January 19 2021 – Lydia Lassila
When many think people of exercise or fitness, certain images immediately pop into their minds: jogging, hitting the gym, a HIIT class, swimming, etc. They may envision something fast paced with high intensity, designed to help them lose weight or burn as many calories as possible in the shortest amount of time.
Mainstream media tends to focus on exercises or activities that are currently popular or trending, but that doesn’t mean they are the best available. “New and exciting” doesn’t translate to being “better” or providing the best results.
The human body is very intricate and there are many factors involved that keep it running smoothly. For example, the phrase “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” has been around for years, but even the doctor will admit that a person needs to eat more than apples to stay healthy. Apples are high in vitamin C and fiber, but lack other vital nutrients our bodies need like protein, calcium and vitamin d.
This same rational can be used when it comes to exercise and fitness. The benefits of weight training are widely known: it helps increase strength and build muscle, but is not considered the best option for building endurance or aerobic fitness. Other parts of the body need to be stimulated in ways that aren’t the primary goal of weight training. Cycling, on the other hand, is an excellent option for building endurance and aerobic fitness. It strengthens the legs and burns calories, but it does little to strengthen the upper body.
In order for a person to grow, the key is to stay open minded and receptive to new ideas and concepts. It’s also important to understand that many foods and exercises that aren’t part of mainstream culture may be of great benefit to a person’s overall health. One such exercise is The Five Tibetans.
An Oldie But Goodie
As a society, we are conditioned to believe that many of the things we use must be new and up to date, while older items are obsolete and must be promptly discarded. For many people, their cell phones, cars, and computers must be the newest model because last years’ don’t have the latest features. This may be true for some items, but not all. While our televisions are vastly improved compared to twenty years ago, our bodies have remained the same. The basic exercises that our great grandparents did decades ago to stay in shape are still beneficial today, and that includes The Five Tibetans.
The Five Tibetan Rites have been around for more than 2500 years. It is a system of exercises similar to yoga that emphasizes a continuous sequence of movement. It was popularized by Peter Kelder in 1939.
Many claim the benefits of this exercise includes the following:
- Youthful appearance
- Better sleep
- Relief from joint and back pain
- Increased memory
- Weight loss
- Improved vision
- Improved physical strength
- Increased endurance and vigor
- Improved emotional and mental health
Many believe this is accomplished because the Five Tibetans consists of exercises that stimulate the glands of the endocrine system. The endocrine system includes the pituitary gland, thyroid gland, parathyroid glands, adrenal glands, pancreas, ovaries (in females) and testicles (in men). These glands all work together, and their job is to regulate the body’s metabolism, reproduction, growth, sleep, ageing process and overall functioning.The endocrine system affects the majority of organs in the body via hormones.
As we age, hormone levels may get out of balance, and as a result, the body can become susceptible to many diseases including:
- Reproductive issues in women
- Thyroid cancer
The Five Tibetans is designed to keep the hormones in balance, thus keeping the body healthy and disease free. Many also claim this exercise keeps a person young and prevents many age related ailments.
How Does it Work?
The Five Tibetans were created to focus on the seven “chakras,” which are centers in the body where energy flows. Two of them are located at different locations in the brain region of the body. One is found in the throat area and one in the liver. One is also found in the reproductive organs of the body, differing depending on if you are a man or woman. The remaining vortexes are found in each of the knees. These 5 exercises were created to promote a complete and healthy balance between the seven different points of the body.
Many of these regions mirror the endocrine system, so even though this program was created thousands of years ago, it is still useful in modern times.
The Five Tibetans is a sequence of movements that are called “rites” and can be completed in less than twenty minutes. It is suggested a person repeat each rite 21 times and perform the entire sequence one to three times a day. You can of course start slowly and build to 21 repetitions in time.
While doing the rites, it’s important to focus on deep breathing, as it should be in sync with each movement. Breathing should be slow and controlled, with long inhales and slow exhales. The lungs should be totally emptied after each breath. This is important because an estimated 75% of all toxins are removed from the body through deep breathing techniques.
- Stand erect with arms outstretched horizontal to the floor, palms facing down. (Your arms should be in line with your shoulders.)
- Spin around clockwise at a speed that is comfortable for you.
- Complete 21 spins.
- Lie on the floor in child's pose and breathe deeply before you begin the next rite.
Notes: Inhale and exhale deeply as you do the spins. The common method is to spin clockwise. This movement releases negative energy and balances out the emotions.
- Lie flat on the floor on your back, arms extend along your sides, palms on the floor.
- Raise your head off the floor tucking your chin into your chest, simultaneously lifting your legs to a vertical position keeping your knees straight.
- Slowly and simultaneously lower the legs and head to the floor.
- Repeat 21 times.
Notes: Keep the knees straight during the entire rite. Inhale when lifting the legs, exhale as the legs are lowered. This rite strengthens the abdominals and stimulates the energy associated with the pancreas.
- Kneel on the floor, knees under your hips, toes flat. Keep your body erect.
- Place your hands on the back of your legs, slightly below the buttocks.
- Tilt your head forward and tuck your chin into the chest.
- Slowly tilt the head and neck backward, arch the spine and look upward.
- Return to the original position.
- Repeat 21 times.
Notes: Inhale deeply as you arch the spine, and exhale slowly as you return to the start position. This exercise opens the solar plexus, heart and throat. It is believed emotions enter into the body from this area, both positive and negative. This movement releases negative emotions and increases positive energy to the heart area.
- Sit on the floor with your legs extended, body erect and feet about shoulder width apart.
- Keep palms flat on the floor next to you.
- Tuck your chin into your chest
- Tilt your head backward and push up into a tabletop position, keeping the arms straight.
- Slowly tilt the head backwards into a comfortable position, keeping your trunk in a straight line, parallel to the floor.
- Hold for 2 seconds.
- Relax and return to the original sitting position.
- Repeat 21 times.
Notes: Inhale slowly as you raise up, hold your breath as you tense the muscles, exhale completely as you lower to the starting position. This pose increases energy to the sacral area as well as strengthens and tones the legs, glutes and upper body.
- Begin on all fours, toes flexed and palms on the floor as in the tabletop in Rite #4 (Your weight should be evenly distributed.)
- Tuck your toes under so you are on the balls of your feet.
- Lift your glutes toward the sky and move into a downward dog position.
- Then transition with straight arms, through plank and into an upward dog position on the ball of your toes, eyes and head position glancing upwards.
- Repeat up to 21 times.
Notes: Breathe in deeply as the body is raised, exhale fully as body is lowered. This one smooth, continuous motion done at a slow, relaxed pace. Rest in child’s pose in between each movement to rest as needed.
At the end of the 5th rite, lay on your back for 3-5 minutes, allowing your body to relax and feel a sense of calm.
Many fitness trends have come and gone over the years, but The Five Tibetans have withstood the test of time. Whether you’re a seasoned athlete or new to fitness, incorporating these simple, yet effective movements into your daily routine could be the key to living a healthy life.
For a full demonstration of the 5 Tibetan Rites head to: https://youtu.be/K8RMuXIZAtA
We all want to achieve wellness in mind, body and soul. The 5 tibetans is a great sequence to add to your daily routine and will not only strengthen you physically, but it will also help balance your hormones and centre your mind. To support your practice, head to our Cork Yoga Range.