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.


Anonymous said...

isnt that strange: no comments from women. dont they do the rites??

Carolinda Witt said...

It's hard to tell a person's gender when the comments are signed 'anonymous'.

In terms of women actually practicing Rites - I find in my workshops that around 75/80% of the attendees are women.

I know there is one woman from Russia who has been commenting as I had to translate my replies from English to Russian by using the Translator at

I'm new to blogging, so hopefully as I get better at it, we should get more women and more men!

Bye for now

Anonymous said...

women in rural communities work during their periods and till a day before their delivery and resume work immediately after. in my opinion, it all depends on the fitness of the person. in more urban settings, people are more unfit and so precautions have to be taken. i know of women who have resumed physical labour hours after delivery. i am not saying that it is the thing to do, but it depends on the person. maybe, no blanket rule can be made.

Carolinda Witt said...

Those are very good points. The average Westerner is very sedentary! I think it is very important when teaching the Rites to encourage people to develop body/mind awareness. When they have this, they are much more likely to be in 'tune' and in 'harmony' with their bodies. I agree no blanket rule can be made, but it is certainly worth noting how other more active cultures manage and normalise periods, pregnancy and delivery.

Anonymous said...

I was glad to find your site, as I recently began practicing the five tibetans exercises (for the past 5 days). I do notice a general improvement in the way my body feels, but I did have a question I was hoping you could answer. I saw the blog/post concerning practicing the rites during menstruation, but this is a bit different. I have noticed that since beginning the rites, I have had some very slight spotting. Is this a normal thing? I usually have NO problems with any kind of breakthrough bleeding, so I was a little concerned. As this coincided with the start of the exercises, I figured the two things are related. Do you know if other women have experienced the same thing?

I greatly appreciate any information you can provide! Thank you!

Carolinda Witt said...

No, I haven't heard of anyone spotting yet. If you have only been doing them for 5 days, I would imagine that this is part of the initial balancing, adjusting or detox the body often goes through. People get all sorts of symptoms during the first week and this may be another. If it continues beyond a week to 10 days it is probably worth checking with your doctor. It could be unrelated.

Which version are you doing - or which book are you following? Are you currently doing any other form of yoga or Pilates? From an abdominal workout point of view, the 2nd Rite in the Peter Kelder and Christopher Kilham versions is very strong for a beginner and does not develop the core
muscles which wrap around and protect the spine. In the version I developed with physiotherapists, chiropractors, osteopaths etc, you gain strength from the inside out. It also has 10 steps that build up your strength before
doing what we believe is a very advanced posture.

Let me know how you go. Having taught the Rites both ways, I know T5T is the safest as it develops strength not just on the outside but from the inside out.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your email... I do think that the spotting is directly related to the exercises. I did not do the series yesterday, and experienced no spotting whatsoever. This morning, I called my doctor who reassured me that with a new exercise program and sometimes dietary programs, spotting can be a normal body adjustment. I was told that I could continue with the exercises. Big sigh of relief.

I was following the exercises as laid out in the Kelder book. I have done traditional abdominal exercises in the past, and not experienced any problems. In addition, I walk roughly 9 to 12 miles a week for exercise.

I plan on purchasing your book, when it is available in the United States (not until April of next year), as I was quite interested in the breathing techniques you describe. I am a professional clarinet player, and am convinced that the majority of the public does not breathe properly, using only their lungs and not the diaphragm.

Until then, do you have any suggestions on modifying the second rite? Should I bend my knees to control the extension, lessen the impact on the core muscles (or will that just make it worse?) Should I omit that rite for a while, then add later?

Carolinda Witt said...

I'm glad you have verified that with your doctor, that is the best thing to do if you have any doubt.

Traditional abdominal exercises generally focus on the rectus abdominis (six-pack) and perhaps the obliques around the sides. These muscles are movement muscles as opposed to stabilising muscles. The deepest muscles closest to your spine act like a natural corset when activated correctly. They include the pelvic floor muscles, the transversus abdominis (the corset) and the multifidis muscle in the back, and are known collectively as the core stabiliser muscles. When you have strong deep abdominal (as opposed to surface, movement muscles) you are able to finely control your movements and protect your spine. Like any muscle - if you don't use it you lose it. Unless you are trained how to use them and have developed them, they tend to be weak.

I am so sorry you can't buy the book in the US until the launch date on April 3rd, as it would all make it so clear. In the interim, it would be good to attend some beginner level Pilates classes which should train you in using your core stability muscles. It would also teach you how to find and maintain neutral spine, which is the position (which maintains the natural curves of your spine) you need to be in when doing the Rites, to maximise the effect of the core stability muscles.

It is hard to give you advice on how to modify the 2nd Rite because T5T (The Five Tibetans) has 10 steps which you practice one week at a time. This ensures that your core stabiliser muscles are developed strongly before you do the final posture. Colonel Bradford recommends you start with 3 repetitions per week and add 2 per week until you are up to 21 repetitions. In T5T this philosophy is followed so that the 10 steps match the 10 weeks it takes to get to 21 repetitions.

I can only suggest that you do not do too many repetitions and give your body time to adjust. If you like, I can put your information on my database to contact you when the US version of the book is available?

Anonymous said...

I was searching the internet to look at spotting while doing T5T and came across this site. I noticed one post about a similar experience. So, I would like to hear more from this person what happened when she continued. Did the bleeding stop? I actually practice yoga everyday and nothing like this happens then. This time I am bleeding and I am planning to continue with the rites for a week at least & see what happens. If anyone has an explanation or some empirical answers, I would appreciate it.

Carolinda Witt said...

Very interesting. Also sorry but I can shine no further light on this. As I mentioned in an earlier post, it is not uncommon for people to go through a re balancing phase when starting the Rites.

There are really only two options available: One is to continue doing them as you mention and observe the results. The other option is to check with your doctor in case there is some other cause. The event may or may not be related.

Please keep us in the loop.

Anonymous said...

My period was due around the time I started doing The Five Tibetans, and since then, I have been spotting off and on for about a week. It is very frustrating because I also have never had much spotting and I just want my cycle to move along as it should! So I have stopped doing the rites for the last two days, but I'm still spotting. This is driving me nuts!!!

Carolinda Witt said...

I don't blame you, very frustrating and annoying to be continually spotting. I don't know what your age is, but could that be a factor? This tends to happen on the road to menopause.

I can only tell you that the Rites do bring about changes in the body and that over time the body generally adjusts. The movements are strong on the abdominal area, so it could be stimulating your response. Are you doing the original version or the T5T version? The T5T version which is my abbreviation for The Five Tibetans, is a whole different system incorporating core stability and an emphasis on breathing. It focuses on building your strength up gradually from the inside out so you are not like a soft centered chocolate as Susie Lapin my physiotherapist consultant refers to as strong abs, weak core muscles. The original movements are very strong straight off and I don't recommend that intensity eg. double leg raise right from the word go. We have a step-by-step build-up process that involves 10 changes to the Leg Raise (#2) over the 10 weeks it takes to get to 21 repetitions by adding just 2 a week.

I'm not trying to sell you anything here, but I and the many other health practitioners I consulted believe the original descriptions and ways of doing the Rites need to be modified for largely sedentary westerners (compared to manual working monks who did them from a young age). If interested check my website for the book or dvd

From experience, some people do get initial changes to their periods. It is always worth checking out that there is no underlying condition. After a couple of months maximum, periods do seem to stabilise, become more regular and less symptomatic. Everyone is different though. If concerned ask your doctor.

Let me know how you are going?
Best wishes

Anonymous said...

Just posting about my experience. I have been doing 5T for three weeks now everyday. I am doing the original version but I am fairly fit. I could do the 21 double leg raises on the fourth day. I am doing 5T slowly with lots of deep breathing. Needless to say I feel awesome :)
My period started 8 days ago and is still going. This is most unusual. It is not a strong flow but steady nonetheless. Since I feel fine I will continue with the 5T.
Cheers, ines

Carolinda Witt said...

I'm glad to hear you are feeling 'awesome' and that you were already fit before beginning the Rites.

Pre-menopausal periods can last longer, but if yours is related to doing the Rites, I doubt this will occur every month. Feeling blocked with a period is worse, isn't it. Sort of stagnant whereas yours sounds free flowing and full of Qi which is what you would hope for in an energy (prana, Qi) raising exercise like the Rites.

Thanks for letting us know

Anonymous said...

my english isn't very good but
i think, you mean we can do the rites while menstruation, right?

and I have a question more. Can we do the 5 rites during pregnancy? is this goog or bad? for mom and baby

Carolinda Witt said...

Regarding menstruation - please read this

Regarding pregnancy.

Yoga is wonderful during pregnancy to maintain your fitness; keep your muscles toned and improve your posture. It increases your energy levels and reduces fatigue as well as assists with maintaining optimal health levels during pregnancy.

It also teaches you how to relax and breathe. This is very important to help you adjust to the demands of pregnancy, then birth and motherhood itself. There are precautions though if you want to practice any form of yoga during pregnancy. For example you should not carry out any poses that require you to lie flat on your back (as this decreases blood flow to the uterus).

You should also avoid lying on your belly or performing exercises that require excessive stretching of the abdominal muscles. Do to the release of the hormone relaxin which enables the uterus to expand during pregnancy you are at more risk of straining muscles, so extra care must be taken to avoid strain on your joints.

There are special requirements for each stage of your pregnancy. In the 2nd trimester you will need to pay attention to your technique to avoid placing undue stress on your joints as your connective tissue will be softer due to relaxin. Because balance can also be affected during pregnancy, extra precautions need to be taken with standing poses during the final trimester of pregnancy.

The Five Tibetan Rites and Pregnancy

We do not recommend you begin practicing The Five Rites during pregnancy, unless you consult a specialist teacher in pre-natal yoga. She can help you adjust the poses (or offer alternatives) at each of the different stages of pregnancy. The first movement is a Spin which can cause dizziness. If you experience nausea in the early stages of pregnancy this may make it worse.

In the 2nd and 3rd trimester of pregnancy you may have problems with balance so this movement would not be recommended. The other four movements can be modified or adjusted but you really must see a qualified pre-natal yoga teacher.

Pregnancy is not a time to work hard on improving your flexibility as special care needs to be taken to avoid over straining your muscles due to the effects of relaxin which softens your connective tissue. A trained instructor who has experience in instructing pregnant women will also offer you additional movements to assist you with the demands of pregnancy and birth.

After Birth

The first six weeks of birth are really about healing and adjusting to the demands of the baby. Relaxin will remain in your body for around 5 months so care still has to be taken to avoid overstraining your muscles and joints.Exercise is best limited to gentle pelvic floor and abdominal exercises as well as swimming and walking.

The T5T version of The Five Tibetan Rites incorporates pelvic floor and lower abdominal strengthening and can be helpful in your recovery. However, once again, it is advisable to discuss this with your qualified pre & post natal yoga or Pilates instructor. T5T is great for finding that little bit of time for yourself as it takes around 10 – 15 mins per day. You can fit it in between sleeps, feeds and laundry!