If you're having trouble making time for regular exercise, then a five-step Tibetan rite may be the answer. By Joanna Hall.
It's late Wednesday afternoon, and I have to work late, again. I've already had to skip a gym session this week because of a deadline, and I couldn't make up for it by walking home the following day thanks to pouring rain.
And all my good intentions of making a bikram yoga class on Friday night will probably bite the dust, too. After all, who really wants to bend and sweat for 90 minutes when you're tired and there are post-work drinks to be enjoyed?
Sound familiar? Whether it's the demands of work, travel or family life, many people are finding it a challenge to make time for regular exercise. But a new exercise system called T5T may be the answer for many a well-intentioned but time-poor exerciser.
T5T takes breathing, yoga and ancient Tibetan exercises, and combines them with modern-day exercise philosophies such as core stability.
Originally known as "The Five Rites of Rejuvenation" - and in more recent years, "The Five Tibetans" - T5T was developed by Carolinda Witt to suit contemporary life. In addition to being credited with the ability to maintain youthfulness and vitality, once mastered it can be done in as little 10 to 15 minutes by anyone, anywhere.
Witt was introduced to the rites at a low point in her life. "I was becoming increasingly miserable. My energy levels were low and I didn't feel like exercising. But a friend convinced me to try this, and I slowly worked up the repetitions and very quickly received all the benefits they are known for. It completely turned my life around."
With a lifelong interest in healing and teaching, Witt began teaching the rites in Sydney four years ago. But as time progressed, she noticed how some people experienced the same kinds of lower back and neck strain during classes.
The reason for this, Witt believes, is that modern sedentary western bodies are different from those of the monks who would have practised the rites from a young age. "At that point I was either going to stop teaching or find a way to prevent this occurring," she says.
She consulted health practitioners and tried out what they told her in the living laboratory of her classroom. Witt made changes, adapted exercises and added a method of full breathing she calls "energy breathing", and T5T was born.
Witt has brought the elements of T5T together into a new book, T5T: The Five Tibetan Exercise Rites (Penguin). She is also training individuals to teach T5T across the country.
When you start learning, you complete three repetitions of each exercise for the first week, adding two extra repetitions each week until you reach 21 - this allows you to progressively build strength. The breathing technique is completed three times in between each exercise.
But can a 10 to 15 minute workout really be that effective? "It has a noticeable rejuvenation effect," says Witt. "It improves circulation, boosts the immune system, improves absorption of nutrients and removal of waste. It also massages the internal organs aiding the removal of toxins, improves the functioning of the respiratory, digestive, endocrine and lymphatic systems."
Benefits reported include more energy, reduced stiffness, new-found strength and muscle tone, improved breathing and sleeping and greater calmness.
Witt says that when you build up to the 21 repetitions, T5T will be a moderately cardiovascular exercise depending on how fast you do it. "But after a short while of doing it you will feel stronger and more energetic," she says, "so when you're at this point, make a change!"
"Use the energy - walk up stairs instead of taking the elevator, walk to the shops instead of driving."
According to Witt, T5T complements any sporting activity and can even serve as an effective warm-up for other forms of exercise.
Lynda Santich is a devotee who has felt the benefits. The 47-year-old from Newport, NSW, was suffering from back, neck and breathing problems, and was advised to learn the exercises by her chiropractor.
"I contacted Carolinda and did a private workshop, and I felt the benefit in the thoracic area almost immediately," says Santich. "My breathing and neck problems improved dramatically, and over the following weeks and months my flexibility and abdominal strength increased enormously."
Santich was so impressed with the results that she decided to train to teach the system herself.
Where to learn
T5T workshops cost $275 and include a copy of Witt's book. You can choose between three lessons over three weeks, two lessons over consecutive weekends or a one-day intensive. Private tuition costs $70 per class at the instructor's location or $80 in your own home. For more information, visit www.t5t.com
The Sunday Telegraph