Written by: Flannery Dean
The Five Tibetan Exercise Rites offer an attractive equation: five postures times twenty-one repetitions equals increased strength and flexibility and noticeable spiritual and emotional rejuvenation. What this latest convergence of western and eastern practices can mean to your physical and spiritual health.
In the 1930s a retired British officer brought the Tibetan Rites of Rejuvenation, ancient postures practiced by monks in Tibetan monasteries, to the West. More than 70 years later Australian author Carolinda Witt has adapted these ancient techniques to suit the modern Western lifestyle.
Witt’s The Five Tibetan Exercise Rites blend select yoga postures with conscious breathing techniques and core strengthening.
The routine is simple. You perform a flowing sequence of five yoga exercises—The Spin, The Leg Raise, Tabletop and Kneeling Backbend—and energetic breathing techniques in between each pose. The daily practice takes a step-by-step approach: as you progress the repetitions of each exercise increase by two reps weekly. Beginners start with three repetitions and work their way up to the ultimate goal of 21 repetitions for each pose.
Though Witt adapted the original exercises to take into account the sedentary nature of Western lifestyles, the philosophical goals behind the poses remain the same.
“The monks said that the explicit purpose of the rites was to speed up and balance the spin rate of the seven main energy centers that run from the base of the spine to the top of the head (known as chakras or vortexes)… As we age (and we are all aging) these energy centers can slow down or become blocked. When this happens the area influenced by this chakra may atrophy or become ill or dysfunctional. The monks said that the rites stimulate the chakras to perform optimally again restoring youthfulness and vitality. Each pose stimulates specific chakras as well the circulatory, endocrine, lymphatic, digestive and nervous system,” says Witt.
While the postures work to increase core strength and overall flexibility, it is T5T’s emphasis on better breathing that can foster a state of greater calm and relaxation.
“In our society there is a strong pattern of short, rapid breathing into the upper chest. This stimulates the flight-or-fight response of the body, adding to states of anxiety. In T5T we teach people how to use the primary muscles of breathing which like all muscles atrophy from lack of use. The result is a natural slowing and deepening of the breath, which stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system associated with calm and relaxation,” explains Witt.
As instructor and practitioner, Witt has witnessed the benefits of the practice as well as experienced them herself.
“A friend introduced them to me at a low point of my life emotionally. She told me these five simple movements that would eventually take just 10 minutes per day would ‘fix everything’. Naturally I was very cynical but she was very persuasive! To my surprise (as I was already fit), within three days of practicing them, I noticed a surge of wellbeing and actually looked forward to doing them! I enjoyed my increasing flexibility and strength and the increased energy the rites gave me…. Your mind becomes clearer and your focus sharp. Your strength and flexibility improve. Your posture improves and you can breathe better. You feel a desire to eat healthier foods and to eliminate unhealthy habits. Some people lose weight, others tighten tummy and flabby arms—which coupled with improved posture makes them look taller and thinner.”
Versatility in the program’s design also makes for its unique appeal.
According to Witt: “You take out of T5T what you need. If you are seeking a daily exercise routine for strength and flexibility improvement, then T5T can deliver that. If you are seeking the benefit of exercise but you also want to develop your ability to be here now; to be calmer and less stressed; to open you up to other viewpoints—then T5T can deliver that too.”
For more information about The Five Tibetan Exercise Rites or to order Witt’s book or cd, see www.T5T.com.