I received this email yesterday from Coatia:
I started practising 5 Tibetans a couple of months ago, but I don't feel that I have more energy (although I do 21 repetitions of every rite) and my improvement seems to be very, very slow. Is there anything I can do in order to have more benefit?
There is a lot of literature on the Rites on the internet, in books and in articles that claim incredible anti-aging benefits for the Rites. I think people's expectations can be very high, and they would naturally question or be disappointed in why they received only minor benefits from practicing the Rites.
In the original book by Peter Kelder (The Eye of Revelation) published in 1939 for example it says,
"It concerned a group of Lamas or Tibetan priests who, apparently, had discovered "The Fountain of Youth." The natives told of old men who had mysteriously regained health and strength, vigor and virility shortly after entering a certain Lamasery."
"No, I am not my son,'' he returned. "I am none other than your old friend, Colonel Bradford, the old man who went away to the Himalayas,"
I stood in incredulous amazement at his statement, then it slowly dawned upon me that this really was the Colonel Bradford that I had known; but what a change had taken place in his appearance. Instead of the stooped, limping, sallow old gentleman with a cane, he was tall, straight, ruddy-complexioned man in the prime of life. Even his hair, which had grown back, held no trace of gray.
Given the glowing language of the time and the mystical overtones, I don't think it is surprising that people believe the Rites to be a cure for all ailments and aging.
I for example, found the whole idea of the hair growing back dark rather far fetched, until Stuart French who attended one of my workshops reported that this had happened to his sideburns. Stuart eventually become a Registered T5T Instructor.
So what's the truth? There are numerous studies that prove the benefits of a regular yoga practice and its impact on health and wellbeing. This article from Yoga Journal says in part:
During the past 80 years, health professionals in India and the West have begun to investigate the therapeutic potential of yoga. To date, thousands of research studies have been undertaken and have shown that with the practice of yoga a person can, indeed, learn to control such physiologic parameters as blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory function, metabolic rate, skin resistance, brain waves, body temperature, and many other bodily functions." Though it's difficult to find most of these studies, some current, accessible research reports significant results for challenging medical conditions:
In the same article, Patrick Randolph, Ph.D., in Texas says, "The asanas help increase circulation to the limbs while the resultant relaxation addresses anxiety. "What many people report from doing yoga is that rather than being an exercise that takes energy away, it actually energizes."
Aside from all the measurable physical benefits, I believe that there is an energy component that we can't measure or quantify yet.
The Lamas told Colonel Bradford that the quickest way to regain health, youth and vitality is to start the magnetic centres of the body spinning again, through the practice of the Five Rites.
"The body has seven centers, 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.
Yoga Journal continues:
And Yoga's most ephemeral benefits, such as the opening of energy channels, are even more difficult to define and evaluate in a research setting. Dr. Brandeis believes it will take more scientists with a much greater experiential knowledge of yoga to begin measuring what might be classified as energetic changes. "Probably in the future [research will] try to translate energetic effects into concrete medicine, but right now there aren't enough practitioners with enough knowledge to generate that kind of interest," he says.
My own experience & that of teaching so many people the Rites is that people do indeed achieve a wide range of benefits from small to pretty outstanding. People don't always trust Testimonials but they are a great overview of what people personally believe they have gained. Testimonials from qualified health professionals, fitness professionals to the general public all point to similar benefits. These can be read on http://www.t5t.com/testimonials.cfm and in the Peter Kelder books (Ancient Secret of the Fountain of Youth).
Having said all this, one cannot have a one-sided result with any form of exercise. One-sided means that it is all positive with no negatives. You have to have both - same as in life. You can't have a gain without a loss, or a loss without a gain. You can't have ugly without beautiful to tell you what ugly is and so on. Focusing only the positive benefits of the Rites will inevitably disappoint. Perhaps the negatives of having to make the time to do them, or getting up early to do them, or even making the physical effort, do not outweight the benefits. A great question to ask oneself would be, "What am I losing by doing the Rites?" Then, "What am I gaining by doing the Rites?"
Play with the positives and the negatives of all the answers until you reach a state of balance, where you are neither in fantasy about the benefits or resentful of practicing them. Neither state is a place where you will relax and enjoy them.
For me, I made a decision that aging doesn't get better! I knew I would need to do many things to get more out of my life for as long as I could. T5T is one of those. I don't need to think about it anymore, I just do it. I know it works, I know it will work in the long term and no more thought needs to be applied to it. I've heard of two 80+ year old men who have been doing the Rites 20 years. One of their sons recently told me his father is getting younger every time he sees him. Clearly that isn't true, but his father believes the Rites are the reason for his physical strength and wellbeing. Who is to dispute him?
Colonel Bradford himself says that the monks told him that you need to invest a strong amount of faith and belief in the Rites to maximise their benefit. If you think old, you become old. He suggests people stride instead of hobble for example.
So what did I say to the gentleman from Croatia?
For some people, the benefits are less dramatic. If you were going to get any major changes, this would be most noticeable in the first 2 weeks. Therefore the only long-term benefits I think you may get are in the area of strength and flexibility development, increased calmness emotionally and greater positivity. You may also notice that you get ill less often or that the symptoms are less.
Are you by any chance sleeping more with vivid dreams, or do you need less sleep?
Just like electricity our body is infused with life-energy, even though you can't see it. As you would know, the Rites stimulate the flow of life-energy through the body, unblocking stagnant areas and revitalising the body. This 'feeling' is more subtle than the typical physical sensations we are used to and you may need to fine tune your awareness. The best way of doing this is by becoming more present during and after your practice.
Try and be much more present (not thinking of the past or future events or things done or things to do) when doing the Rites. Yoga and the Rites are meditation in motion. Practice the ability to train the monkey mind to be still, by focusing on balance, precision, control, alignment, sensation, lack of sensation and of course the breath!
Often the best way to find out if you are getting any benefits is to stop doing them for a month at least! If you find you don't want to stop - then take notice! Your body knows it wants to keep doing them, even though you are not feeling any major changes.
Perhaps you should miss a couple of days and let your body have a rest. Then do your 21 repetitions and notice if there is a difference. Do you notice a change immediately after doing the Rites?
Wth regard to your question about what can you do to improve the effects: Are you doing T5T or the original version from one of the Peter Kelder books? He does not include much on breathing which is a major health and vitality improver. A number of clinical studies have shown that how well you breathe literally dictates your lifespan. T5T contains extensive knowledge in breathing and specialised breathing is carried out between each Rite.
I updated the Rites calling them T5T (The Five Tibetans) to make them more potent in light of modern exercise knowledge as well as to prevent a pattern of lower back pain and neck pain I observed from people practicing the original Rites - particulary from Rites 2 and 3. T5T focuses on developing strong deep abdominal muscles (core stability). These muscles wrap around and protect the spine like a natural weight belt preventing back injury (there are also neck stabiliser muscles which are also activated correctly during T5T). These actions are repetitive and correct alignment and control is very important. Strong core muscles also counteract the effects of gravity on the elimination organs as well as stimulate the reproductive glands.
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Copyright (c) 2007 Carolinda Witt - author T5T - The Five Tibetan Exercise Rites and The 10-Minute Rejuvenation Plan