The Five Tibetan Rites of Rejuvenation were brought to the West in the late 1930s by a Westerner who went under the pseudonym of Colonel Bradford. The story of his experience and the instructions he received from the Tibetan Lamas were published in the book, The Eye of Revelation, by Peter Kelder' in 1939. All other books are derivatives or updates of this book, including my own.
I learned the Rites in 2000, then co-taught them with my teacher for a while. She taught the method as described in the original book, and no matter how precise our instructions were, a certain percentage of people developed lower back or neck pain. Although this percentage was small in the first week or two of learning, I had concerns for the long-term when they (and others) would be increasing their repetitions to twenty-one times each movement over a ten-week period.
The monks recommended that we begin with 3 repetitions per week and add 2 more every week until we are doing the required 21 in ten weeks' time.
Let's face it; our modern western lifestyle is very different from that of the monks. They lived in the steep Himalayas and would have had to be fit to walk up and down those mountains! Their food production, preparation, and day-to-day tasks would have kept them physically active. Since the Rites were part of their daily practice, they probably started practicing them at a very early age.
The types of people attending our workshop were largely beginners, but many were yoga practitioners, and some were teachers. We had people from all walks of life, including instructors and participants of other exercise routines. This is why they wanted to learn the Rites:
- Most had never done yoga before and were attracted to the Rites for their anti-aging, energy raising benefits.
- Those who did practice yoga or other exercise methods were time poor and wanted a routine they could fit into their busy days. They wanted to fit in more exercise than they were currently able to do so.
- They wanted to improve their flexibility or strength (meaning they were not flexible or strong, to begin with).
- They wanted to strengthen their backs to reduce backache or to rehabilitate them after injury.
- They were looking for something to help them feel more motivated and purposeful.
If you compare the monks' lifestyle to our own, you will clearly see that our bodies are under-utilized. Most of our daily tasks are repetitive, and we use the same muscles in the same range of motion, day after day. Other muscles become slack and underdeveloped from lack of use. The net result is that we rarely challenge our muscles, resulting in a reduced range of motion and mobility.
A good example of this is when you watch people who can't turn their heads around enough to reverse their cars. This situation is not an inevitable factor of aging; it is a lifetime pattern of not stretching and strengthening your body. For example, how often do you arch your upper back and neck backward? In contrast, how many tasks in your day involve you bending forwards?
As our commonly used muscles get stronger and our under-utilized muscles get weaker, we land up with imbalances in our bodies that, over time, are inevitably going to decrease our strength and flexibility. This makes us more prone to injury.
Knowing this, I decided to take these ancient movements to the very people who help rehabilitate those who have been injured – and ask them for their suggestions on how to avoid future injury.
I consulted with physiotherapists, osteopaths, chiropractors, an occupational health therapist, a breathing expert, Feldenkrais Instructor & Pilates Teacher. They all made suggestions which I tried out in the living laboratory of my classrooms. It was these trial and error ‘experiments’ in my workshops that ultimately evolved the flowing and safer sequence that is now T5T.
Rest assured, the integrity and benefits of this ancient practice remain intact. Before I expand upon the changes, let’s get clear on the purpose of the Rites as described by Colonel Bradford in The Eye of Revelation book.
"The first important thing I was taught after entering the Lamasery,’ he began, “was this: The body has seven centres, which, in English, could be called Vortexes. These are kind of magnetic centres. They revolve at great speed in the healthy body, but when slowed down – well that is just another name for old age, ill-health and senility.
These spinning centres of activity extend beyond the flesh in the healthy individual, but in the old, weak, senile person they hardly reach the surface, except in the knees. The quickest way to regain health, youth, and vitality is to start these magnetic centres spinning again.
There are but five practices that will do this. Any one of them will be helpful, but all five are required to get glowing results. These five exercises are really not exercises at all, in the physical culture sense. The Lamas think of them as ‘Rites’ and so instead of calling them exercises or practices, we too, shall call them ‘Rites.'"
The changes I have made to the original routine do not adversely affect the spin rate of the chakras – the whole purpose of performing the Rites. They do, however, significantly improve the physical aspects of the movements, making them safer for just about everyone to perform. Here are the main differences between T5T and the original Rites.
- Addition of Core Stability: In T5T, you develop strength from the inside out, through the use of core stability methods which have been added to each Rite. The deep postural muscles of the lower abdomen need to be strengthened to wrap around and protect your spine when you move. Most people are completely unaware of these muscles and the major role they play in stabilizing the spine – thereby preventing injury.
- Series of Steps: To build up the strength of the core stability muscles, T5T includes a series of steps that take you from beginner level through to intermediate and advanced. These steps assist the core muscles to develop by building strength progressively. You need strength to hold you in a posture in the correct alignment and control before you start developing flexibility.
- T5T keeps the Neck Long and Strong: In the original Rite No 3 – The Kneeling Backbend, the neck is not kept long (lengthened) and strong. In some people, this can occlude (kink) the vertebral artery, resulting in reduced blood flow to the brain. Some people can become dizzy, or at worst, suffer a temporary loss of consciousness. In T5T, the neck is not collapsed all the way back but kept 'long and strong'.
- T5T Focuses on Correct Alignment: In the original Rite No 3 – The Kneeling Backbend, a man is shown leaning back on the thighs instead of keeping his hipbone above his knee bone in correct postural alignment. This causes pressure on the joints of the knee and hip. In T5T, you are taught to stabilize yourself in a correctly aligned position using core muscles and firmed buttocks. There are other examples of improper alignment in the other Rites that are rectified by T5T.
- Does Not Collapse The Lumbar Spine: In T5T, we focus on the stiffest part of the spine – the thoracic (upper/mid-back) area. This is the area most affected by our forwards bending lifestyle. Dowagers hump is an extreme example of this. The original text shows extensive bending in the lumbar spine. This compresses the lumbar vertebrae and discs and is not suitable for anyone with any potential for injury.
- Prevents Using the Momentum of the Movement: In T5T, the movements are controlled and protected by the use of core stability, and the firming of various muscle groups. In the original Rites, here is a tendency to swing in and out of postures – and is most unsafe during the 5th Rite as you transit from the upside-down V position into the upward dog/plank-like posture. T5T provides solutions to avoid this.
- Addition of Energy Breathing: The original text mentions taking two deep breaths between each Rite, and that’s it. Most people don’t know how to correctly take a deep breath, even if they think they do! T5T includes three special breaths between each Rite, which deepen your breathing, expand your breathing capacity, slow down your breathing rate, and make you more conscious of the way you breathe in all situations. Several clinical studies have shown that how well you breathe literally indicates the length of your lifespan!
- Common Problems, Solutions, and Tips: The original text gives limited information on modifications or adaptations if you are unable to start doing the Rites exactly as described. It also gives very little information on what NOT to do.
- Warm-Ups: When you are learning, it is useful to warm up the muscles you are about to use. This prevents strain and feels great. Whether it is first thing in the morning, after exercising, sitting at work, or unwinding at the end of the day - doing the T5T warm-ups feel terrific before doing the Rites.
T5T is the result of the experience of teaching thousands of students and around forty Instructors through workshops, private tuition, corporate training, books, DVDs, Videos, and Home Study Packages, etc.
If you are interested in finding out how good your breathing is - try these Free Breathing Tests. Michael Grant White, the developer of these tests, was a consultant to T5T's "Energy Breathing Method."
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