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Tibetan 5 Rites and Yoga Practice

N K Srinivasan

The system of exercises called "Tibetan -5 rites" is so well known that I need not elaborate on it. My main aim in this article is to compare this system with yoga practice -especially 'Iyengar Yoga' style.

A brief introduction to Tibetan 5 rites or 'The Five Tibetans" may be given for those not familiar with this system. It is a set of 5 exercises, only 5 , which can be done in about 10 minutes. Each 'rite' or ritual is repeated 21 times or less. The movements ,except the first rite', resemble the Hindu Yoga system ,'hatha yoga", that is so popular today.

The Tibetan 5 rites was brought to the west by this book : "The Eye of revelation" by Peter Kelder, published in 1939. The present edition has the title : " Ancient Secret of the Fountain of Youth", published by Double Day with a nice forward from Bernie S Siegel M.D. It has been edited from the original version of 1939 and has an additional chapter as well.

Several claims have been made for this system. Tibetan 5 rites can, not only improve your strength, but also confer youthfulness, reverse the clock back, reduce or reverse aging that you would look younger and feel younger . The testimonials in the book contain several practitioners stating that marvelous cures were obtained for arthritis, eye correction, pain relief ,

weight loss and even growing luxurious hair and reversal of graying of hair. While some of these results may be specific to certain individuals, it is widely accepted that this simple system requiring only 10 minutes of your time can give strength , relieve pain and make you look younger. It is a moot point whether longevity would also result.

This method was practised by Lamas (monks of Buddhist faith) in the remote monasteries of Tibet. They apparently aged less and had a long ,healthy life. The system was ,however, unknown for nearly 2000 years because of remoteness of Tibet that very few western scholars or adventurers reached that place and learned about this. But all this changed in late 19th century,when a courageous lady Alexandria David-Neel went to Tibet and learned much about the secret practices of Lamas. There had been several others ,including the yoga master T Krishnamacharya, had later access to Tibet through his teacher in the Himalayas.

Peter Kelder in his book talks about a British army colonel Mr Bradford who heard about the ever-youthful monks in Tibet when he was stationed in India. Col Bradford , then no longer in service,told Peter Kelder that he would make a trip to one of the monasteries and learn the secrets of youthful life. This colonel did visit Tibet and found the system of Tibetan 5 rites and after meeting with Peter Kelder in California, told him about the

method. The details are given in Peter Kelder's book in anecdotal style. [Whether this colonel did make the visit or it is all story given by Kelder need not engage us here. Even if this colonel is a fictional character created by Kelder, if the method is helpful, one should try and adopt it.]

Comparison with yoga system Let us examine the five rites in the context of hatha yoga practices. One major difference may be noted at the outset. Yoga poses are repeated only twice or thrice and held for 10 to 60 seconds in most cases,with normal breathing. Tibetan rites are repeated 21 times or less ,in quick succession. This difference makes Tibetan rites somewhat similar to 'vinyasa' or flow method , wherein poses are done in rapid succession as in Ashtanga yoga of Pattabhi Jois style. You may complete the Tibetan rites in 10 to 20 minutes, but yoga poses take 30 to 40 minutes for 8 or 10 poses.

RITE 1 This is a spinning exercise; you spin like whirling dervishes, in clockwise rotation, with your arms stretched but palms down ,for 21 rounds. You may do this for less number of times in the beginning because you may feel giddy and unsteady. There is no equivalent pose in yoga that I know of. Obviously this is a kind of dance practice, perhaps known to Buddhists. This may activate some 'chakras' or vortexes as Kelder calls them.

The benefits of this exercise are hard to understand, though it could be relaxing and small children often do this spinning act with great ease. My one year old grandson does this often and when he falls down on the carpet, he is delighted!. It is stated that the chakras are activated by this starting spin. All the rites are to be repeated 21 times. I would think that there is no urgency to repeat 21 times. Start with 3 repetitions and later increase by two more each week. Kelder or Col Bradford suggests that you reach 21 times in 10 weeks.

RITE 2 In this rite, you should lie flat and then lift your two legs almost vertical and at the same time you lift your head and see the toes. This pose can be strenuous for many and you may attempt this in gradual steps . For instance, first lift your legs keeping the head rested. Then raise your head to see the toes. Again you repeat 3 times in the first week, 5 times in the second week and so on. This rite is the same as "Urdhva Prasarita Padasana" in which legs are raised to vertical position, but the head is kept on the floor. This rite also partially resembles 'Viparita karani", the inverted action pose which is known as a great rejuvenator. [ In Viparita karani ,you stay in the pose for 5 to 20 minutes for resting the heart.]

By raising your head , you may constrict your throat and activate the chakra there. Further this action would also strengthen your neck. This rite is useful in activating digestive system and in getting firm abdominal muscles. But the rite 2 becomes a bit tough for many people.

Comments on Chakras: The Tibetan rites are meant to activate the chakras and this may be the main reason for repeating the exercise many times without break in between. Note that chakras are activated in yoga practice too, but in a gentler fashion. More on chakras later.

RITE 3 In this rite stand upright but bent at the knee. Bend your head forward to touch the chest with chin, then bend your head backward ,bending the spine and looking behind. Your hands will be at the hip level at the back. This is a back-bend and quite similar to Camel Pose or 'Ustrasana' in yoga practice. In fact this is one of the easiest poses for back yoga. Again you repeat this from 3 to 21 times.

RITE 4 In this rite, you sit with stretched feet. The hands are at the sides , straight from the shoulder. You lift up the hips and the chest and stay in the pose in which the body is in the form of a table top. The head is slightly bent backwards. The body is supported by two legs and two hands.

This is the same pose as "Table top pose"--Urdhva dandasana --in yoga. In yoga, this is an intermediate pose, leading to wheel or chakra pose. Again you repeat for 3 to 21 times. This is an excellent pose to strengthen your spine.

RITE 5 This rite is the back bend pose , from lying on the floor, you lift up the upper chest and look forward. Then you bring the body like an 'inverted v" bending at the hips. the hands are stretched forward. The head is kept between the hands, looking backward and focused on the navel. Come back to upward bend. Yoga lovers would recognize this rite as the combination of "Upward facing dog" [urdhva mukha svana asana] or close to Cobra pose [bhujanga asana] and" Downward facing dog" [Adho mukha svana asana.] In fact no yoga session is conducted without the upward dog and downward dog being done at least once! These dog positions are very powerful for strengthening your spine., strengthening your arms and legs. Downward dog is also a gentle inverting pose, putting the heart below. It can also be a restorative pose. The upward facing dog and the downward dog poses are easily repeated for rhythmic movement. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

To sum up, the five rites of Tibetan yoga includes 'Urdhva prasarita padasana' 'camel pose','table top pose',upward facing dog and downward facing dog pose , as in yoga poses. The first rite, the spinning rite, has no equivalent in hatha yoga. The poses are repeated several times in quick succession in Tibetan yoga, unlike in Hindu yoga where you hold the pose for certain time.

Some clarification: Tibetan yoga activates the body by quick repetition and at the same time , may not strain the muscles by holding the pose. This may also exercise the lungs into regular breathing cycles. [ Note that these rites were practised by monks from a very young age in Tibetan monasteries. The cold climate there also would explain the warming up due to these repetitions.It should also be noted that the lamas had very little stress and led a quiet life in remote monasteries. They were not exposed to the stressful life style of a modern city dweller. This might also account for their youthful condition.] The 5-rites can be ended with relaxing poses--child pose [Bala asana] or corpse pose [Savasana.] [Some websites suggest that the rites should be done slowly.]

Contra-indications Certain medical conditions should be kept in mind before you start this form of yoga. Peter Kelder's book has an useful appendix written by Jeff Migdow M D. Please read this part of the book.

Chakra Balancing
There are 7 major chakras or vortexes in the spine. Peter Kelder states, following Col Bradford, that the vortexes spin at some rate and for normal function, all the chakras should spin at the same rate. During aging, some vortexes may slow down and further, the speed of rotation of different chakras would vary...This is 'unbalancing' of chakras. Tibetan 5 rites would activate the sluggish chakras and balance all of them into uniform rate of spinning.

Let us understand this functioning of chakras in modern terms. Each chakra , spinning at some speed, refers to the energy activator or ignitor with certain frequency of operation. [ Our household circuit operates at 50 or 60 cycles per second or Hertz, which is its frequency. We know that each radio station operates or sends out waves at certain fixed frequency.] Likewise each chakra operates at a frequency. If the frequency decreases, the energy output is reduced. { In 'Quantum mechanics ( physics), the energy of a quanta is proportional to its frequency and E = h ( frequency ) where 'h' is the Planck's constant.} Chakra balancing would mean bringing all the frequencies of all chakras to a single ,higher frequency. This would be required for a healthy operation of these chakras. [Another analogy would be the tuning of your car ignition system for proper 'firing' of gasoline in the cylinder.] Aging Process: Let us consider a person at the age of 25 years. The frequency of his/her chakra would be ,say, X.

X would start decreasing with advancing age. According to the Colonel, the Tibetan rites would restore this frequency of operation of chakras to the value of X---to the value at the age of 25. In terms of operation of chakras, each chakra activates certain endocrine glands. These glands produce hormones which regulate our metabolism,our energy levels and our sexual strength or virility. With advancing years, say after 50 years, hormonal production from these glands decreases, possibly due to reduced frequency. Tibetan rites would restore the hormonal levels to the value one had at the age of 25. I am not sure how far this would happen in each person. It is likely that the hormonal levels could attain the values obtained at the age of forty or so. In fact after the Colonel's stay in the monastery for about three years, he looked youthful and appeared like a 'forty-year old' person, though he was chronologically 73 years old. His class students gave the poll that he was between 38 and 42 years! He was not like a person of 25 years. The explanation given here is based on my thinking, collecting such scanty information as I could gather about the chakra process and Peter Kelder's book. The classical yoga masters would try to explain in terms of flow of 'prana' or life force . { According to B K S Iyengar, prana is stored in three main locations, namely the throat, the navel and the big toes.} It is possible to direct prana to various parts or organs of the body through asanas and pranayams. Meditation on these locations are practised by yogis to control the prana at these centres. For example,the Buddhist meditation using the

mantra " Om Mani Padmehum" is directed at the navel or hara center. Peter Kelder's book carries only a brief note on the connection to chakra balancing , as the mechanism for the effect of Tibetan Rites on the aging process.

During the process of beginning the 5 rites, you may experience considerable detoxification---with excess bowel movement and flatulence. There could be discharge of mucus and excess sweat with bad odor. This detoxification is indeed a healthy process and you should feel better after two weeks. You can also drink plenty of fresh juices [vegetables and fruits] and warm water to facilitate detoxification.

Reversing the aging process

Whatever may be the internal mechanism, the effect of Tibetan 5 rites in reversing the aging process seems to be well documented. The testimonials attached to Peter Kelder's book attest to this. There are thousands of normal people [not monks] who have practised the 5 rites and benefited to varying degrees. I would only add that many of these effects are routinely achieved by yoga practice as well . The asanas for each ailment are more detailed in yoga therapy. Nevertheless, Tibetan 5 rites is an easy and quick means for general benefits and for reversing the aging process. Detailed studies with controlled experiments would be necessary to establish many of the claims made. [ Note: Recently Dr Mehmet Oz gave a demonstration of "Tibeton 5 rites "

in his TV show. Several DVD's and courses are available.] [One might also compare Tibetan 5 rites with Yantra yoga from Tibet which is quite similar to hatha yoga.] References 1Peter Kelder -- Ancient secret of the Fountain of Youth ...Double day, NY 1998 2 Silva Mehta et al---Yoga, the Iyengar way --Alfred knopf 2001 3 Sivananda Yoga Center -- Yoga --101 Essential Tips--DK publishers Contact : ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------