In the original book about the Rites, ‘The Eye of Revelation,’ (download free here), the author, Peter Kelder’s, instructions are confusing about ‘bending’ at the waist before arching backward.
In his 1939 introduction to Rite No. 3, Kelder doesn’t mention bending at the waist at all. He says:
All one needs to do is kneel on his 'prayer rug,' place his hands on his thighs, and lean forward as far as possible with the head inclined so that the chin rests on the chest.
There are only two illustrations in The Eye of Revelation book, and neither shows the bending forward - see the first position of Rite No. 3 below.
In 2008, antiquarian bookseller, Jerry Watt, obtained a rare copy of the updated 1946 version of The Eye of Revelation, which described bending forward at the waist. Until then, people did the posture without bending forward before arching backward.
In his 1946 updated version, Kelder says:
The first position of this Rite is to kneel on a rug or mat with hands at sides, palms flat against the side of the legs. Then lean forward as far as possible, bending at the waist, with head well forward - chin on chest.
However, Kelder didn't change either of his two illustrations. As a result, many people missed this additional instruction. Given the fact that Kelder didn't amend or update his 1939 version until seven years later - perhaps it wasn't that significant? In my own experience and that of my students, it didn't add any additional benefits, but it did bring some disadvantages - more on this below.
It is worth noting that most of the many hundreds of thousands of people worldwide who practice the Rites follow the instructions of the 1939 version of The Eye of Revelation. They do not bend forwards first, yet their testimonials of the Rites' benefits remain the same.
My Experience Of Both
When I began teaching the Rites in 2000, the 1939 version was the only one available. As a result, my students and I carried out the posture as illustrated below.
It is interesting that whether we bent forward or not, the results remained the same. It made NO difference to the benefit of the 3rd Rite or the Rites as a whole. None.
Out of all the Rites, Rite No. 3 is the one where you need to be most attentive as to how you practice it to avoid lower back or neck strain or injury. In the T5T method of learning the Rites, students are taught how to activate the deepest muscles closest to the spine (the core muscles) - and then to strengthen them while doing the Rites. This protects the lower back and neck.
When these muscles are correctly activated, they act like a natural weight belt or corset to protect your spine (lower back and neck). Like the guidewires on a tent, the better the core muscles are aligned, the stronger the structure. Having core strength is a huge benefit for everyday life and can help reduce backache, or in some cases, eliminate it.
Therefore I continue to teach beginners Rite No 3. as per my image above. Once students have developed core strength and have learned how to lengthen their spines correctly, they are given the option of bending forward first.
Interestingly, most people prefer to continue doing Rite No 3 without bending forward first. The lower back is inherently flexible and therefore prone to injury due to overuse, whereas the front of the chest is nearly always stiff due to all of our daily forward movements in life.
In contrast, our upper back, which is less mobile due to the anatomical structure of our spine and ribs, is where we hold most tension in life. In Rite No 3, it is very satisfying to arch backward from an upright position as this works best against gravity. It allows a significant stretching and opening of the front of the chest - and a corresponding release of tension in the upper back and shoulders.
Note: For anyone with a previous history of lower back and neck injury, who has weak core muscles, is overweight or sedentary, or has any of the health conditions listed here - doing the movement as described by Kelder is contra-indicated to avoid lower back or neck strain or injury.
2nd part of the Kneeling Backbend, Rite No 3
In T5T, we also do NOT recommend following Kelder’s instructions to, lean back as far as possible or to lean back on the thighs, as illustrated above. I have seen numerous people strain the muscles of the thighs, groin, and particularly the lower back and neck from following Kelder’s instructions to the letter.
We also do not follow Kelder’s instructions to throw the head back as far as it will go as this compresses the vertebrae and discs of the spine. It is best to keep your spine lengthened throughout the posture with your core muscles activated to protect your spine.
It is worth remembering that the Rites are repetitive movements, and your technique needs to be correct from the word go. In T5T, we fully consider the implications of long-term practice of the Rites and teach students how to avoid problems, while still obtaining all the great advantages of the Rites.
I hope this information has helped you.
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