Skip to main content
Ages 13+
Under 13
Tibetan monk youths

The Five Tibetan Rites (a Possible Source of Eternal Youth)


Of uncertain origins, these five simple exercises just may be the key to eternal youth.

The fountain of youth is a fantastic place within legends and myths from around the world. It’s also a metaphor for the unsuccessful quest to detach oneself from the passage of time. In 1939, a small manual of exercises, “Five Tibetan Rites of Eternal Youth,” was published with the promise that it would restore youth to the elderly and give more vigor to young people. Unlike most textbooks, the booklet seems to have worked (at least partially) for many people.

According to legend, a young Peter Kelder, the later author of the manual, met a retired army colonel who claimed to have lived in a retreat with monks (their exact location was never divulged). In the monastery, the monks taught the colonel a series of initiatory techniques among which are these five rites. They bear some resemblance to the practice of Vinyasa yoga, although the origin and meaning of their practice remains a matter of dispute among yogis even today. What we know (at least according to Kelder’s account) is that the colonel went from being a gray-haired old man to regaining vigor and strength of his youth. His hair began growing back as his memory improved, and the fat and the sagging disappeared. Perhaps Kelder exaggerated the advantages (including the relief of sinusitis, arthritic pain, improved digestion, etc.), but there’s no better proof than to try it yourself.

Below are brief descriptions of each of the rites, which are nothing more than aerobic exercises. The manual doesn’t suggest a specific type of breathing, nor an exact number of repetitions, but doing them daily for a few minutes is recommended. It’s also important that if you decide to practice them, consult a health professional if you have any previous injury which may be aggravated by physical exercise.

The First Rite
Stand up and with your arms extended at shoulder height. Rotate your entire body clockwise (from left to right), until you feel a slight dizziness.

The Second Rite
Next, lie down on the floor, with your hands on both sides of the body and your fingers together. Try to raise your legs as high as possible, without bending your knees. At the same time, tilt your head forward in an attempt to bring the chin lightly into contact with your chest.

The Third Rite
On your knees, with your hands at your sides and your palms flat against your legs, push your head forward so that your chin touches your chest. Then, lean as far upward as possible, pulling out the chest and bending at the waist.

The Fourth Rite
Start from a seated position (with the body forming an L), legs together, with the toes pointed upward and arms at your sides. Palms should be placed flat on the floor, with the fingers together and facing forward. We’ll then bring the chin to the chest. Raise your body, little by little, bending the knees and keeping the soles of your feet on the ground, throwing your head back, to form the shape of a bow. The manual reads that the arms “should remain vertical while the body, from the shoulders to the knees, is to be horizontal.” Then we return to the initial position and repeat, at will.

The Fifth Rite
Here, yoga practitioners will recognize the sequence of movements such as the position of the snake and the dog face. We stand with the face down and the hands at shoulder height, feet slightly apart. Then stretch forward as we draw the chest in, looking upward and stretching the back. Without moving the palms of the hands or the feet, lift the hips upward, stretching the limbs and allowing the head to fall without tension, by its own weight.

Related Articles