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.


Anonymous said...

* any harm in anti clockwise swirling?
* any harm in doing more than 21 reps of all rites? will it harm the body if one does, say, 50 of them?
* can it be done any time, and can it be done several times a day if needed?
* i dont go ot the gym, but am well muscled. could it be because i do the rites?

Carolinda Witt said...

1. Regarding anti-clockwise swirling, there is an article on my website about this. Rather than repeat it all here - go to
2. I have tried doing it twice a day and it has made no difference to my energy levels or health. 21 repetitions seems to be just right.
3. Can be done anytime of day. Some people like to do it first thing in the morning as it sets them up for the day - like Tibetan caffeine! Others like the middle of the day, and others at the end of the day. I have a friend who likes to do them before she goes to sleep as it helps her sleep. If I do that I will be awake all night!! Depends on you really. The trouble with swopping around different times of the day is to do with motivation. You can start saying to yourself, 'I'll do it later' - then later arrives, then even later arrives - until you don't do it all! Watch out for this! Some people who work with their bodies like builders for example, like to do half the full routine in the morning to get rid of stiffness and half when they get home to help wind down at the end of the day. It is best for motivation purposes to have a pattern that you repeat like cleaning your teeth.
4. Yes, the Rites do strengthen, the arm muscles, legs, back, chest and if you incorporate core stability, you will also get strong lower abdominal muscles.

Anonymous said...

* is it necessary to breathe once after every repetition?
* is it necessary to breathe twice after every rite?
* we always talk of the pluses, what are the minuses of the five rites, if any. is there anything called overdosing? what if i do 50 reps each. will it harm me? will it harm chakras?

Carolinda Witt said...

1. No it isn't necessary to breathe once after each repetition. You could call the routine a sequence of breaths in a way. You breathe in all the way into the posture and breathe out all the way out of (or into the 2nd stage) of the posture. Breathe in and up, breathe out and down. You move with the breaths. There is no need to breathe between each repetition unless you are tired and need a rest. Rest when you need, it is better not to strain and lose correct alignment.
2. In the original text, Colonel Bradford says to take two deep breaths after each Rite but he doesn't explain how to do that! A lot of people's idea of taking a deep breath is not correct. There is such a great advantage in learning to breathe correctly without straining the lungs, which is why breathing is such a big part of T5T - and one of the major differences between the original Rites and T5T. See previous comments for more information or check the information on my website about this
3. Negatives to the Rites? None!
4. Can I overdose? Yes, if you are not in tune with your body and you are not performing them with awareness and presence. The only risk is that you exhaust yourself without realising it and strain or even injure yourself as a result. Yoga without awareness is just physical exercises. Colonel Bradford says you can do more than 21 if you wish, but do 42! Many people have theories about why 21 repetitions, but Bradford does not explain why the monks suggested this number.

Anonymous said...

Am breathing through the nose now, both inhale and exhale. Will tell you if there is any difference after observing this for a few weeks.

Feels good any way. any tips from you will be most welcome. keep happy..raj

Carolinda Witt said...

That's great! Love to hear how you progress. Bye for now.

Anonymous said...

have been breathing only through the nose now and i think it makes for more powerful rites. i feel it makes the lungs cope and work harder and you are the better for it. what about runners..can they breathe through the mouth? or those doing heavy exercise?

Carolinda Witt said...

I couldn't agree more. Have you noticed how much more in-tune you are when you nose breathe?
Yes, I agree, you are able to breathe more fully as you breathe ALL the way up into the first part of the postures and ALL the way down into the 2nd part of the postures. In this way, the breath and the movement flow together like a dance. Don't forget to notice the movement of energy (prana, Qi) through the body too!

Regarding breathing through the nose when you exercise - you might want to check out an expert on this matter John Douillard who has written a book called Body, Mind and Sport. He is a great advocate backed by research who says we should bring the intensity of our exerices down to a point where we can breathe through our nose. He has shown that it improves performance, stamina, focus, and coordination. John is an Ayurvedic Physical Therapist who has worked with many athletes who have used his techniques. He explores the way we harm our bodies by pushing them to the limit.

Anonymous said...

thanks for all the clarifications. we keep discussing among friends here and so this helps fine tune. in school and college, we were told to breathe through the mouth during strenuous exertion like long distance running or in aggressive contact sports like football and hockey. is that okay? for the five rites i can see that nose breathing is best.

Carolinda Witt said...

I really am not an expert on the best way of breathing during strenuous exertion. If you read the comment before this one, you can read about someone who is - John Douillard. He completed his ayurvedic training in India. The main technique he uses is Ujayi breathing which is also used extensively during Ashtanga Yoga. Personally I like to look at ways of thinking that are not the 'standard' as well as the accepted norm. So many times you are told 'something is good for you' only for it to be retracted later. A good example of this is soy milk. Supposedly better than cow's milk, the truth about the risk of certain mineral deficiencies, and even cancer is being publicised. See a wonderful article about this at called The Ploy of Soy.

Anonymous said...

have been ONLY nose breathing for few weeks now. it is much better than mouth breathing. the pressure is greater. you can feel the heart pounding. its more than yoga, its also a strenuous workout, and it is all over in 10 minutes! after that when i do the corpse pose, i feel powerful and well muscled as though i have been to the gym. then you gently feel the heart beat gradually come down to normal. i feel this is an excellent aerobic workout. thanks for the tip. grounding the feet in the 5th rite downward facing dog pose makes it more powerful. any more little tips that can make the 5 rites more productive?

Carolinda Witt said...

That's great news. Glad to hear the modifications suggested have been of assistance!

In terms of other tips, you could try adding 3 complete yogic breaths between each Rite. This is yoga for the breath, and is a perfect way of relaxing between movements. Your breathing muscles need to be used like any other muscle in the body. What you don't use, you lose!

Anonymous said...

runners breathe through the mouth. is that harmful?

Carolinda Witt said...

An expert on this matter is Dr John Douillard. He is an ex professional Tri-Athlete, and Doctor of Chiropractic and Ayurvedic Medicine. Dozens of world-class athletes, including Martina Navratilova and Billie Jean King, have used John Douillard's expert breathing techniques, dietary recommendations, and seasonally balanced workouts.

He has a fantastic article on his home page about this point - see

He believes that we should breathe through our nose when exercising because it stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system associated with rejeneration and rejuvenation. When we exercise to an intensity whereby we breathe through the nose in a rapid upper chest type emergency breath, this degenerates us and causes stress to the body.

He says on his website:
The degeneration from even moderate levels of exercise has been recently documented in a landmark study by Dr. Kenneth Cooper, who is considered a leading authority and visionary in the field of exercise physiology. His recent findings fly in the face of all our current exercise standards yet match up perfectly with the exercise requirements laid down over 5000 years ago in the Ayurvedic texts.
He found that when people exercise at 60% of their maximum heart rate for four hours a week or more they will produce a significant amount of harmful exercise induced free radicals which are the leading cause of aging, disease, cancer and death. Mind you, current exercise requirements state that we need to get the heart rate over 60% before any cardio-health benefits are gained. The results of this study were so controversial and radical the fitness industry for the most part the industry has chosen to ignore Cooper’s advice. He says if you insist on exceeding this limit then you must take large doses of antioxidant supplements to combat the harmful effects of moderate exercise.

Anonymous said...

everyone talks of antioxidants. do you recommend any?

Carolinda Witt said...

Absolutely! I take them every day and have done for years. I have them in a blend of minerals, vitamins and antioxidants including selenium. They are essential to combat free radical damage. Are you in Australia? If yes, the best one is Eagle Pharmaceuticals "Tresos B with Selenium" - it is a practitioner only range, so you can get from a health shop that has a naturopath etc.

Anonymous said...

have you any records of the rites treating specific disease conditions? there may be students who have benefited from the rites.

Carolinda Witt said...

This is an area you have to be so careful in. People can create really high expectations and then when it doesn't happen feel really let down, or blame you.

I believe that people who begin practising the Rites are ready to make changes in their lives and to go through the learning curve to do so.

The very action of taking responsibility for their own health and wellness is already the first step in their healing. If you believe something is going to do you good or fix something - it generally helps or works completely. The placebo effect is a great example of this.

Therefore, not everyone with say asthma will improve from the breathing techniques, or everyone with lower back pain will be fixed forever. Having said this, I have seen people significantly reduce or give up certain medications altogether. If you read the Testimonials on my website, you can read about people who believe that the daily practice of T5T (The Five Tibetans) has improved or fixed conditions as varied as tinitis, sleep apnea or improved the flow of Qi throughout their body contributing to a non return of their aggressive form of cancer. Others have lost weight. Lots of people improve their diet and drink more water. Some give up smoking or junk food etc.

I think the person themself is involved in their own improvement or cure. The Rites definately change one's perspective; improve self discipline and create a desire for a more wholesome/holistic life. All this contributes to improvements in health and well being.

One of our students (80 yrs old) referring to her youthfulness said, "Are we going to plant flowers or let weeds grow in our garden?"

Anonymous said...

talking of antioxidants, are they vital or is it another marketing gimmick??? cant a good diet and exercise manage health?

Anonymous said...

whats with selenium?? why is it so important? doesnt garlic contain selenium??

Carolinda Witt said...

Antioxidants protect us from dangerous substances called free radicals that can create damage leading to many chronic diseases. Studies show that when people eat diets high in antioxidants, their risk of cancer and heart disease decreases.

In a perfect world, where we could eat a varied diet of high quality organic fruit, vegetables, beans and whole grains, that are fresh - and not washed, cut and left exposed to the air for a long time before eating - yes, we would get an adequate supply of anti-oxidants.

However, most people eat produce from depleted soils that have been artificially boosted with super phosphates, fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides etc. Coupled with pollution in our societies, the need for increased anti-oxidant supply is therefore necessary.

It would be far better to receive our anti-oxidant supply from our food, as wholefoods have a complete synthesis of nutrients in correct proportions, the combination of which is most available to the body.

In Australia for example our soils are low in selenium an important trace mineral that works as an antioxidant particularly combined with Vitamin E.

Carolinda Witt said...

Yes, garlic contains selenium, so do brazil nuts, broccoli, salmon and some drinking water etc. It all depends on the soil and the processing!

Selenium is important for our immune system as it helps build up white blood cells. Low levels of selenium are associated with a high risk of heart attack and stroke, and may assist with atherosclerosis, angina, lupus, rheumatoid athritis, and respiratory or gastrointestinal complaints.

Anonymous said...

yes, you are quite right. keeping healthy today is a multi pronged afffair with all the pollution and stress!!

Anonymous said...

there are loads of quality antioxidants in the multi level marketing arena. have you tried nutrilite, now endorsed by asalfa powell, the worlds fastest man??

Anonymous said...

so much these days on aloe vera. whats your take?

Carolinda Witt said...

Yes there are heaps! I haven't tried the ones you recommend as I take LifePack which is from the network marketing company NuSkin/Pharmanex etc. They come individually wrapped in doses, which makes it easy to remember and take! No opening 5 bottles, just tear open the plastic covering. I need things to be simple!

Carolinda Witt said...

I grow aloe vera in a pot, so it can be used if there is a burn, wound or sunburn. Great for that. I don't drink the juice but if I suffered from digestive problems I probably would. There's no doubt it has healing qualities, it's just a choice of what you take for what condition. I am happy with a maintenance regime of multi vitamin, mineral and antioxidant supplements, but would match natural remedies including homeopathics for any illness.

Anonymous said...

do you believe that weight training is vital to keep muscle tone alive?

Carolinda Witt said...

Yes. As wonderful as the Rites are, they do not exercise every muscle. We lose muscle mass as we age, so it is very important to do weight bearing exercise. Weight bearing exercise is also advisable to prevent the loss of calcium from the bones, which can lead to osteoporosis. Muscle speeds up our metabolism, helping to keep the creep of additional weight building on our bodies as we age. I would recommend you work out your Body Mass Index to find out if you need to incorporate a muscle building program into your daily routine (or a diet)!

emgee said...

Hi Carolinda:

glad to see you're blogging now and getting great comments. muriel

Carolinda Witt said...

Hi Muriel!

Lovely to hear from you! You were a great source of information and support recently. I'll keep in touch.
Love C

Anonymous said...


The first edition of the Kelder book, at least according to the Russian translation, contains a warning saying that not only the benefit is gone if you stop practicing, but actually, your body's state degrades more quickly than had you not been practicing. I wonder if you know anything about this?



Carolinda Witt said...

Hi Ron,

When you stop practicing the Rites, you naturally lose the benefits you have gained over a period of time. They don't just go immediately. This is because the chakras start spinning more slowly or unevenly again. When chakras slow down the Qi (Prana, Life-Force) flows less freely through the body. It is the free flow of Qi that enervates and keeps the body/mind young and vital.

People who have stopped doing the Rites, have told me that they notice a significant reduction in energy, calmness and wellbeing. Some have also told me that they began to get colds and flus etc more often. They describe the onset of stiffness and loss of strength - exactly what you would expect really. These people attend my classes to get back into doing the Rites again because they don't like how they feel compared to when they were practicing them.

The warning that you will degrade quicker than before, I believe, depends on how long you have been doing the Rites. Whilst you were practicing the Rites, the rate of aging (or effects of aging) were somewhat reduced. Therefore when you stop - not only do you lose the benefits you had gained - but you return to the condition you would have been prior to doing the Rites. This is because you are older chronologically than when you began the Rites.

The other possibility is that whilst doing the Rites, you kept various illnesses or physical deterioration at bay, and when you stop; that improvement is arrested and you become ill or less mobile in a way that appears more 'rapid' than before.

Scientifically, we do not have any research to 'prove' this, but that is often the case. So many things the ancients have described have eventually been proven correct.

Stopping the Rites is like turning the dimmer down on the light switch!