Thursday, August 31, 2006


What Is The Difference Between T5T and The Five Tibetan Rites?

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. This book was later updated and republished in 1985 under the name ‘Ancient Secret of the Fountain of Youth’.

I learnt The Five Tibetan Rites from a teacher who had learnt them from another teacher - who had in turn learnt them from Peter Kelder’s manuscripts.

I worked with my teacher for a while (who taught the original method) and noticed a recurring pattern of people developing lower back and neck pain.

It is important now to describe here, the type of people who were attending our workshops:

· Most had never done yoga before, and were attracted to the Rites for their anti- aging, energy raising benefits.
· Came to improve their flexibility (meaning they were not flexible to begin with)
· Wanted to strengthen their backs to reduce back ache or to rehabilitate after injury
· Were largely sedentary, doing little to no exercise
· Wanted something to help them feel more motivated and purposeful

There were also people who did yoga or other exercise, but were time poor and wanted something they could fit into their busy days.

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!

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 over 700 students and 25 Instructors, and shares this knowledge through workshops, private tuition, corporate training and the books, T5T - The Five Tibetan Exercise Rites (Penguin) and The 10 Minute Rejuvenation Plan (Random House).

If you wish to publish this article for your website or use the T5T name for each Rites with their associated affirmation - you may do so - provided you assign the correct copyright and accreditation exactly as shown below:

Copyright (c) 2006 Carolinda Witt - author T5T - The Five Tibetan Exercise Rites (Penguin) and The 10-Minute Rejuvenation Plan (Random House)

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

does penguin india market your book?

Carolinda Witt said...

No, but Random House might. I have just sent an email to my editor asking her this question. I'll get back to you on this. Do you want to send me an email so I can respond to this or shall I just do it on this blog? Check my profile for email address.

I'm getting quite a bit of interest from India, was there an article in a magazine, paper or something recently?

Anonymous said...

t5t has the same effect as powerful isometric exercises. your take?

Richard Meikle said...

An isometric movement is one in which no movement occurs and is a technique usually employed by bodybuilders or strength athletes. None of the five postures in T5T are held isometrically for any period of time, however T5T will improve the strength of all the major muscle groups in the body for nearly all unconditioned people.

Richard Meikle
Registered T5T Instructor and Cert IV Master Personal Trainer

Anonymous said...

i have noticed that if one does the 5 rites fast and intense in less than 10 minutes, the results are obvious and dramtatic. one really gets and looks pumped up.

Carolinda Witt said...

Yes you can do them fast. The only major consideration is that your form, control and alignment is excellent and you have great body awareness. It wouldn't suit people who are new to the Rites or carrying any injury. I also would not recommend it unless people are using their core stability muscles to protect their spines. It certainly gets the blood and energy pumping through the body -but there again, I find this at all speed levels. Sounds like you really love your rites, and have been doing them a long time!

Anonymous said...

another point: checked yoga journal. there is some confusion about the position of the feet and toes in upward dog. in yoga journal the feet are shown placed on the skin of the toes and not the on the balls of the toes. which is right?

Carolinda Witt said...

There is a post and lots of comments on this blog regarding this issue. See Tibetan 5th Rite - Should the heals touch the floor? Today it is common to see beginners lift up onto their flexed toes and then gradually relax their heels back towards the floor. Downward Dog as you will have seen on Yoga Journal is with the whole foot flat on the floor if you can achieve it. This latter option provides a better stretch to the back of the legs and the shoulders - increasing flexibility. My choice is this option for that reason. I doubt it would make any difference to the Rites purpose - to increase the spin rate of the chakras.

Anonymous said...

why is it that in all illnesses, the legs are the first to weaken? i believe that the five rites strengthens the legs.

Carolinda Witt said...

A yoga teacher friend of mine, shared the following viewpoint with me: We die from the feet up. Most older people do not keep their feet and toes (& bodies) flexible. Their arches become so tight so they cannot do a proper heel to toe walking movement and become unsteady, and fall more often. The feet have all the reflexology points which are connected to all parts of the body. Therefore the major organs and bodily systems are not stimulated unless people regularly stimulate, stretch or exercise their feet. In this way it can be said, that you die from the feet up!

Anonymous said...

Normally yoga is not done during menstruation. What about T5T ?

Carolinda Witt said...

There are mixed views on this. Please see http://www.t5t.com/articles/Should-You-Practice-The-Five-Tibetan-Rites-When-Menstruating

All the best