When they first told me about the five Tibetans, I thought they were trying to tell me a story. Then I realized it was “Five Tibetans (exercises).”
What are they all about? Quite simply: it is a series of 5 exercises to be performed in sequence 21 times each, possibly upon waking and on an empty stomach.
The purpose is to awaken the body and its organs and to act on the 7 chakras. At this point you might express some puzzlement given the topic. Fear not: if you are not interested in oriental disciplines you can consider them quiet, non-harmful physical exercises, that’s perfectly fine.
We first heard about the Five Tibetans about a century ago, thanks to the book “The Eye of Revelation,” written by Peter Kelder. Little is known about him: he was working in the film industry in California and had written this book inspired by an encounter with a retired colonel in the British Army who related that he had learned about the rituals through meeting monks who practiced them at a monastery in the Himalayas. The rituals-according to him-were the basis of their eternal youth.
The rites/exercises have, not surprisingly, gone down in history as exercises of eternal youth, capable of healing organs and the body to the point of rejuvenation. Free for everyone to believe it or not, we personally regard this part of the story as legendary or at least smoky, not to mention bordering on outright marketing. But that doesn’t matter here: what is of interest are the exercises, some of which share much with some of the poses in yoga.
To be fair then, for Tibetan culture there are five chakras, not seven (as for Indian culture), and Buddhists preach overcoming lust for material goods, including the pursuit of beauty and youth. Finally, Tibetan yoga does not involve spinning on oneself (provided by the first rite).
What are they for
As mentioned, the philosophical/spiritual purpose of Tibetan Rites is to open the seven chakras and activate the body, letting energy flow into it and charging it. Not surprisingly, they must be performed at the beginning of the day.
From a practical/physical standpoint, it is a series of stretching and isometric exercises that have roots in yoga and involve breathing. From this point of view they are still to be considered interesting, but more on this later.
The benefits they bring include reducing stress through controlled breathing and increasing concentration, improving muscle elasticity and power, and controlling balance. Almost all muscles are involved, and with them the internal organs.
Here we are finally at the exercises :)
Few advice to perform them:
– Comfortable, stretchy clothing is sufficient, they can be performed barefoot (better, indeed), and, for convenience, a yoga mat can be used but even without it is fine
– it is important to be consistent and do them every day. They take only a few minutes and are beneficial, if only because they awaken the body and mind and allow you to start the day with something already done.
First rite: rotation / twirling
To be performed standing, keeping your feet slightly apart and parallel. Rotate clockwise keeping palms facing downward while keeping your gaze at the same height toward an undefined point on the horizon. Do not close your eyes to avoid aggravating any lack of balance, and stop if you feel dizzy.
Second rite: the corner / leg raises
Lie supine, resting your arms and palms on the floor. Raise your legs until they are perpendicular to your torso while simultaneously bringing your head toward your chest.
Third rite: the bow / dynamic camel
Get on your knees and place your feet on your toes while keeping your knees bent at 90 degrees. Bring your elbows behind your back while resting hands on buttocks. As you exhale, recline your head forward toward your chest and as you inhale bring it backward by arching your back slightly.
Fourth rite: the bridge
Sit on the floor with your legs slightly apart and your torso perpendicular to the floor. Keep your feet hammered together and place your palms on the ground while keeping your arms close to your torso. Inhaling, raise the pelvis until the legs are bent at 90 degrees and the thighs and torso are aligned parallel to the floor. As you assume the bridge position recline your head backward. Exhaling return to the starting sitting position. Repeat.
Fifth rite: the mountain
Leaning with your belly on the floor, lift yourself up on your arms while stretching your back as much as possible and keeping your legs tight to the floor. As you exhale, lift your pelvis by pushing back with your arms until you assume the position of an inverted V, resting as much as possible on the soles of your feet. Inhaling, get back to the previous position.
After the rituals are finished, lie supine for a few handfuls of seconds/minutes and focus on breathing, relaxing.
How many times should be performed
The total number of repetitions is 21 for each exercise. It is preferable, however, to start with a more limited set of repetitions and approach 21 progressively, perhaps devoting one week to each circuit, starting with 3 and increasing every 7 days by two units. The sequence is thus:
– Week 1: 3 repetitions for each exercise
– Week 2: 5 repetitions for each exercise
– Week 3: 7 repetitions for each exercise
– Week 10: 21 repetitions for each exercise.
Having reached the tenth week, you can continue by keeping the number of repetitions constant. It is indeed important that the Five Tibetans become a habit, like drinking a glass of water as soon as you wake up or a coffee. They do not take a long time, tone the body and give a lot of energy, partly because they awaken it vigorously but without exhausting it.
When to perform them
As mentioned above, since they serve to open the chakras, they should be performed as soon as you get up, as an awakening of the body. Since they are gentle on your body, however, some even practice them in the evening before bedtime. Since this is not an exhausting workout (in fact, it does not engage the body like a real workout), they can help relax the mind and body at the end of the day, so it is recommended to do them in the morning but not discouraged to do them before bed.
Congratulations, getting this far was not a given! We will be very brief: one may or may not believe in the spiritual aspect, the chakras or the whole transcendental apparatus of the Tibetan Rites. One can also consider them to be deviltry or just not believe in them.
However, you can at the same time practice them just for the physical and mental benefit they give you. It is also an all around manageable form of discipline that allows you to develop and fortify perseverance and commitment. Finally: if you practice them carefully they can teach you a lot in terms of controlling your breathing and managing your balance and proprioception.
In our opinion, it is worth it. They certainly don’t hurt, otherwise he wouldn’t have told you about it at all.