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The Five Tibetans — rites of rejuvenation

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by Frederic Patenaude

I was talking to a good friend of mine the other day. He asked how I was doing, how was my health, and everything. I said, “really great, actually. I started to practice the five Tibetans again and it’s making me feel really energetic.” (Long silence.) “Yeah, the five Tibetans are great!” (Uncomfortable silence.) “What, you’ve never heard of the five Tibetans?” He says no, he’s never heard of that. The Tibetan? “The five Tibetan rites of rejuvenation. The five ‘Tibetans.’”

I then went on to explain that the five “Tibetans” is a series of simple, yoga like exercises that are supposed to give you tons of energy and make you look 10 years younger. The book that made the Tibetans really popular is “The Ancient Secrets of the Fountain of youth,” by Peter Kedler. It is still available, still sells like mad, and has been translated into many foreign languages. But still, some people haven’t heard of the Tibetans.

I first read about it in Joe Alexander’s book Blatant Raw Foodist Propaganda, where the exercises are clearly explained accompanied with Joe’s drawings. I felt inspired after reading that chapter, and started practicing the exercises. I was surprised to find that what Joe had described in his book was true: the Tibetans give you more energy and make you feel great!

A few months later, I started practicing Ashtanga Yoga and gave up the Tibetan routine, because I thought Ashtanga Yoga was superior. The whole Ashtanga routines takes about one hour to complete, and demands quite a lot, physically and mentally (to motivate yourself everyday). After a few months of practice, I got sick of waking up early in the morning to suffer alone in my living room, so I gave up yoga. One or two hours of Ashtanga Yoga is quite a leap from the 10-15 minutes the Tibetan rites take to complete.

Recently, I received a load of books in German from one of our staff writers, Barbara Simonsohn. Even with my basic German, I understood one thing: I had to start doing the Tibetans again. Barbara says she “swears” by it, and mentions the exercises in every book she wrote. She inspired me to get back on it again!

The Tibetans are so easy it’s a joke. They are a series of five exercises that take about 10-15 minutes to complete, that everyone can learn in a few minutes, and can be done anywhere where there’s enough space to lie down. Yet, I got more benefits out of it than I got from my painful one hour daily routine of Ashtanga Yoga.
Each exercise is done 21 times, and you don’t have to hold the position like you do in hatha yoga. You combine deep breathing with the movements. The first exercise is not even an “exercise” as it only involves turning around like an idiot. In the second “rite” you lay down, raise your leg in the air, keeping your chin on your chest. The third rite is a back stretching exercise. The fourth one is doing the “bridge,” and the fifth one is a regular, bending, typical yoga exercise.

The Fountain of Youth?

In his book, “The Five Tibetans,” Christopher S. Kilham (who has written several book on yoga) writes: “After practicing the Five Tibetans for two years, I was convinced that, at the very least, they were extraordinary. Despite the fact that they represented only minutes in a daily yoga regimen that was several hours long, I felt invigorated by practicing them. (...) At the very least, they do in fact greatly increase strength, energy, and mental alertness. They open up the body/mind energy system and seem to balance energy in a way that I have not experienced with any other individual yoga method or set of yoga practices.”

In the beginning of the book, “The Ancient Secrets of the Fountain of Youth,” by Peter Kedler, we can read a series of testimonials where people report: more energy, increase in strength and endurance, gray hair turning back to its original color, vision improvement, athritis relief, better memory, younger look, weight loss, and more extraordinary rejuvenation. People claim to “look ten years younger,” and to have “never felt better.”

One M.D. writes: “My sexual desires and my abilities have all returned to normal. I cannot explain this medically or scientifically, yet I know that what has happened to me is absolutely true.” One person claims that after six months of doing the exercises, “the gray hair at the back of my head began to turn back to its original dark brown.” Another person says: “Since doing the rites, I’m always alert and full of energy.” A man from California writes: “Everything this book claims is true. I haven’t been sick for one and half years — not even a cold!” All these extraordinary testimonials of rejuvenation and many others can be found at the beginning of Kedler’s book.

Whether the five Tibetans are indeed the “secrets of the fountain of youth” remains to be seen. There might be some exaggeration in these testimonials. However, every person that I have talked to who has done the rites has had great results, and most are really excited about them. People usually report increased energy and mental alertness. The most radical testimonials of rejuvenation from doing the rites, as most of the ones found in Kedler’s book, come from older folks, some past their 80th birthday, who report feeling decades younger, while getting rid of health problems that had been plaguing them for years. But even younger people (like me!), can get a lot of benefits from doing the rites.

The Colonel’s Tale and the chakras

One afternoon, Peter Kedler was sitting in a park, reading his newspaper, and engaging conversation with an old man, a retired British Army officer, whom he calls Colonel Bradford, though he admits that it is not his real name. It seems that during his travels to India, some years ago, Colonel Bradford had heard the interesting stories of a group of lamas who had discovered the secret of eternal youth. The lamas lived in monasteries, where the secret had been kept due to their remote location. Colonel Bradford, who had, like many other men, grown old at the age of forty (and was not getting younger since), told Kedler that he intended to go to India and look for this monastery. He asked Kedler to come along, but Kedler refused, wondering shortly after if this was the right decision.

Many years later, Kedler received a letter from Colonel Bradford. The very exciting news were that not only had the Colonel found the fountain of youth, but that he was bringing it back to the USA, two months later. This was about four years after Kedler had last seen the Colonel. When he finally arrived, Kedler could not recognize him. His gray hair had mostly disappeared and he looked decades younger. The Colonel then went on to tell his story.

After many months of wanderings in northern India, the Colonel headed for Tibet. After a long and perilous expedition in the Himalayas, which followed a thorough investigation to find the location of the monastery, the Colonel finally arrived to the land of eternal youth. There, he found a group of lamas, composed of men and women, who didn’t seem to age the same way that Westerners do. They constantly kept their strength and vitality. The secrets to this “fountain of youth” was apparently a set of simple exercises that they performed everyday, along with a frugal existence away from the worries of the modern world. But the most important thing was their understanding of the “chakras”

The lamas explained to Colonel Bradford that the chakras, also called vortexes, are powerful energy centers, that govern the endocrine system of the body, which, in turn, regulates the process of aging. There are 7 vortexes or chakras, and anyone that has studied yoga is familiar with them. In a healthy person, the chakras are “spinning” at a normal speed, permitting the prana, or vital life energy, to flow through the body. What happens is that at some point, one or more of these chakras slows down, and then the flow of prana is inhibited, and that’s when aging starts. So the key to eternal, or at least greatly prolonged youth, is to keep the chakras spinning full spine, and one of the ways to do this is to practice the five Tibetans everyday.

He wrote: “The only difference between youth and vigor, and old age and poor health is simply the rate of speed at which the vortexes are spinning. Normalize the rate of speed, and the old person becomes like new again.”

Putting the rites into practice

I do not know if these rites originate from Tibet, or anywhere else. As far as I can tell, Kedler might have just made up this whole story about the lamas and the Colonel Bradford... but I don’t care, it works! I don’t know if it has to do with the chakras, but I know, like everyone else who has practiced this series of exercise, that the stuff works. The only thing required for them to work is: (1) to practice them everyday, (2) to perform 21 repetitions for each exercise. But before we get into the rites themselves, there are a few things we can discuss that will be of interest to you.

Colonel Bradford, who later went on to start the “Himalaya Club,” where he would teach the rites to others, mainly dealt with old and sick people. Therefore, he recommended a certain progression when starting the five Tibetans. He suggested practicing each rite three times a day for the first week. Then, with every following week, to increase the repetition by two, until, after 10 weeks, you are performing 21 repetitions for every rite. However, like I said, he was dealing with fairly old and sick folks. Most people can start right away with 7 repetitions, and increase with 7 repetitions by the second week, so you are already performing the full set of 21 repetitions after the second week. You could even start right away with 21 repetitions. That is what I have done. If you find the rites difficult to perform at first, find a progression that works for you. The goal is to perform 21 repetitions for every rites, and do the series once or twice a day. One thing that is important to remember is that the rites work in conjunction with each other. So it is important to do all of them. 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.

You will have better results if you practice the rites slowly without rushing, and if you breath deeply in-between the rites. It is also critically important to combine breathing with the movement, as I explain in the description of the exercises. There is no point in doing the rites as fast as possible. However, if you don’t have much time, you could do fewer repetitions. Also, most people have found that doing more than 21 repetitions is not useful. 21 seems to be the magic number when doing the rites.

As Barbara Simonsohn suggests in her book (“Die Fünf Tibeter mit Kindern”), it is useful to practice the exercises at the same time everyday, for example in the morning after a shower, before breakfast, or before the evening meal. This way we get used to the routine and we implement a new rhythm in our lives. In is also better to practice the exercises on a empty stomach. We can also practice the rites at the same place everyday, for example in the living room.

Peter Kedler, The Ancient Secrets of the Fountain of Youth, Doubleday, 1989
Christopher S. Kilham, The Five Tibetans, Healing Arts Press, 1994
Barbara Simonsohn, Die Fünf Tibeter mit Kindern, Volkar-Magnum, 1995
Joe Alexander, Blatant Raw-foodist Propaganda, Blue Daulphin, 1990

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