Discovering Methods of Increasing Vitality
In 1977 I moved to a high desert spiritual retreat center in Joshua Tree California, called The Institute of Mentalphysics. Started by a former British journalist and geographer named John Edwin Dingle, the center flourished from the 1940s through the 1970s, teaching methods of breathing and meditation that Dingle had learned in Tibet. I was there to teach aspects of natural diet and health care to a dwindled retreat population, and to start an organic garden. The former I did well, the latter poorly. Today Mentalphysics is called Joshua Tree Retreat Center, and the teachings of Mentalphysics have faded into the mists of time. I am one of only a few people teaching those remarkable methods today.
A number of apartments housed long-term residents at the center. One of whom, a 70-year-old named Rochelle from the New York metro area, became a friend. Rochelle was a guru-hopper, someone who had visited most of the popular gurus of the time, and had been initiated by every one of them. I found her funny, irreverent, and sweet. “What secret mantras do you want to know, dear? I know them all,” she told me a few times.
An Introduction to The Five Rites of Rejuvenation
One day I was visiting Rochelle at her apartment when she said, “I have something for you that I think you will like.” She disappeared briefly into another room and returned with a small orange-covered booklet titled The Five Rites of Rejuvenation by Peter Kelder. The booklet was alternately titled The Eye of Revelation. Published in 1975 by Borderland Sciences Research Center, whose vast catalog consisted of offset reprints of unusual books, the work ostensibly dates back to 1939. “Keep it dear. It seems right for you.”
In the booklet, Kelder recounted a tale of a retired British Army officer named Colonel Bradford who traveled to Tibet and learned from some lamas a simple series of five yogic methods that radically reversed his age and appearance. He taught them to Kelder, who eventually wrote the small book, and thus the Five Rites of Rejuvenation were disseminated to many as a miraculous fountain of youth. In the copy I received, each rite was demonstrated by well-drawn anatomical images. Yet subsequent reprints used stick figures instead, and this has caused an enormous amount of incorrect practice. In most books on the topic, at least one method is demonstrated incorrectly.
After receiving the booklet I tried out the practices on occasion. But in 1978, I began daily practice, finishing my morning yoga with The Five Rites. I never liked that name all that much, so I renamed them The Five Tibetans. After practicing them daily for many months, I began to teach them to my yoga classes. To date I have taught The Five Tibetans to thousands of yoga students. And I have practiced the methods at home, in ashrams, on boat docks, in palaces, on beaches, on mountains, in the desert, by the sea, in cold climates and warm ones, in dance studios, in friend’s homes, in native villages, and in countless spots around the globe.
A Life-Changing Moment
We often do not know when a moment will change our life in wholly unexpected ways. When Rochelle handed me Kelder’s booklet, I did not know how strongly The Five Tibetans would take hold of me. I became their ardent advocate, and loved the energy and dynamism they imparted. In 1994, after sixteen years of daily practice I wrote The Five Tibetans, Five Dynamic Exercises for Health, Energy and Personal Power, published by Inner Traditions. It caught on in a surprisingly big way. It is now available in 28 languages and it is one of the best pieces of work I have ever accomplished. I am profoundly grateful that it has become so popular, spreading these methods around the world. I have shared the practices in that book at conferences, in yoga classes, on Fox News, on The Dr OZ Show, and on ABC TV in LA.
Harmonizing Energy with The Five Tibetans
The basic premise of The Five Tibetans as explained by Kelder and Bradford is that they charge and harmonize the chakras, imbuing the body and mind with potent energy. They cause the chakras to come into harmonious alignment, resulting in health, youthful vitality, and stronger awareness of the cosmic forces that enliven us. So the question is, do these methods actually accomplish all of this?
Having practiced The Five Tibetans almost every day since 1978, I have great insight into them, how they work, what they do, and what they do not do. I admit that I cannot fully differentiate the effects of The Five Tibetans alone as I have always concluded a long daily yoga practice with them. But on those rare occasions when I have very little time for a longer session, The Five Tibetans are always part of my routine. The rest of my yoga is beneficial and balancing. But I can tell you that when I start the very first Tibetan, it is like turning on an engine, and that however I feel after an hour-and-a-half or two hours of yoga, when I commence The Five Tibetans, the energy goes up significantly.
My observations have been guided additionally by what happens to students who practice these methods. That The Five Tibetans enhance balance is indisputable. The very first method, which involves dervish-type spinning, is like push-ups for your inner ears. Given that loss of balance is typical and common with advanced age, anything that can greatly enhance balance is certainly an anti-aging method.
Benefits of The Five Tibetans
In total, The Five Tibetans enhance balance, increase physical strength, help keep the spine flexible, strengthen the cardiovascular system, stimulate and promote elasticity of the nerves, help to maintain fluidity of major joints, boost the voltage in every chakra, and promote an overall sense of harmonized energy. I have found them to be wonderful enhancers of mental focus. They are tremendous for the respiratory system, helping to maintain healthy breathing and lung capacity. They promote regular intestinal elimination and make a tremendous prelude to a deep relaxation in savasana. They also make concentration and meditation much easier.
At the same time, I have never known these methods to reverse aging in the ways described in Kelder’s book. They do not turn gray hair black, and they do not return an aged person to a sleek physique of someone decades younger. But they do genuinely help to slow the aging process by enhancing overall vitality and boosting the function of most organ systems.
Who knows, maybe Kelder’s Colonel Bradford did depart for Tibet a gray-haired old man and return black-haired and strikingly youthful. But I doubt it. It is much more likely that he returned filled with youthful dynamism and inspired by his time with lamas in Tibet, and that this made a big impression on those who knew him pre-Tibet. I have never accepted the age-reversing story as told by Kelder at face value.
The Five Tibetans provide extraordinary energy and benefits for about ten minutes of attention per day. They not only make an excellent contribution to a more robust yoga practice, but also make a superb short practice if only ten minutes is what you have to spend. Bruce Lee used to say that certain methods have a tang to them, that particular techniques rise above the rest. That is the case with The Five Tibetans. After making them part of my day for over forty years, I can say that they live up to their reputation in many ways, providing real, potent benefits that improve the overall quality of life. In the realm of yoga, they are jewels.
Chris Kilham is a yogi, medicine hunter, teacher and author of fifteen books. Chris explores natural remedies and mystic traditions in remote regions of the world and has worked and studied with yogis, lamas, shamans, and healers for five decades.