The Five Tibetans plus one

My training to become a massage therapist includes training my own body. We practice and are graded on our own biomechanics when delivering massage. After just a few weeks (and considering there are students who are right out of high school and from very conventional backgrounds), the teachers are beginning to convey that massage therapists transmit their own health and well-being through their hands — the energetic connection.

Just this past week, my class’ primary practical massage teacher, Cindy Anderson, introduced us to the Five Tibetans.

I’ve encountered this series of exercises before, years ago. Cindy says we will be doing them regularly and that past students often thank her for teaching them — and tell of practicing them on mountaintops and other unusual places!

Curious Mind here googled “Five Tibetans” to learn more (especially to learn that they may not always be taught well on videos), and then headed over to Wikipedia to read about them.

Highlights: The Five Tibetan Rites are reputed to be at least 2,500 years old. The origins are unknown. They predate modern yoga (asana). Some of the exercises bear some similarity to certain asanas, so perhaps they influenced yogasana. Who knows?

They are done in order as a vinyasa (flowing sequence) and are said to stimulate the chakras. Many other claims have been made as well — they are a fountain of youth, reversing the aging process, and such. I think you can safely say they build strength, flexibility, and balance, and they will give you more energy.

You start by doing a small number of repetitions — 1, 3, or 7, depending on your comfort and ability level, but no more to start. You add repetitions slowly until you can do 21 of each. Add repetitions so slowly that you do not feel sore the next day. Never do more than 21. (Although apparently some yoga geeks do 108 of each! Make up a rule that works for you, is what I say.)

The Wikipedia description is good, including that you stand erect and take two deep breath cycles between each. Cindy has us exhale through rounded lips with eyes open wide.

There’s a whole blog about them: The Five Tibetans — Expert Advice, Support, and Information. It offers free downloads of the original English description of the exercises, posters of the exercises and warm-ups (should you need them), and a PDF showing 7 undulations to relieve office tension that will be helpful to readers with desk jobs who are concerned about their health.

The blog is connected to a website that offers DVDs showing you how to do the exercises and even Five Tibetans teacher training.

However, if you just want to see them, here’s a pretty good animated description.

If you do them for the first time from reading this blog, and if you don’t already have a regular yoga practice, please please please do each one very slowly and mindfully, tuning into what’s happening in your body, and never go beyond what’s comfortable for you. Be very gentle, especially with your neck and back.  Be mindful and err on the side of caution!

If you are not in shape, please download the warm-up exercises mentioned above and do them first.

Right now, I think of them as an alternative to a morning sun salutation — and that’s just where I’m coming from now. Both sun salutations and the Five Tibetans build strength and flexibility. They work the major muscles and joints of the body. They are fun to do, as well, at least for me. I’ll mix them in with my daily sun salutations, and perhaps later I’ll write a post about what I like about each practice.

The sixth Tibetan rite is a breathing practice. It is not usually taught in the US (our culture tends to frown on celibacy) but is recommended only for those living a monastic or committed celibate life. Wikipedia included a brief description and a link here. You do this exercise only to transfer the energy of the sexual urge up into the spiritual centers of the body.

3 thoughts on “The Five Tibetans plus one

  1. Hi MaryAnn,

    I’m wondering, I am using the Chi Machine at the moment. Will it counteract negatively if I am doing the 5 Tibetan Rites exercise?


    • Hi, Adrian. I had to look up the Chi Machine. I don’t think it will hurt to do both, and I would recommend letting your energy “settle” in between. If you do the Chi Machine and then the Tibetans (or vice versa) without a break in between, it might be overload. Try Chi Machine in the morning and 5 Tibetans in the afternoon or evening. Thanks for posting!


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