by Alan Davidson
“Men are born soft and supple…
Plants are born tender and pliant…
Whoever is soft and yielding is a disciple of life.”
Verse 76, Tao Te Ching (Mitchell)
PETALUMA, California, March 1994—That very first morning at the Lomi School we sat in meditation for an hour. The technique was simple. Turn your attention to your body: to the actual sensations of sitting on the mats, your clothing against your skin, your breath moving in and out of your chest. Your body always happens in the now, in the present moment. When you notice yourself thinking gently bring your attention back to any sensation in your body. Damn! That’s simple. I’ve been studying meditations for 10 years and no one had explained sitting meditation so simply.
But simple doesn’t always mean easy. For the next hour my uncomfortable body and my restless mind joined forces. I continually reeled my wandering mind back to the sensations of my body–which by then hurt. Sitting on the floor tortured my lazy and out-of-shape body. I ached for the ringing bell to signal the end of the meditation. With very slow movements I stretched my body. That eased the pain. My mind began to focus on my breath and I finally relaxed. Yet I was grateful to hear that bell ring.
Next was stretching. Robert Hall introduced us to The Five Tibetans, which are a series of yoga postures done very quickly. They build strength and flexibility as they move energy throughout the body. “They are the most effective and work the fastest,” Robert said. Woven through The Five Tibetans were other Hatha yoga stretches. Robert was 60 years old and amazingly flexible–zipping through the Tibetans with zeal. He cautioned us to “respect the limits of our own bodies and not to overdo it. You’ll regret it tomorrow.”
I continually paused to rest as the class moved through the yoga movements. “Shoulder Stand,” Roberts called out. I watched helplessly as every one else in the room gracefully rolled up on their shoulders, feet pointing to the ceiling. I couldn’t begin to do it. “The Plough,” I hear next. Twenty-two sets of feet dropped slowly over their heads toward the floor. I studied the room half embarrassed and half in awe. I knew I wasn’t in Texas anymore.
The Five Tibetans
“Every man desires to live long,
But no man would be old.”
Tibetan Monastary on the high plains of the Himalayas
The origins of The Five Tibetans are shrouded in romance and legend. As the story goes, a British Army colonel learned these exercises from Tibetan monks in an isolated Himalayan monastery. The monks were reported to have found the secrets to a “fountain of youth.” The colonel searched for years to find this reclusive sect of monks, and when he did reach the monastery, protected by the high mountains and the rough terrain, he was amazed at the health, vitality and age of the monks. They assured him that the only secrets to their long life were the five yoga exercises, a simple diet and religious observances. Returning to Britain, the colonel taught the exercises to Peter Kelder, who published a book entitled Ancient Secret of the Fountain of Youth in 1939. Kelder originally called the exercises “the five rites of rejuvenation.” Today they are simply known around the world as “the five Tibetans.”
The benefits reported by those who practice the Tibetans are increased vitality, flexibility and mental clarity. There are also many fantastical claims to the benefits of these simple exercises. Testimonials included in the introduction to Kelder’s book cite the “curing hair loss, memory failure, wrinkles, insomnia, excema, obesity, arthritis, sinus, pain and fatigue.” Many of these claims are not conclusively documented (or approved by the FDA), but the exercises take a mere ten to twenty minutes a day to do. Their great benefits, comparing the small investment of time and effort, are well worth it.
The Five Tibetan exercises work on ALL levels of consciousness.
The Tibetans work on all the primary levels of consciousness. They strengthen the muscles as well as increase flexibility. They enhance breathing and clear the mind. A daily practice requires sheer will. And they’re reportedly excellent at moving subtle energy through the body.
Three distinct examples of the way different parts of the world look at the subtle anatomy include the Hindu belief in the seven chakras; the acupuncture meridian system from the Chinese; and the halo effect that’s called the auric field, which is from the Western understanding of energy. What all of these examples have in common is the spark of divine energy that animates all that is physical about us. This is the level of the soul. It is the level of the spirit. In Eastern theories of medicine, when the subtle energy channels are open and flowing fully, we radiate health.
The seven chakras, detailed in the yoga texts, are lined up in front of the spine, with the first being found at the tip of the tailbone and the seventh at the top of the skull. According to Indian belief the chakras correspond to the major nerves, glands and tissues through out the body. Each Chakra, which means “wheel” or “wheel of spinning light” in Sanskrit, spins on an axis. Increasing the spin of a chakra increases the amount of energy that flows to the associated nerves, glands and organs connected to the chakra. The slower the rate of spin, the less the energy flow to the same tissues. With a decreased energy flow the passageways become stagnant or blocked. When the energy is blocked the related organs and glands lose their vitality, causing illness and aging. The Five Tibetans appear to be incredibly successful at increasing the spin of the chakras and the amount of energy that flows through them, the subtlest layer of consciousness.
To prepare for the Five Tibetan exercises:
· wear loose clothing.
· Choose a room with fresh air or work outdoors,
· Use a pad of some sort for comfort,
· Consult with a medical doctor or teacher if you are pregnant or have a chronic injury that is painful doing any exercise.
Each of the Five Tibetans are vigorous exercises. They are done quite fast, unlike many of the hatha yoga movements they resemble, and are repeated 21 times, thus becoming an aerobic yoga. Beginners, to start with, are asked to do seven repetitions (reps) of each exercise. When the student grows stronger, the exercises increase to 14 reps each. Finally increase each exercise to the full 21 repetitions. Twenty-one reps is the recommended total amount for each exercise and doing more reps does not seem to increase the benefits of the daily practice.
Synchronizing the breath with the physical movements is the key and the power to theses exercises. It is the breath that oxygenates the blood and tissues and clears the mind. I focus on my breathing, allowing the inhale and the exhale of my breath to lead the movements. The effects are quite noticeable.
There is some conflicting advice on how to spin in the first Tibetan. In Kelder’s original text he recommends spinning clockwise like the Sufi whirling dervishes. However, the Sufi dervishes spin counter-clockwise and that feels natural to me. So that’s how I am explaining the exercise here.
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Alan Davidson is the founder of ThroughYourBody.com and the author Body Brilliance: Mastering Your Five Vital Intelligences, the #1 bestselling Health & Welness book and winner of two National Book-of-the-Year awards.
Alan is also the author of the Free report “Body Breakthroughs for Life Breakthroughs: How to Peak Your Physical, Emotional, Mental, Moral, and Spiritual IQs for a Sensational Life” available at www.throughyourbody.com
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