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 leaning backward. Under his illustration’s below, he 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.’
Then in the text that follows the introduction to Rite No. 3, Kelder doesn’t mention bending at the waist at all. He says:
‘All one needs to do is to 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.’
The whole issue is further complicated because his illustrations do NOT show bending at the waist.
So what should we do?
From the feedback of my students, and my personal experience, whatever method you chose won’t gain you any additional increase in energy or any of the known benefits of the Rites. Both ways work the same.
However, there are reasons why some teachers, including myself, don’t bend at the waist.
Out of all of the Rites, Rite No 3 is most likely to cause lower back or neck pain if you have a previous history of injury, are sedentary, overweight, or have weak core muscles.
This is easily avoided by following the T5T method, which builds up to the required 21 repetitions in the step-by-step approach recommended by the monks, but, adds core stability to the movement which protects your lower back and neck.
T5T strengthens the deepest muscles (core) closest to the spine. 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.
Core muscles work best when the spine is in its natural (neutral alignment). Think of a wonky tent pole to understand this concept (the tent will lean to one side). In T5T, we maintain the natural S-shape of the spine and avoid exaggerating the already flexible lower back and neck curve.
Why? To avoid compression of the vertebrae and discs and reduce the potential for strain or injury by compacting the spine. We keep our hips aligned over our knees (joint over a joint) to avoid pressure on the joints.
In T5T, we teach you how to keep your lumbar & cervical spine (lower back & neck) ‘long & strong’ to avoid compression. It is best to keep your entire spine lengthened throughout the posture with your core muscles activated to protect your spine – and allows your spine to ‘breathe.’
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 lean back on the thighs, as illustrated below. This is because we have seen numerous people strain the muscles of the groin, thighs, and lower back from following Kelder’s instructions in italics to the letter.
Neither do we recommend that you 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 in the lower back & neck. It is best to keep your spine lengthened throughout the posture with your core muscles activated to protect your spine.
Most people, particularly those who are fit, practice yoga, or have good core strength, will have no problems following Kelder’s instructions for Rite No 3.
It is still 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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