It’s 6.25 am, I’ve just woken up 5 minutes ahead of the alarm clock. This is my best, waking up naturally and letting my circadian rhythm kick in with the first rays of light piercing through the shutters. This is a very special time for me, as all is quiet and peaceful, no cars, no noises, no talking, my body is rested and my mind is still carrying those sleepy brainwaves. After 30 minutes meditation, and my Wim Hof breathwork, I start activating my body and mind with a series of backbends, neck bends and twirling, each one a holy and ancient practice passed down from one Tibetan monk to another. Every day I practice these stretches, called 5 Tibetan Rites, they help me stay in a happy mood, feel energized, and expand my lung capacity. In this blog, I will explain what they are, what are the associated benefits and how to practise them, so that you too can feel their physical, mental and spiritual benefits.
According to these monks, with only 10 to 15 minutes of daily bending and breathing, these stretches can expand your lung capacity and increase your longevity.
In 1939, the author Peter Kelder described these techniques in a booklet called “ The eye of revelation” that he published later. At the time only a few people read it and even fewer believed it. He wrote that these lung expanding stretches dating back to 500 years BC, were used by Tibetan monks for millennia to improve physical fitness, mental health, cardiovascular function and, of course, to extend life. These monks had understood intuitively that our ability to breathe full breaths and increase our lung capacity was literally a measure of longevity.
In 2000, researchers from the University of Buffalo compared lung capacity in a group of a thousand subjects over more than a decade. Their conclusion was identical to the monks: “Larger lungs equalled longer lives”.
As we age from 30 to 50, our lungs will gradually lose about 12 per cent of their capacity. From 50 onwards they will carry on degrading at a faster rate. If we are lucky enough to make it to 80, we will have lost 30 per cent of the lung capacity we had in our 20’s. We are therefore forced to breath faster and harder, and these bad habits will lead to high blood pressure, immune disorders, anxiety and more chronic health problems.
But what Tibetan monks, and now western science, have discovered is that these internal organs are malleable, and can be strengthened at any time of our life. So ageing doesn’t have to turn into an inevitable decline in poor health but more into a journey of health, growth and continuous discovery.
According to these monks, the practice of these exercises is based on the body’s energy. The body has seven energy fields or vortexes, and they control parts of the endocrine system, a network of glands and organs that regulate many of the body’s functions, including the ageing process.
Now let’s explore what are the benefits of the five Tibetan rites and most importantly how to perform them.
Reported benefits include:
• relief from joint pain and stiffness
• improved strength and coordination
• better circulation and weight loss
• reduced anxiety
• better sleep
• improved energy
• a youthful appearance
How to do the 5 Tibetan Rites
The Five Tibetan Rites are an ancient yoga practice that consists of a sequence of five exercises performed 21 times a day.
While each rite is meant to be practised 21 times a day, you can begin by doing them less frequently.
During the first week, practice each rite 3 times a day. Add 2 repetitions per rite the following week. Continue adding 2 reps per rite each week until you’re doing 21 rounds of each rite every day.
Stand straight with your arms outstretched and parallel to the floor, palms facing down (your arms should be in line with your shoulders). Staying in the same spot, slowly spin your body in a clockwise direction. Without bending your head forward, keep your eyes open and cast toward the ground. Gradually increase the number of spins from two to 21.
Breathing: Inhale and exhale deeply as you spin.
PS; It’s best to start with a few spins at first and stop when you feel slightly dizzy. It’s best to avoid excessive spinning, which is said to overstimulate the chakras.
To do this rite, you’ll need a carpeted floor or yoga mat.
Lie flat on the floor, face up and palms on the floor by your side. As you inhale, lift your head tucking your chin into your chest. At the same time raise your legs vertically, knees straight (If you have difficulty straightening your knees, bend them as needed. Try to straighten them each time you perform the rite), feet flexed. Slowly exhale and lower your legs and head back to the prone position.
Breathing: Breathe in as you lift your head and legs, and exhale as you lower them.
Kneel on the floor with your forehead tucked down toward your knees. Put your hands on your lower glutes or thigh muscles. Tuck your belly button up towards your spine. Slowly lift your chest and tuck your chin in towards your chest to bring your body erect. Move your head back while extending and opening through your quadriceps, belly and chest – Camel Pose.
Breathing: Inhale as you arch your spine to open your chest and exhale as you return to an erect position. Like the second rite, the third rite requires deep rhythmic breathing. You can also practice this rite while closing your eyes, which helps you focus inward.
The fourth rite, sometimes called Moving Tabletop, is also done with rhythmic breathing. If possible your hands and heels should stay in place during the entire exercise.
Sit down on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Your palms are on the floor alongside the sit bones and your fingers are facing toward your feet. Tuck your chin to your chest, drop your head back and raise your torso towards the sky so that your knees bend while your arms remain straight. Hold this ‘tabletop position’ for a few seconds and return to the seated position. Rest for a few seconds before repeating this rite.
Breathing: Breathe in as you rise up into the pose, hold your breath as you tense your muscles, and breathe out fully as you come down.
This last one is a combination of two standard yoga poses; upward facing dog and downward-facing dog. To start, lie down on your belly with your palms face down and in line with your chest. Press up into an upward-facing dog by curling your toes under, lifting your heart, and drawing your shoulders back. Look straight ahead of you. Then draw your hips up and back, extending your spine, into downward-facing dog pose. Flow-through the poses back and forth concentrating on your breath and alignment.
Breathing: Breath in as your rise up into upward-facing dog; breath out as you push back into downward-facing dog.
General safety tips
Like all exercise programs, the Five Tibetan Rites should be done with care. Start with gentle movements and a low number of reps.
Take extra precaution if you have:
• Heart or breathing problems. Before trying these exercises, talk to your doctor to find out they’re safe for you to do.
• Neurological disorders. Disorders like Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis can cause poor balance. If you have one of these conditions, these exercises may not be safe for you to perform.
• Conditions that cause dizziness. If you’re prone to dizziness, talk to a doctor before trying the first rite. The spinning motion may aggravate various conditions, including vertigo, circulatory issues, or nausea from medication.
• Pregnancy. The spinning and bending movements may not be safe if you’re pregnant.
• Recent surgery. The rites may cause complications if you’ve had surgery within the last 6 months.
I believe these 5 Tibetan Rites are the perfect combination of yoga and breathwork. They allow me to maintain high levels of energy right up until bedtime. They only require a yoga mat, 10 to 15 mins per day and they are a great complement to my daily fitness routine…
In a nutshell, I love them, as they have increased my lung capacity, improved my fitness and free diving capabilities.
As you know living to 100, in a happy, healthy and fulfilling way is all about stacking many modalities, like fasting, exercise, meditation, etc… and much more. I believe finding space to do these amazing 5 Tibetan Rites is essential for your longevity.
I hope you enjoy practising them and share them with friends and family. Until next week, my friends.
Smart Living To 100.
DISCLAIMER; The material on this post is for informational purposes only. As each individual situation is unique, you should use proper discretion, in consultation with a health care practitioner, before undertaking the protocols, diet, exercises, techniques, training methods, or otherwise described herein. The author and publisher expressly disclaim responsibility for any adverse effects that may result from the use or application of the information contained herein. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinicians.