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

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)

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Five Tibetan Rites - Should you Nose or Mouth Breathe?

Here is the dialogue regarding breathing and The 5 Tibetans that came from someone who wrote to me from my website. I thought it might be useful for others with similar queries.

There is a point I want to make: There seems to be some confusion about the breathing pattern to be adopted. In the first rite, does one breathe during the swirling? I can do all the five 21 times in 5 minutes if I want to, but I take 10 minutes. So I can do the first rite in one breath - is that okay??

Hi... Are you holding your breath throughout the Spin? The breath assists the flow of energy throughout your body. I think you are sensing this. Let the breath be free. Breathe through the nose. At the beginning of the movement, breathe once to remind you to breathe and then let the breathing be normal/natural throughout the movement. When you hold your breath you are restricting the vitality that can enter your body, and restricting the wastes that can leave your body. Breathe fully and freely.

thanks. a few more queries.
* is it okay to inhale through the nose and exhale thorugh the mouth?

No. You should breathe only through the nose. If you breathe through the mouth you lose and gain too much air too quickly. This can upset the carbon dioxide/oxygen ratio in the body, causing mild to strong hyperventilation depending how long and intensely you do it for. The nose is designed for breathing. The nose is the first line of defence, warning you of harmful smells, and trapping and filtering out particles and bacteria.

There are a lot of different views about breathing. We need to exercise our breathing muscles (diaphragm, intercostal rib muscles etc) just like we exercise the rest of our body. What you don't use - you lose! This is like breaking an arm and having a cast put around it. When the cast is taken off, all the muscles have wasted (atrophy) away and need to be built up again gradually. If your breathing muscles and lungs have not been used fully for a while, it will take some time to build their strength back up again.

Breathing exercises should done without straining and blowing yourself up like a balloon. If you started lifting weights to build muscles, you would not lift the heaviest weight first - you would start with low weights and gradually build up repetitions, and then gradually increase the weight to achieve your objective.

I consulted Michael Grant White the 'breathing coach' from the US who helped me develop the breathing philosophy and Energy Breathing method in T5T. It is worth you looking up his website breathing tests on there.

Here is his testimonial for my method which is outlined in my book 'T5T - The Five Tibetan Exercise Rites':

"Breathing slower, deeper and easier is vital for longevity, health and vitality. I believe that T5T can help most people become more conscious of their breathing. It can also release tension in their breathing, and often gradually expand their breathing capacity as well as slow their breathing rate. T5T will help many people to achieve the above, however there are those who may have an undetected dysfunctional breathing or what I call UDB whose next step would be my Optimal Breathing Techniques." Michael Grant White, “The Breathing Coach” - Executive Director of and the Optimal Breathing School

Breathing well is incredibly important, because a number of clinical studies have proven that how well you breathe is literally an indicator of how long you will live.

* Is it okay to do the sixth tibetan and have an active sex life as well?

If you have an excess of sexual energy, (or have no-one to share it with) it could be useful to restore balance. Colonel Bradford says that it is necessary to be celibate (no sex) to practice this Rite. The idea being that the sexual energy is then redirected into the other energy centres of the body, for more spiritual purposes.

* I normally do the 6 tibetans and then follow up with some stretching and other free arm exercises. The whole thing takes just 20 minutes. the idea is to remain strong and vital.

Sounds great. Any yoga is good yoga. You might want to consider a twisting type exercise as this is not included in the Rites. The Rites are brilliant for what they are intended for - to get the chakras spinning rapidly and evenly again, so that life-energy can be distributed through all the energy lines of the body and into every single cell. They are also very physically balancing, as each movement needs to be performed so that the weight of the body is balanced evenly between the right and left side of the body and the centre of gravity found between hands and feet etc.

I live in india -it's a poor and corrupt country raging with epidemics, and there's huge work and life stress - so I also need to keep stress induced blood pressure in control and remain healthy by keeping my immunity levels in top gear.

The breathing exercises can really help restore calm, and slow down your breathing rate. A rapid breathing rate, that is shallow in the upper chest stimulates the sympathetic nervous system associated with 'flight or fight'. Breathing slowly and deeply using the belly, stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system associated with 'rest and relaxation'.

Will appreciate exercise and diet tips. have been doing this for a decade with good results but there is so much to learn all the time and so much fine tuning to do for optimum results. i can see that you are an expert or "ustad" as we call the know-alls here.

I have added your email to my newsletter list so that you can receive lifestyle tips on all things related to health and well-being.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Five Tibetans - Should you practice when you are menstruating?

I received this query on my website, and thought it would be of use to others interested in the same question.

Can girls/women practice T5T during periods? Or should we break during those five to six days. Please advise.

The monks who practiced the original Rites would have been celibate and left no instructions for women!

However, my experience and the feedback of many of the women I have taught is that T5T seems to improve the symptons of menstruation. Some women report less bloating, moodiness, anxiety, cramps and sore breasts. Others say they feel less conjested and the flow is improved. I believe that because you are doing a little bit of yoga & core training (T5T) everyday - your body becomes conditioned to it - and you benefit from the cummulative effects of regular practice.

During menstruation some women's physical energy is not as strong as usual. In this case - maintain the pattern of your practice so as not to lose the motivation of the daily ritual - but perhaps to do less repetitions, or revert back to one of the easier versions of the postures. However, some women experience increased energy during their period - so there is no one size answer to fit all! At the top end of performance, whatever the time of month - think of all the female Olympic athletes!

Exercise is good for you, and in fact is normal! Our sedentary lifestyle has turned exercise into an option! Certainly if you have a condition that requires you to receive treatment from a doctor - you should definately discuss this with him/her. If you are exercising so much that your period stops, then that is not healthy. You would have to be working out at very high intensity for this to occur from exercise alone.

What I have observed both personally and with all my students, is that the Rites help stabilise the periods. I have not had one report of increased blood flow or stopping of menstruation through practicing the Rites. What I do hear about is people saying that they are less moody, have less cramps and reduced bloating - but maintain a craving for chocolate!!!

The monks said that the purpose of the Rites is to get the chakras (energy centres) of the body spinning rapidly and evenly again. The chakras are located above major nerve plexi (bunches of nerves) and the major endocrine glands of the body. In this way, they are said to improve hormonal function.

As an example of this hormonal stimulation, I taught one women who reported an increase in the production of her breast milk!

Personally I share the opinion of Barbara Benagh - a yoga teacher, seminar teacher and columnist on Yoga Journal who says,

Since I know of no studies or research that makes a compelling argument to avoid inversions during menstruation, and since menstruation affects each woman differently and can vary from cycle to cycle, I am of the opinion that each woman is responsible for making her own decision.

The bottom line is that hatha yoga is full of contradictions and varied opinions, leaving each of us ultimately responsible for our own choices. Pay attention to your body and discover what works and what doesn't — not just during your period but every day.

Geeta Iyengar (yoga expert) says that the practice of Uddiyana Bhanda (the 6th Rite) should not be done during menstruation. I do not incorporate the 6th Rite in any of my teachings as the monks said you must be celibate to practice it. They channeled their sexual energy up the major energy lines of the body for heightened spiritual awareness.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Tibetan 5th Rite - Should the heals touch the floor?

The picture on the top is from the book T5T: The Five Tibetan Exercise Rites (Penguin)
The picture above left is from - there is a great article on this pose known as Downward Dog on their website.

My name is Evgenie. I from Moscow. I badly know English language and I use the translator. Thanks for the answer. At me to you it is a lot of questions! I am engaged in the Eye of Revival 3 years. Results very good.

I have a book on Oka of Revival from 1939. In it{her} on a picture in the fifth ritual action the heel of a leg{foot} does not concern{touch} a floor! I shall send you this book. You likely know there is still a book author Christopher Kilhem Pjat Tibetsky Zhemchuzhin, in it{her} too in the fifth ritual action the heel of a leg{foot} of a floor does not concern{touch}! Here to me it is not clear whence at you the information, what the heel should concern{touch} a floor? For me it is very important!!!! Tell the book which I have sent you from 1939 Eye of Revival really original?
What book is used by you? You have an original the Eye of Revival?

Further we look the book from 1939 that it for a sound me-me-me? It is a mantra the OHM???

At what age it is possible to practise 6 ritual action? Whether there Are restrictions for practice 6 ritual actions? Christopher Kilhem writes that for practice 6 ritual actions it is possible to conduct a sexual life. In the book 1939 it is written that it is impossible! What do you think?
Excuse many questions has collected, on which it is necessary to receive answers. For me it is very important!!!

Hi Evgenie, I have the original book "Eye of Revelation" and you are correct, the heal of the foot does not touch the floor in their illustrations. However, this posture known today as "downward dog" is very old and would have originally come from India into Tibet. Today, the ideal version of this pose is considered to be when your heals are touching the floor. Ideally in this pose, your weight should be evenly balanced between your hands and legs with your tailbone pointing to the sky. If you can get your heals to touch the floor it is very beneficial because it stretches the hamstring muscles at the back of the legs. Beginners in particular are often unable to put the heals of the feet on the floor.

Whether you can put your heals on the floor or not - you will still gain the energetic benefits of the posture as described by the monks. The Five Rites are intended to improve the distribution of life-energy through the body by stimulating the chakras to spin more rapidly – rather than focusing on stretching to the muscles of the body.

To answer your question regarding the 6th Rite - the monks said that the purpose of the 6th Rite is to channel the sexual energy up the major energy lines of the body for heightened spiritual purposes. The monks lived a celibate lifestyle abstaining from sex. Of course today this is a matter of personal choice. Colonel Bradford says in the book that this breathing method can also be used if you have an excess of sexual energy. Pranayama (breathing techniques) can be very powerful and bring about changes in the body and emotionally that some people are not ready for. For this reason it is best to study pranayama under the guidance of a qualified and experienced teacher. Best wishes - Carolinda