“Fountain of Youth” - The 5 Tibetan Rites
A lot has been said about morning routines and rituals, so you have probably noticed that applying any to our morning, sets you up to improve our whole day, helping us to be more present, grounded and relaxed. I would like to share with you the practice I have used a lot in these previous years — it is simple, yet I find it effective and beneficial for overall wellbeing.
Ideally, we would start our day with the sunrise and an alkalising warm drink of lemon water or apple cider vinegar; journalling or any other contemplation methods that you might find useful and inspiring; go for a walk or a run in nature; meditate; practice yoga, or maybe some exercise. It’s not uncommon to sometimes be unable to find the time to manage to have a cup of coffee before it is time to go to work, or to take the children to school.
Our habits and routines keep changing throughout life as do our needs, priorities, responsibilities and obligations, in the same way our morning routines changes with the seasons, days and years. I would like to share the practice I have been using, when I’ve only had a few minutes in the morning and have been lacking energy to start the day.
Sometimes, my body benefits from performing the traditional 21 repetitions, and other times it benefits from doing 3 repetitions of each posture.
Sometimes, I benefit from a less-is-more approach and being gentle to my body, when other times my body craves movement and stretches.
Listen to your body’s needs and let it speak to you. We all have the wisdom of deep knowing inside, intuition to give ourselves what we need in certain times and knowledge to follow the path that we seek.
The ‘5 Tibetan Rites’ is a series of 5 exercises, which traditionally are performed 21 times daily. It is a series of yoga postures, said to be more than 2500 years old and used by Tibetan monks as a part of their health maintaining routine.
They have been brought to public and popularised by Peter Kelder in 1939, when he published the book called ‘The Eye of Revelation’.
An exact origin of practice remains unknown, however the story claims that they have been shared and practiced by Tibetan lamas, to keep the body young, healthy and joyful.
What are the potential benefits of the regular practice?
Improves flexibility, strength and coordination
Keeping the body youthful
Can help with joint pain and arthritis
Detoxification and increased circulation
Helps with emotional and mental wellbeing
How and when to practice?
The practice is best performed in the morning on an empty stomach, or at least 2 hours after a meal, as it is very energising and boosts the metabolism. Move slowly and with full awareness, using the breath as a guide and avoiding momentum, prioritising moving with strength and control.
Make sure you find a nice comfortable place to start your practice, and take some slow, deep, welcoming breaths to begin.
Traditionally, every 1 of the 5 asanas (postures), should be practiced 21 times.
However, that amount of repetitions does requires some strength and stamina from the body, so make sure you build-up towards 21 repetitions correctly; start with a small amount of equal repetitions daily, gradually increasing the amount you can do, in time. For example, start with 3-5 repetition of each exercise daily, then work towards 7, and then 9-10, etc — working towards 21 repetitions. Remember, it is a lifetime practice, so don’t hurry to get to 21 from the beginning, and allow the process to unfold naturally. That way, you’ll be able to gradually increase your strength and stamina, without putting your body under too much pressure.
Less repetitions may also be perfect for your morning routine, as committing to a long practice sometimes just isn’t possible with the business of life.
What’s important is consistency: a little bit every day.
Always listen to your body and use the breath as a guide. Breathing with your belly (diaphragm), moving with your breath, and breathing into each posture.
Start in a standing position, feet hips-distance apart and arms stretched out to the side — this will bring your body into a T-shape. With palms facing down, keep your arms in-line with the shoulders, and face relaxed.
Keep your chin slightly tucked-in to the chest, and start turning your body clockwise, starting with 3 repetitions and gradually building to 21. Spin around slowly and keep breathing deep and steady.
Begin lying on your back with hands next to your hips on the floor.
Inhale, raise the legs up so that feet are vertical to the hips. Keep the feet flexed, belly engaged and knees straight. At the same time, raise the head and tuck-in your chin to the chest.
With a slow exhale, lower the head and legs back to the floor.
Start with 3 repetitions and gradually build up to 21 times.
If there is any discomfort in the lower back, you can place the palms underneath your sacrum for support.
Start in a kneeling position, keeping the feet and knees hip distance apart.
Inhale and slightly tuck your pelvis in and under. Pull the lower belly in and up, arching the spine while you begin to lift the chest, slowly sliding the palms of your hands down the back of the thighs, and gently lift the chin up to open the throat area.
With an exhale, tuck-in the chin to your chest, and slowly lift the chest up and forward, to come back to the centre of the upright kneeling position.
Continue with the slow build-up of repetitions, taking as many breaths in between as you need.
Sit on the floor, extending your legs in front of your torso (blanket or bolster can be useful, to lift the pelvis) and tuck the chin to chest. Keep your feet hip-width apart and flexed towards you. Palms on the floor next to the hips and fingers facing forward.
When you inhale, start pressing the palms into the floor, bend the knees, ground the feet and lift the hips up into a ‘Tabletop’ position. Keep your chin on your chest or if it feels appropriate and comfortable, slowly drop your head back.
Exhale to slowly lower on the floor with the legs extended (Dandasana).
Equal the amount of repetitions to the previous exercises, building towards 21 slowly and steady.
Anybody that has done yoga before, is probably familiar with ‘Upward Facing Dog’ and ‘Downward Dog’ (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana, Adho Mukha Svanasana). We will alternate between them, flowing and moving with the breath, and slowly build repetitions.
Begin in a ‘Downward Facing Dog’: hands shoulder distance apart, pressing your palms into the floor and spreading your fingers wide. Place your feet hips-distance apart (you can widen the step at the beginning), draw your thighs up and back, lifting the tailbone and lengthening the spine. Start with a slight bend at the knees, and with consistent practice, build towards bringing your heels to the floor.
With an inhale, roll over the toes, align the shoulders over the wrists, press the palms down and lift to ‘Upward Facing Dog’. Keep the thighs lifted, opening your heart, drawing the shoulder blades together and down the back. Press the tops of your feet into the mat.
You can modify this posture with you knees on the floor and elbows bent - ‘Baby Cobra’ (Ardha Bhujangasana).
If you have any health issues or considerations, check with your doctor or a medical professional before performing the postures. Move through the practice slowly and listen to your body, making sure there is no strain or any pain. Gradually increase the amount of repetitions and modify the postures according to your current physical abilities.
I hope this post inspires you and brings you the option of using this ancient practice, in times when you may need it most.