The Five Rites of Rejuvenation


These next few posts are for the purpose of giving you, the reader, an insight into a combination of practises that have made quite a profound impact in their application. Now, by looking at the title it is obvious what the first of these three are. The five Tibetan rites, as they are commonly called, are to me an excellent tool to begin playing with energy, as their practise accelerates the spinning of ones chakra system and therefore the auric field, acting as a great catalyst for the breathwork to follow. The following  breathwork, which shall be discussed in later parts, are the six healing sounds leading into anapana meditation. The form of the six healing sounds practised is quite different from that popularised by Mantak Chia but rather is a version of the sounds as taught by the late Nan, Huai Chin. This version, believed to be the original, is a preparation for meditation intended to release tension so that the mind may be unhindered by discomfort arising from the body, having it's roots in the tantric systems of the Himalayas.

For the reader who has not heard of the Five Tibetan Rites, let me give a brief introduction. Peter Kelder (a pseudonym) wrote a book in 1939 called The Eye of Revelation in which he proceeds to tell the story of a so called Colonel Bradford (another pseudonym) who journeyed to India and to the Himalayas in search of the fountain of youth. The Colonel is said to have found a hidden Shangri-la type lamasery where everybody looked much younger than their age. Eventually he was taught five yoga-like exercises that helped his old body to feel young again (he was also taught a sixth exercise that involved seminal retention for which he claimed to make him look young again). Currently there are no known systems of Tibetan yoga from where these five rites seem to originate. Not many people who practise the five rites actually believe the story espoused by Kelder, but many still swear by the profound effect that performing these daily has had on their lives. While the origin of the five rites cannot be verified, their efficacy can, and I would think that the question that most would ask, especially those who have felt the benefits of the practise, is why?

(This is intended for those already familiar with the rites. For a pdf version of The Eye of Revelation click here.)

So we stand upright, feet together, arms outstretched to the sides with palms down. Then we proceed to spin clockwise (from top down). This is perhaps the most mysterious of all the five rites because this spinning motion is not seen in any other yogic systems commonly known. In Kelders books it is stated that various vortices of the body (that bear a resemblance, but differ in location to the typical chakras of Indian yoga) are made to spin faster and to synchronise, and that this leads to more youthful virility. But why clockwise?

Many theories about this exist, to read about them click here. However I would like to observe what is happening on a grander scale. All the planets of the solar system rotate around the Sun in an anticlockwise direction, assuming that north represents the head (it is encouraged in many esoteric systems to sleep with head aligned to the north). So we may deduce that Rite 1 does not follow the rotational movement of planets. Relatively speaking, the Sun moves clockwise in relation to the Earth as viewed from the northern hemisphere. The ancients observed this and also the lunar anti-clockwise rotation and saw these as complimentary oppositional forces. Clockwise rotation represents centripetal force that gathers energy, while anti-clockwise rotation represents centrifugal force that disperses energy. If all the planets of the solar system do move by the power of centrifugal force in an anti-clockwise motion then by the laws of physics there must be an equally opposing force, a reaction to cause the action and that is represented to us by the apparent Path of The Sun.

In Indian yogic systems the two channels of Ida and Pingala that spiral from the root chakra to the nostrils represent the lunar and solar (feminine and masculine) channels of energy respectively. The Ida spirals anti-clockwise to the left nostril and is associated with the flow of apana, which is the downward moving eliminatory energy of the body, while the Pingala spirals clockwise to the right nostril and is associated with the prana or life force. So from this we can see that the first of the five rites is stimulating to the pranic flow of the whole body, by orienting the brain's balance centres from left to right. We must bear in mind that the Ida and Pingala currents must be kept in balance however, and that seems to be the reason why instructions are given not to overdo the first rite, and to also only build the number of repetitions of this spinning exercise gradually, starting from around three repetitions of each rite and adding two per week. With the spinning exercise in particular it may take longer for the practitioner to adjust so one should use judgement according to one's own personal needs.

rite2The remaining four rites will seem a lot more familiar to a practitioner of yoga, especially to practitioners of the more dynamic rather than static types. The purpose of rites two through to five seem to be that of pumping the cerebrospinal fluid in various ways around the body and in particular to the various energy vortices or chakras. This vital essence is called ojas in Sanskrit, and is analogous to the sexual essences from which the yogi is to transmute the nectar of immortality.  In rite no. 2 the subject lies on one's back, hands at sides palm down with elbows slightly pointed outward so that the fingertips point diagonally inward. Paying attention to the natural curvature of the spine, one begins to curl both head and straight legs together off the floor and take the legs as far over as one can. From here return to the starting position, always carefully paying attention to the spine, especially the lower back. In The Eye of Revelation it is explained that this rite further speeds up the action of all the vortices.

rite3Rite no.3 seems to focus primarily on the connection between the throat vortex and the vortex of the sexual centre. It is performed kneeling upright, with hands at sides and involves rocking the head forward and then back as far as one can go. While rite no.1 was a spinning exercise that accelerated the spinning of the vortices of the brain, rite no.2 integrates this acceleration by pumping the vital essences from head to toe, and rite no.3 focuses specifically on the thyroidal - gonadal connection so that this accelerated energy can now be integrated into the endocrine system.

rite4Rite no.4 can be difficult for the beginner to perform but be assured that even attempting a few partial repetitions of this movement daily will culminate in the ability to perform it perfectly, much to one's surprise. This is typically known as the table pose in Indian styles of yoga, although it is worthy to note that in the five rites we do not hold static poses as one would in hatha yoga. Sitting up with feet outstretched in front of you, about hip to shoulder width apart, place your hands on the ground beside your hips palms down with fingers pointing forward. Tucking your chin into the base of your throat, begin to take some of the weight of your body onto your palms by pushing them harder into the floor. Then proceed to thrust the hips upward until your thighs and spine are aligned and parallel to the floor, and as you do so, disengage the gaze from one's navel and allow the head to rock back. Return to start position. On a purely physical level this exercise works wonders for strengthening and aligning the posterior chain, a kinetic chain of muscles that runs all the way up the back of the body, however in the five rites its purpose is much more profound than that.  As rite no.3 worked primarily on the thyroidal - gonadal connection, this energetic connection is extended to the vortices of the knees so that a deeper change or transformation may occur.

rite5Lastly we come to rite no.5. Now by simply looking at the picture, a lot of people assume it is exactly the same as the upward and downward facing dog postures as found in surya namaskar (salutation to the sun), however a few key differences need to be addressed. Firstly it must be pointed out that in the starting posture one is not pushing heels back toward the ground. Do not get me wrong, downward dog is an excellent stretch for the calves, but we're not stretching our calves here, we're doing the five rites. As you can see from the illustration the feet are raised onto the balls of the feet. So begin on hands and knees, with hands and feet shoulder width apart, walk the hands forward so that they are not directly below your shoulders but forward to the level below your head. Raise your butt in the air and align arms with spine and straighten legs as though you are performing downward dog, however stay on the balls of your feet. Now the next move is also unlike the sequence of surya namaskar in that there is no bending of the arms, simply move at the hips and shoulders into an upward facing dog pose but keep the knees off the floor if possible. This rite integrates all the previous rites and in a way it mirrors rite no.2 so its purpose is similar in that it pumps the accelerated energy through all the vortices from head to toe however in a  complimentary opposite pattern.

Most people after practising the five rites report sensations through the body as a result of performing them in the prescribed order. Many benefits of their consistent practise have been reported such as increased energy levels, enhanced libido, better health, overall sense of well-being, etc. It is not important for everyone to increase repetitions by two every week until one reaches 21 of each rite as prescribed in the book. This could be potentially disorienting for some people, and some may need to progress slower, especially with the first rite. Also it may be useful to perform some Zhan Zhuang (standing meditation) after performing the five rites as this would help to still and integrate the energy aroused (I have written an article about zhan zhuang here). Of course it was mentioned earlier that I, the author, personally utilise the five rites as a catalyst for two practises that follow, namely the six healing sounds as taught by Huai Chin Nan as a prelude to meditation. And that shall be the topic of the next part in this series. Hope you have found this useful and will read the next parts to come.

Bye for now. 

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