning they were not flexible to begin with)
- Attended so they could strengthen their backs to reduce back ache or to rehabilitate after injury
- Wanted something to help them feel more motivated and purposeful
Our modern western lifestyle is very different to that of the monks. They lived in the steep Himalayas, and would have had to be fit to walk up and down those mountains! Their food production, preparation and day to day tasks would have kept them physically active. Since the Rites were part of their daily practice, they probably started practicing them at a very early age.
If you compare their lifestyle to our own, you will clearly see that our bodies are under utilised. Because most of our tasks are repetitive, the same muscles get used in the same range of motion day after day. Other muscles become slack and underdeveloped from lack of use. The net result is that we rarely challenge our muscles, resulting in a reduced range of motion and mobility. A good example of this is when you watch older people trying to reverse their cars, who can’t turn their heads fully! Who wants to get like that? This situation is not an inevitable factor of aging; it is a lifetime pattern of not stretching and strengthening your body. For example; how often do you arch your upper back and neck backwards? In contrast, how many tasks in your day involve you bending forwards?
As our commonly used muscles get stronger and our under utilised muscles get weaker, we land up with imbalances in our bodies that over time are inevitably going to decrease our strength and flexibility. This makes us more prone to injury.
Knowing this, I decided to take these ancient movements to the very people who help rehabilitate those who have been injured – and teach them how to move correctly to prevent future injury. I consulted with physiotherapists, osteopaths, chiropractors; an occupational health therapist, breathing expert, Feldenkrais Instructor & Pilates Teacher. They all made suggestions which I tried out in the living laboratory of my classrooms. It was the trial and error ‘experiments’ in my workshops that ultimately evolved the flowing sequence that is now T5T.
Whilst there are changes to the original Rites, the integrity and outcome of this ancient practice remains intact. Before I expand upon the changes, let’s get clear on the purpose of the Rites as described by Colonel Bradford in “The Eye of Revelation”.
..."The first important thing I was taught after entering the Lamasery,’ he began, “was this: 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.
“These spinning centres of activity extend beyond the flesh in the healthy individual, but in the old, weak, senile person they hardly reach the surface, except in the knees. 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."...
He says that when all the vortexes (chakras) are ‘revolving at high speed and at the same rate of speed, the body is in perfect health. When one or more of them slow down old age, loss of power and senility set in.’
The changes I have made to the original routine, do not adversely affect the spin rate of the chakras – the whole purpose of performing the Rites. They do however; significantly improve the physical aspects of the movements, making them safer for just about everyone to perform. Here are the main differences between T5T and the original Rites.
1. Addition of Core Stability: In T5T you develop strength from the inside out, through the use of core stability methods which have been added to each Rite. The deep postural muscles of the lower abdomen need to be strengthened to wrap around and protect your spine when you move. Most people are completely unaware of these muscles and the major role they play in stabilising the spine – thereby preventing injury.
The core muscles also play a role in another familiar part of aging – incontinence! By doing T5T you can prevent this. One of our students, a lady in her late 60’s was incontinent for five years. She had been attending a well regarded local Pilates Teacher’s class for around 18 months. After 3 weeks of doing T5T, it became totally unnecessary for her to wear pads, or to protect her bed with extra towels at night! You can see her Testimonial on our website http://www.t5t.com/
2. Series of Steps: To build up the strength of the core stability muscles, T5T includes a series of steps that take you from beginner level through to intermediate and advanced. These steps assist the core muscles to develop by building strength progressively. You need strength to hold you in a posture in the correct alignment and control before you start developing flexibility.
3. Keeps the Neck Long and Strong: In the original Rite No 3 – The Kneeling Backbend, the neck is not kept long (lengthened) and strong. In some people this can occlude (kink) the vertebral artery, resulting in reduced blood flow to the brain. Some people can become dizzy or at worst suffer a temporary loss of consciousness. In T5T the neck is not collapsed all the way back, but kept long and strong.
4. Focuses on Correct Alignment: In the original Rite No 3 – The Kneeling Backbend, a man is shown leaning back on the thighs instead of keeping his hipbone above his knee bone in correct postural alignment. This causes pressure on the joints of the knee and hip. In T5T you are taught to stabilise yourself in a correctly aligned position using core muscles and firmed buttocks. There are other examples of improper alignment in the other Rites that are rectified by T5T.
5. Does Not Collapse The Lumbar Spine: In T5T we focus on the stiffest part of the spine – the thoracic (upper/mid back) area. This is the area most affected by our forwards bending lifestyle. Dowagers hump is an extreme example of this. The original text shows extensive bending in the lumbar spine. This compresses the lumbar vertebrae and discs and is not suitable for anyone with any potential to injury.
6. Prevents Using the Momentum of the Movement: In T5T the movements are controlled and protected by the use of core stability, and the firming of various muscle groups. In the original Rites there is a tendency to swing in and out of postures – and is most unsafe during the 5th Rite as you transit from the upside down V position into the upward dog/plank like posture. T5T provides solutions to avoid this.
7. Addition of Energy Breathing: The original text mentions taking two deep breaths between each Rite and that’s it. Most people don’t know how to correctly take a deep breath, even if they think they do! T5T includes three special breaths between each Rite which deepens your breathing, expands your breathing capacity, slows down your breathing rate and makes you more conscious of the way you breathe in all situations. Several clinical studies have shown that how well you breathe literally indicates the length of your lifespan!
To find out how good your breathing is - try these Free Breathing Tests. Michael Grant White the developer of these tests was a consultant to T5T's "Energy Breathing Method."
8. Common Problems & Solutions: The original text gives limited information on modifications or adaptations if you are unable to start doing the Rites exactly as described. It also gives very little information on what NOT to do.
T5T is the result of the experience of teaching thousands of students and around 40 Instructors, through workshops, private tuition, corporate training, books, DVD, CD & Home Study Packages etc..
To Download "The Eye of Revelation" Free - Click Here
To Learn T5T - and get your chakras spinning more rapidly - Click Here
If you wish to publish this article on your website you may do so, provided that you assign copyright to the author exactly as written below: A pdf is available on request.
Copyright (c) 2005 Carolinda Witt - author T5T - The Five Tibetan Exercise Rites (Penguin/Lantern 2005) and The 10-Minute Rejuvenation Plan (Random House/Three Rivers Press 2007)