The 5 Tibetan Rites: the Best Morning Exercise Routine [9 Videos]

Doing the 5 Tibetan Morning Routine at all and then on a regular basis did not come to me easily, I must admit.

But the 5 Tibetan Rites form the best morning exercise routine that I know of, better than Yogic Sun Salutations in my opinion.

I have to thank my girlfriend Lyne for her persistence and encouragements, so that I can tell you about this wonderful way of becoming more alert in the morning and throughout the day. 

Perhaps you have already heard about it and have your own experience with it. In any event, Iā€™d be very happy to hear from you about how it is working for you, if you want to leave a comment below. 

We have been doing the routine together nearly every day for at least the past 6 months. 

For the year before that, she had used it on and off, demonstrated it many times, spoken well of it, encouraged me and then cajoled me to try it, and she kept bringing it back to the foreground when it had gone off track.

Thus it was not easy, but the benefits have shown up through the persistence and regularity. 

Eventually, we are planning to have Lyne’s picture-perfect and official-traditional version of the 5 Tibetans, but for now, please accept my excuses for providing my imperfect version of the exercises.

What are the 5 Tibetan rites?

There are many websites that explain them in detail, in several languages too. You are welcome to look at the many good resources available. 

Being a scientist, I am quite agnostic and I am mostly bemused by claims that the 5 Tibetan rites are nothing short of miraculous.

I’m definitely not the person to tell you about the mythology behind these exercises, nor to tell you that there is one and only one specific way to get them done.

I am taking a very practical approach, like a gym trainer.

In brief, they are a set of 5 exercises, each repeated 21 times.

Some pictures and demos can help, but they are not necessary as the exercises are very simple to explain in words and to visualize.Stand with arms extended to your side, and turn clockwise like a Dervish whirler 21 times at a brisk speed.

First Tibetan Exercise

1. Stand with arms extended to your side, and turn clockwise like a Dervish whirler 21 times at a brisk speed.

You’ll definitely feel quite dizzy the first time, but less and less so with regular practice.

This will energize you, and so will the next exercises.


Note that I struggle to keep my balance and to keep turning on the same spot.

Doing this exercise perfectly is harder to do than it sounds!

Second Tibetan Exercise

2. Lay down on a mat, then do 21 leg raises with control.

This will work out your abs and lower back!

Third Tibetan Exercise

3. Sit on your knees, then do 21 back bends, again with control.

This will stretch all of your back, and the front of the legs will do some work too.

Fourth Tibetan Exercise

4. Sit on the mat with your legs together in front of you, then do 21 table raises, i.e. push your trunk upwards with your abs so that your arms and legs form the 4 legs of a table.

This will require some suppleness in the shoulders, legs and back, and work the muscles there too.

Fifth Tibetan Exercise

5. Starting in the downward dog position in yoga, alternate 21 times between upward dog and downward dog.

This exercise will also work the legs, back and shoulder muscles as exercise 4, but in a different way.

In a nutshell, downward dog is the position where your hands and feet are on the ground, with straight legs and arms and your butt is up.

With upward dog, your hands and feet are still in the same positions and you still have straight legs and arms, but you are now lying down very near the floor without touching it, and raising your trunk with your arms

Finishing Up the Tibetan Exercises

After completing the exercises, an essential part is to do a meditation where you express gratitude and compassion towards life and everything that matters to you.

This doesn’t need to take more than a few minutes, but is a very important transition between finishing the exercises and starting the rest of your day. 

What are the benefits?

With less than 10 minutes to do the exercises and 5 for the meditation on gratefulness, you’ve had a great start of your day in less than 15 minutes, which will bring you the following benefits, after you have been able to do them regularly for some period of time, like a few weeks:

  • More strength and flexibility in your body with better alertness and clarity in your mind throughout the day, and especially in the morning
  • From this, you will have more resilience against illnesses and injuries, and against situations causing stress and anxiety

Many more benefits are proposed on other websites, but I feel these benefits above are enough of themselves, and they’re the ones that I’m experiencing and thus can directly speak for.

Adjustments for beginners

Unless you are already very fit, I don’t recommend you do the exercises as above on your first try. 

Instead you could try 7 repetitions of each. Or even just 3, to get a feel for it. Then build the numbers up over the following days.

Don’t overstretch: be careful about bending your back or neck backwards.

A lot of the benefits reside in the regularity, in doing a morning routine (almost) every day a few minutes after getting up.

You will start to see improvements after the first few days, weeks, and months.

Guidelines for doing the exercises “correctly”

In the first Tibetan, one aim is to not wobble, to put one’s feet in the same place turn after turn. 

In the second, try to keep your legs straight, with flexed feet, at all times.

Also, you can keep a small distance between the legs, and keep that distance throughout.

In the third and fourth, the head bends forward in the starting position, and ends bending backwards as far as you can go in the finishing position.

Be very careful with this if you have neck issues.

In the fifth, it takes flexibility to keep the legs straight and the feet on the ground.

You can go on your toes and bend the legs before you gain the flexibility. 

Crucial: when to breathe!

In the descriptions above, I was sloppy about the starting and ending points of each exercise.

To be more precise, it is important to breathe in and breathe out at the right time.

You should strive to inhale at the beginning of each exercise, and exhale in the ending position.

This does not apply to the first Tibetan, where instead you can aim to breathe every few turns.

For the second Tibetan, inhale when taking the legs are down, exhale when bringing the legs up.

For the third, inhale in the upright position bending backwards, exhale when returning to the upright.

For the fourth, inhale when going up into the table, exhale when returning to the ground.

For the fifth, inhale when going into up-dog, exhale going into down-dog.

The logic behind this, to help with remembering when to breathe, consists in expanding the lungs when going into the stretched position, and releasing the air when also releasing the body into the relaxed position.

Extensions: modified first, fourth and fifth, and a sixth Tibetan

It’s my nature to always want to improve things, here in the search for the perfect or optimal morning routine.

Modified First Tibetan Exercise

1. I like to alternate turning clockwise one day and turning counterclockwise on the next day.

This will ensure more symmetrical work for the feet, muscles and tendons.

Modified Fourth Tibetan Exercise

4. Instead of doing 21 table raises, I start in the same sit position but with my feet off the mat, and raise my body into a plank, i.e. the body and legs form one straight line, with the feet on the ground and the shoulders raised above the straight arms.

I got this exercise (step 2 of the bridges series on page 196) from the Convict Conditioning training program (which is an awesome program, with one downside that, for some of the more advanced exercises, it requires some fixtures I don’t easily have access to, especially some sturdy bars, tables, benches or the equivalent, at the correct height, that are more easily found in a proper gym than at home).

It is slightly more strenuous than the unmodified version.

For a more demanding version, one can also return from upward dog to downward dog with a reverse cobra pushup.

A Sixth Tibetan Exercise

6. Having issues with my knees and hips and noticing that my legs did not do much work so far, I added 21 squats: sitting between your legs with the whole soles of your feet on the floor.

Rise up completely, and rise your arms to the ceiling at the same time. Return to the initial position. 

Note that this is exercise 5 out of 10 in the squat series of Convict Conditioning (see page 92 — if you want more challenge, exercise 10/10 is the one-legged squats, which you could do on alternate days).

It is recommended to get started with exercise 1 of the squat series before progressing to the more demanding exercises to avoid injuries, unless you are already excellent at squatting.

You might be aware that there is a traditional sixth Tibetan, which is for Buddhist monks, and which has nothing to do with the exercise I propose. I will ignore it entirely.  

Looking for even more strenuous exercises?

Some ideas I’m exploring for the future are adding handstand pushups (instead of the 5th Tibetan) and full bridges (in lieu of the 3rd or 4th Tibetan). 

The challenges: when the going gets tough

As I hinted in the introduction, integrating this routine into my daily life was not easy. Perhaps you’re different and you can skip this section.

For the rest of you, here are some of the issues I faced and how I eventually resolved them successfully.

1. I didn’t feel like it in the morning, I was too sleepy, I had not slept well, I was aching, I didn’t have time, it wasn’t a priority.

All these excuses were quite valid at the time, but they disappeared on their own as I witnessed that the 5 Tibetans were helping me with them, rather than the opposite. 

2. I couldn’t do some of the exercises, couldn’t do the full number of repetitions, couldn’t bend enough, didn’t have enough strength or energy, or the exercises were making me feel worse afterwards, physically or emotionally.

These issues were addressed by being contented with doing less at first, slowly building up the confidence that things were improving.

Conclusion

This article explained in a straightforward manner how to do the 5 Tibetan rites, and mentioned a few extensions. 

I wholeheartedly recommend these exercises as a compact manner to stay in shape, that requires no gym and only a small amount of floor space.

Even a mat is optional.

Taking less than 15 minutes of your day, it is an exercise routine that will bring you incredible benefits.

And if you know of an even better exercise routine, or other modifications, I’d love to hear from you!

Please also feel welcome to leave questions and comments about your experience with these exercises, or other morning exercise routines. 

As a guide to continue reading on our website, please let me recommend the following:

For self-coaching resources, start with the Path of Least Resistance of Robert Fritz, the Natural Brilliance Model of Paul Scheele and The Portable Coach of Thomas Leonard.

For well-being resources, go to Lynn’s breathing exercises and gratefulness exercises, or about stress symptom signs or transforming negative moods.

For creativity, begin with Image Streaming and the overview of creativity techniques.

For physical exercise, see if the awesome sports of figure skating or acroyoga could be for you.

Finally, for healthy eating, here is an article about convenient healthy lunches.

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15 Responses to The 5 Tibetan Rites: the Best Morning Exercise Routine [9 Videos]

  1. Vicki says:

    Hi Phillippe and Lynne

    Wow- I needed to find this site. I am 60 years young now and I am already sensing different parts of my body are tiring.

    I need to stimulate my body and keep it in working order and these exercises are perfect for me as I can’t do strenuous exercise now.

    I love the videos as I am a visual learner so have bookmarked ready to proceed. My heart rate needs these and body is craving help so thank you so much and I will be back again and again šŸ™‚

    • phil says:

      Hi Vicki, we are very happy to hear that you found this exercise routine inspiring. As one bit of advice: please do start slowly with the exercises! The benefit lies a lot in persisting with the process on a nearly daily basis, not the intensity or quantity.

  2. Barbara says:

    love your post and it is amazing to find someone else that does practice the 5 Tibetans. I practice Kundalini Yoga and the first time I was introduced to it was by watching a Video of Maya Fiennes, I loved it ever since. Good practice, good morning routine and it energize you for the rest of the day. 
    Asd you are pointing out Breathing is very important, I believe is one of the eys to good health. Thank you for posting this, I will be looking out for more!

    • phil says:

      Hello Barbara, thanks for sharing your experience with yoga. I didn’t know of Maya Fiennes, only of the famous Fiennes family in general, especially Joseph, Ralph and Ranulph. But I found out that she is the wife of yet another one of the Fiennes, Magnus. I also found her channel on YouTube, we will explore that as we are always looking for new sources of inspiration. Thanks again!

  3. Xaric says:

    Oh God, I love the 5 Tibetan Rites! I started practicing them every single morning about the same time that I started practicing yoga and I must say that they have changed the way my day flows.

    When I have time, I combine them with 2-3 sets of sun salutation. Just magic!

    The videos are useful as always!

  4. MazieD says:

    Hi, Phil,

    I have been practicing these exercises with the exception of #1 & #3 and have no idea what they were called. I just like them as they provide a good way of stretching the body and some of my many exercise routines.

    I have learned something new from reading this post and will have a better understanding of why I do the routine and will be paying more attention to the forms.

    I am sure this will add benefit to some more persons who will be reading this article.

    Why does it have to be a morning routine.  What are the benefits of doing this exercise routine in the morning as opposed to doing them in the afternoon?

    Best wishes

    MazieD

    • Phil says:

      Thanks Mazie, glad that you enjoy it and that you are doing some of the exercises already!

      While you can do the routine at any time of the day you like, it’s best to do it in the morning, because it energizes you for the rest of the day. It makes you more productive in the morning. In particular, it is not recommended to do it before going to sleep, because it would keep you from falling asleep.

  5. Jenna Foster says:

    Aloha Phil!

    Thank you for your wonderful blog! I love the 5 Tibetan Rites! And your videos! šŸ™‚
    Right now I start my day with a Self-Reiki session following by an exercise on the PaidaLajin Bench for about 20 minutes. About 10 minutes one side. Just thinking how wonderful it would be to do it on the mat close to the ocean. I probably won’t include the Tibetan Rites every morning, but twice a week would be worth to try. What do you think?
    Thank you for inspiring me!

    Sending much Love and Light!
    Aloha, Jenna

    • Lyne says:

      Hi Jenna,
      All roads lead to Rome! So any form of alternative medicine having something to do with energy “healing”, wether activating the vital energy through the 5 Tibetan Rites one morning and through Reiki, Paida and/or Lajin Bench techniques the next two mornings and so on, would be a good way to give it a try!
      Do what inspires you most and thank you for sharing with Phil & I what works best for you!

  6. Thank you very much for providing this valuable program of Tibetan exercises because they are a great help. I am having this routine every morning if the results are surprising in several weeks.

  7. I love Tibetan rites, excellent experience, very good article

  8. m says:

    why there is different version of breathing ?
    and for the third rite, no need to bend forward?

    • Phil says:

      Yes, for the third rite, it is only a back bend. You can experiment with the breathing to find a way that suits you best, but I recommend the guideline to inhale when going into the most contracted position, and exhale when returning to the rest position. I hope this helps.

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