Thousands of years ago in Tibet, monks practiced many hours of meditation as a means of achieving enlightenment for all beings. During their time sitting, their bodies began to ache and their health slowly deteriorated as their bodies were ignored. While they realized that our physical form is not our true essence, they also understood that they must care for their bodies in order to effectively continue on their spiritual path towards realization. Thus, The Five Tibetan Rites was born – a system of exercises reported to be more than 2,500 years old.
The Five Tibetan Rites consists of five continuous movements which can have a profound effect on your overall health, improving your energy, increasing blood circulation, balancing our 7 main chakras and promoting the free flow of prana to the endocrine system which revitalizes our mind and body. Regular practice of these exercises can also relieve muscular tension and nervous stress, improve respiration and digestion and strengthen the cardiovascular system.
The monks discovered that no more than 21 repetitions for each exercise are needed for optimal health; any more than that would be superfluous. It is suggested that you build up to 21 repetitions slowly over time, allowing your body to gradually be strengthened as you increase the repetitions week by week. My suggestion is to begin with just five repetitions of each movement and increase by one or two every week until you feel ready to do the full 21 repetitions of each exercise. Our bodies are never quite the same from day to day. On some days I feel I can do 13 or 14 repetitions, and on other days I drop down to 10. Honor your body and let it be the guide for what you can do on that particular day. It doesn’t have to be a competition to see how quickly you can get up to 21 repetitions. Instead, the practice of The Five Tibetan Rites is really about tuning into your body and gradually increasing your stamina with the ultimate goal of relaxation and wellbeing.
The entire routine of The Five Tibetan Rites can be 20 minutes, but I often include a warm-up at the beginning, some extra yoga asanas in the middle and meditation at the end which takes me approximately 50 – 60 minutes.
1. For the first movement known as ‘Spinning’, your body should be tall, arms outstretched, straight and active with left palm facing up for receiving energy and right palm facing downwards for giving energy. Focus down your left fingertip and spin clockwise counting your repetitions by focusing on one point. When you’ve completed your repetitions, return to center and clasp your hands together in front of you with index finger pointing upward. Focus on your fingertips until your balance has returned.
2. The second movement is called the ‘Yogic V’. Start by lying on your back; then place your hands underneath you forming an ‘L’ and framing your sit bones; arms should be active and strong. Breath in head with neck lifted, exhale and raise your torso and legs simultaneously, keeping your body strong, straight and active. Support your lower back with hands and arms and slowly return to starting position.
3. For the ‘Camel’, kneel with your toes tucked under. Bring your hands around to the backs of your thighs and clasp just beneath your buttocks, fingers facing each other; arms active, chin tucked in, inhale. While exhaling, lean back from the knees, arms supporting lower back while tilting your head back. Return to starting position and repeat.
4. The fourth movement is called ‘Table Top’. For this exercise start in a seated position on your sit bones with legs and feet active and straight in front of you, back straight, tummy pulled in and chin tucked under. Push your body up into a table top, balancing your weight evenly on your hands and feet; raise your pelvis to the sky, clench buttocks and tilt head back. Return to starting positions and repeat.
5. Movement five is a combination of ‘Downward Facing Dog’ and ‘Cobra’. Begin with ‘Downward Dog’, legs active, heals working to the ground, back straight and arms active. Your body will look like a V with your buttocks in the air. Then push through into ‘Cobra’ with an open heart, balanced on toes, legs active, pelvis lifted, back arched, arms active and head tilted back. Return to ‘Downward Dog’ and repeat moving fluidly between these two movements.
Between each exercise it is very important to rest and breathe. This space in between allows you to be conscious of any changes in your body and gives the body a chance to integrate the exercise you’ve just completed.
As we move into higher energy frequencies, it is necessary for us to strengthen all aspects of ourselves. If you practice The Five Tibetan Rites regularly, you will discover a natural strengthening and toning of your whole body, as well as an increased sense of wellbeing in body, mind and spirit. May you find great healing benefits from this powerful practice.