The movements known as the Five Tibetan Rites were initially introduced into Western society by a British soldier at the end of the 19th century. He learned them from the Dalai Lama while he was staying at a Tibetan monastery.
Each of the five movements below can be performed from one to 21 times, whenever you feel the need to de-stress and re-energize. Find a quiet place, turn off the phone and put on comfortable clothes that don’t restrict your movement.
After each movement, close your eyes and stand with your feet hip distance apart, hands on hips. Form an “O” with your lips as you slowly inhale and exhale for two breaths.
The story goes that Tibetan Buddhist monks in a remote and isolated monastery in the Himalayas have practiced these five exercises for thousands of years to help them live long and healthy lives.
The five exercises are easy to do and produce an alert feeling in both body and mind. You are advised to start gently, doing only what is easy and comfortable for you, and to build up the number of repetitions of each exercise gradually. The process should normally take 2- 3 weeks in order to accustom the body to these movements.
Performing the five rites with 21 repetitions each will take you from 10 to 20 minutes.
A good time to practice the rites is in the morning, after of before taking a shower. You will find that practicing the five Tibetans in the morning will make you feel more energetic and fresh during the rest of the day. You will also experience greater mental alertness during your daily activities.
I have also found great benefits in performing the five Tibetans another time, before the evening, when most of us come back home. It will leave you feel better for the rest of the day and improve the quality of your sleep.
It is best to do all five exercises one after the other in the order given below. And to practice them every day.
Do the five Rites exercises every day. The maximum you should skip is one day each week. If the exercises are done less than six days each week, the results will be greatly reduced.
If you are not used to exercise or have not been formally introduced to yoga techniques of breathing and relaxation, then your first tip is to start out slowly. Start by performing one to three repetitions of each of the movements one time each day.
Pay attention to what your body is telling you and do not strain or force any position that causes pain that indicates possible injury. A little soreness is perfectly okay but really you should start out slow enough not to have any physical hindrances the following day.
Exercise 1 – Spinning
Stand up, stretch out your arms at shoulder height and start to spin by turning clockwise (to the right). To avoid dizziness, do what dancers and figure skaters do. Before you begin to spin, focus your vision on a single point straight ahead.
As you begin to turn, continue to hold your vision on that point for as long as possible. Eventually, you will have to let it leave your field of vision, so that your head can spin around with the rest of your body.
When this happens, turn your head quickly and refocus on your point as soon as you can. Holding your vision on the fixed reference point helps to stop you becoming disoriented and dizzy.
Exercise 2 – Head and leg raises
Lie flat on your back on a firm surface with your hands by your sides and palms down. Breathing in, raise your legs straight up into the air.
At the same time, lift your head up as if you were going to touch your head to your knees. Keep your legs straight.
If possible, let your legs extend back over your body, towards your head, but do not let your knees bend.
Then, slowly lower both your head and legs (keeping the knees straight) to the floor and breathe out.
Allow all your muscles to relax and rest before repeating the movement.
Exercise 3 – Back Arches
On a carpeted floor, kneel with your body erect and your knees directly under your hips. Bend your head and neck forward, tucking the chin against the chest and place your hands at the back of your thighs below the buttocks.
Curl your toes under and arch your back as you inhale, letting your head drop as far back as is comfortable. Keep your thighs in a vertical position and avoid strain. Return to the original position and breathe out. Rest before repeating the procedure.
Exercise 4 – The table
Sit with your legs straight out in front of you with your feet flexed and your palms flat on the floor by your sides next to your hips, with fingertips pointing toward toes.
Bend your head forward and, as you breathe in, raise your knees and buttocks up in the air making your thighs parallel with the floor and your calves perpendicular to the floor.
Then allow your head to stretch backwards just far enough to make your body, from the shoulders to the knees, parallel to the floor like a table top. Try not to over-arch your back.
Next, tense every muscle in your body. Finally, relax your muscles as you return to the original sitting position and breathe out. Rest before repeating the procedure.
Exercise 5 – Modified cobra
Lie flat on the floor with the palms face down under directly under your shoulders and toes in contact with the floor as if you were about to do push-ups. Raise your head and extend it backwards, arching your upper back as far as is comfortable while keeping the legs straight.
This is known as the Cobra position. Curl your toes under as you push up off the floor with straight arms and your hands directly under your shoulders. Keep your head aligned with your spine and make sure your arms and legs remain straight.
Make sure you keep your shoulders down (don’t let them scrunch up to your ears) and keep your hips lifted off the floor. Inhale and lift your hips while pushing down through the heels inverting your position until your head faces your knees. Again do not bend the knees but keep your legs straight.
Exhaling, release this position and return to the original ‘Cobra’ position.
Then lower the body to the starting position on the floor and rest before repeating the procedure.