Yoga Your Way Young
What if the Fountain of Youth isn’t a miracle face cream or a new-wave plastic surgery procedure, but a five-step yoga routine developed 2,500 years ago?
The Five Tibetan Rites—a series of simple exercises immortalized by Peter Kelder in 1939—promise “vigor and virility” by energizing and aligning our seven “psychic vortexes.” What on earth does that mean? Essentially, when a bunch of Tibetan monks developed their ideal yoga routine a few centuries ago, they realized that one particular five-exercise sequence made them feel most fit and youthful, according to Kelder’s book, The Eye of Revelation, which also claims that the rites transformed a gray-haired, cane-carrying friend into a straight-backed lad with nary a silver strand.While your average rite-performer can’t expect such Benjamin Button-style results, Equinox yogi Stephanie Culen says the thoughtful asana can indeed have an anti-aging effect. “With their back bends, the exercises stretch the spine,” Culen says. “And yoga philosophy says that when the spine is supple and flexible, the whole body is more youthful.” But that doesn’t mean that a few well-intentioned stretching sessions will take years off your life. “The monks did them three times a day for years and years,” Culen says. “Only with consistency, practice and time will you see benefits: healing, rejuvenation and increased energy.” Herewith, Culen walks us through the five rites.
The exercise: Stand with arms outstretched, horizontal with the shoulders. Spin, turning from left to right, until you become slighty dizzy or reach 21 spins. (All the rites are ideally performed 21 times.)
The benefit: “This is to stimulate spine and open the core. You’re getting movement through the spine, from the top down and the bottom up.”
The exercise: Lie flat with your hands flat on the ground by your hips. Raise your legs to 90 degrees or further, keeping the legs straight. Hold this position for a moment, then lower the feet to the floor. Relax and repeat.
The benefit: “This one aligns the chakras, getting strength into your spine and core—and stimulating the legs.”
The exercise: Kneel with arms slightly bent, and palms flat against the side of your legs. Bend at the waist and lean forward as far as possible with your chin on your chest. Then arch your spine as far back as possible, letting your head drop. Keep your hands by your sides. Revert to the erect kneeling position, relax and repeat.
The benefit: “Here, you’re beginning to open the chakras and therefore awaken the body. The baby forward bend stretches the back, and the reversal opens the front: chest, stomach, quads.”
The exercise: Sit with perfectly straight legs stretched out in front of you. Place the hands on the ground, and the chin on the chest, and raise the body while bending the knees so that calves are vertical to the ground. Make the chest and legs horizontal, tensing every muscle in the body, and let the head hang back as far as possible. Lower, relax and repeat.
The benefit: "Tabletop opens the front side of the body—the legs, hips, chest, shoulders and arms—and energetically opens all the chakras."
Downward and Upward Dogs
The exercise: From standing, place the palms on the floor a few feet in front of you. Push the body—particularly the hips—up and back as far as possible, rising on the toes and hands. Bring your chin to your chest. Then lower the chest to the floor and arch the back, drawing the head back toward the ceiling and letting it hang as far back as possible.
The benefit: “Again, you’re opening the front and back. In Tibetan Buddhism, there’s a focus on ‘reversing the wind,’ or performing both an action and its inverse."
Photography by Tyler Heckman