The 5 Tibetan Rites
Could this be the most effective, short exercise routine you will ever encounter? We certainly believe so at CoolWellbeing Foundation and have been performing the 5 Tibetan Rites daily for the last five years. They are so much a part of our morning routine, and really energise us even if feeling sluggish. Now we really notice it and do not feel as good if we have to miss out on them (which is very rare) due to travelling or something out of the ordinary.
What is so remarkable about the 5 Tibetan Rites is the way that they exercise and stretch every muscle and articulate every joint with just 5 short exercises as well as energising the vital chakra system of energy centres in the body. In short, they have a rejuvenating effect.
Despite doing stretches and back flexibility exercises for over 15 years before starting the “5 Tibetans,” Tim still used to suffer from recurrent lower back pain due to a rugby injury at school resulting in sciatica and pain down his left leg when back instability occurred. Since doing the 5 Tibetans regularly, this lower back instability has gone and the weakness in his left hip is a thing of the past. We have received many similar positive reports from friends who have become 5 Tibetan devotees!!
As we age, the most important mechanical attributes for our bodies are to retain functional strength and flexibility – performing the 5 Tibetans achieves this in a very short time.
How Long Do They Take?
For everyone who says, “I can’t find the time,” there really is no excuse for not doing the 5 Tibetans. They will take you all of 10 minutes – yes only 10 minutes!! Initially it will take even less time while you build up to the maximum number of 21 repetitions of each exercise.
Start by repeating each movement four or five times and stick to that for one week before increasing by what feels right for you depending on your fitness level – you might want to add 2 more repetitions or feel comfortable increasing by 5 or more. Whatever you decide, make sure it is right for you and your fitness level. It is not a race to get to 21 – take your time and concentrate on your form and how well you are performing each of the Rites.
How to Perform the 5 Tibetan Rites
The short video above shows the correct form for each exercise. If unsure of the details of any exercise, just replay and pause it as needed. Below is a short description of each exercise together with key points to look out for when performing them.
Rite 1 – Spinning
Spin clockwise with arms outstretched at a speed that is comfortable for you. You may feel dizzy from this so take it easy and only increase the reps when it feels right for you. It is OK to increase the reps for the other exercises at a different rate to the spinning. Many people will find this difficult and will get dizzy. This certainly happened to us but we persevered and it was not too long before we were able to do 21 without feeling too dizzy. Now we are able to spin as fast as possible and come to a complete stop after 21 reps without feeling any dizziness.
Between each Rite take 2 deep, slow diaphragmatic breaths. Standing straight, feet hip width apart with hands on hips to open the chest, inhale through the nose as your belly expands as you fill your diaphragm from the bottom to the top. Exhale through your mouth as you expel all the air from your lungs pulling your belly button towards your spine. Try to make these breaths as slow as you can. The breathing is a very important part of energising the body during the rites. Tip: To get the feel for this breathing start with your hands on your belly and feel your hands being pushed out on the inhale and feel them moving towards your spine on the exhale.
While performing the rites other than spinning, inhale through the nose when moving into the posture and exhale through the mouth when coming out of the posture.
Rite 2 – Leg Raises
Lie on your back, ankles together, feet pointing to the ceiling, palms faced down beside your thighs and head on the floor. Breathing in through the nose, raise both legs to vertical keeping the knees as straight as possible with feet at right angles to your legs. At the same time, raise just your head off the floor and try to bring your chin as far as it will go towards your chest BUT try to keep your shoulders on the ground. Your arms and shoulders should not be involved in this Rite. Exhale through the mouth as you lower your legs and your head back to the starting position. When you have finished the rite, stand up and take 2 deep belly breaths – make them as slow as you can.
Rite 3 – Back Bends
Kneel with knees hip width apart, toes curled behind you, hands on your thighs below your buttocks and chin tucked to chest. Start with your torso vertical and, inhaling, bend as far back as is comfortable while dropping your head back and supporting yourself with your hands on your thighs below your buttocks. You should feel a good stretch in your hips and in your lower back but only do what feels right for you. The more you do this the further you will be able to bend. Exhale through the mouth as you return your torso to the vertical position when you come out of the bend and do not bend forward at the hips as you drop your chin to your chest. When you have finished the rite, stand up and take 2 deep, slow belly breaths.
Rite 4 – Table
Sit on the floor, legs straight out, feet hip width apart, palms faced down beside your hips and chin tucked on your chest. Inhale as you pivot on your heels placing your soles on the floor as you push your hips towards the ceiling and drop you head back. It sounds more complicated than it really is but it does require concentration to do it correctly. Ideally you will end up with your torso parallel to the floor like a table top with your arms and legs at right angles forming the “legs” to the table. Work towards achieving this and only do what feels right for you. This will help to build core, arm and thigh strength as well as increasing flexibility. When you have finished the rite, stand up and take 2 deep, slow belly breaths.
Rite 5 – Up-dog & down-dog
With feet and hands slightly wider than hip width apart, position yourself in an inverted V shape and tuck the chin to the chest. This is the start position. Inhale in this position.
As you exhale raise your head up and stretch it back as you lower your hips towards the floor and support your torso weight on your arms which should be vertical. The only points of contact with the floor should be the feet and hands. Please watch the video and the movement will become clear. As you progress with your flexibility, try to flatten the soles of your feet on the floor when you return to the start position. This will give you a really good hamstring stretch, help to prevent injuries to this large muscle and increase forward bending flexibility.
5 Final Deep Breaths
When you have finished the last rite, stand up and this time take 5 deep belly breaths. Really try to slow down your inhalation and completely fill your lungs before starting to exhale slowly every last bit of air as you suck you belly button towards your spine.
Congratulations, you have just learned about the 5 Tibetan Rites – the most effective, short exercise routine that energises the entire body – now put it to good practise and see the difference in how you feel!
The team at CoolWellbeing Foundation