Have you heard of the Fountain of Youth?
Haven't you ever dreamed of a place where there was peace and security,
Where living was not a struggle but a lasting delight?
Of course you have.
So has every man since Time began.
Always the same dream.
Sometimes he calls it Utopia,
Sometimes the Fountain of Youth.”
-The Lost Horizon
The mythology of the Fountain of Youth has been in our consciousness since about the 5th Century BCE. Floating through whispers of spiritual seekers, an eastern myth may hold this secret of long life. Legends spoke of a mysterious spring that would restore the youth of anyone who drank or bathed in its waters. Water is certainly a life enhancing element, but could such a water source have magical properties to turn back time?
A fountain is a source or origin of a desirable quality. Youth is the quality or state of being young, especially as associated with freshness, energy, resilience, and vitality. Is there such a thing as an origin of vitality? Most of us associate aging as the opposite of youth, when we become boring, tiresome, or wrinkled. Can we reverse, pause, or slow down the aging process?
"To keep the heart unwrinkled,
to be hopeful, kindly, cheerful, reverent-
-that is to triumph over old age."
- Thomas Baile
Perhaps, the Fountain of Youth is not a physical place, but instead a spiritual practice that we each may be able to access through will, discipline, and focusing our minds over matter. High in the magical mountains of the Himalayas, generations of Tibetan monks have passed down a series of exercises with mystical, age-reversing properties.
The book, Ancient Secret of the Fountain of Youth tells a story about and English colonel who dwelled in Tibet with monks and was impressed with their youthful, vibrant health. He claimed that the exercises were so potent they can turn back time turning grey hair black, improving eyesight and memory and banishing wrinkles.
These practices are said to be a form of Tibetan yoga similar to the yoga series that originated in India. They could be 2,500 years old, but because of China’s invasion and destruction of so many temples and ancient text from Tibet in 1949, the origin is not certain. Each rite is associated with one of the elements: earth, air, fire, water, and space.
“Chakras spinning either too quickly or too slowly produce ill health.
From this we gather that the
Five Rites coordinate, even enhance,
the spinning of the seven energy centers of the human body;
they help distribute pure life force energy
to the endocrine glands and in turn to the body’s organs and processes.
When this happens, the result is longevity and rejuvenation.”
― Peter Kelder, The Eye of Revelation 1939
2017 was marked by major changes in my life. In addition to becoming a Vegetarian, then a Vegan, giving up daily caffeine and traveling all the way around the world on a solo expedition, I also started a fasting practice while studying under the famous spiritual leader, Ray Maor. In his Pranic Living workshops, Ray teaches The Five Tibetan Rites as one of the methods to feel rejuvenated, by tapping into the Life Force Energy that is within and all around us.
This series of exercises, The Five Ancient Tibetan Rites, increases overall health and immunity as it addresses the whole body. These acts help our emotional body deny excess desires by increasing self-discipline. The entire routine can be completed in less than 10 minutes. I practiced these quick but intense, well-rounded exercises daily for six months instead of eating breakfast. I felt alive and renewed each time. Some of the additional physical benefits include increased energy, improved strength and coordination, improved emotional and mental health weight loss, better memory, better pain relief, digestion, and sleep.
I recommend doing the rites in the morning rather than the evening, because they do fuel your energy. Remember your breath is the key to every movement in yoga. Move with your breath, inhaling on the exertion and exhaling on the release. Begin by practicing three to seven repetitions of each rite, and build up to 21 reps. Seven is a very spiritual number and the number three symbolizes the power of the trinity in many cultures. Tibetans believe 21 is a perfect, mystical number. The number 21 is so optimistic and enthusiastic that it tends to inspire others. I wonder if that’s why the worldwide popular clothing store brand decided to name their store Forever 21.
Rite #1- Spinning
Affirmation: "I am full of energy"
The Spin enhances the element of space energy. The vortex that the movements create allows you to replenish your body from the larger energy all around you. Spinning reminds me of Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music as she sings "The Hills are Alive!" She is soaking up the energy from pure nature all around her.
Rumi’s Sufi culture also values spinning, called Sufi whirling. Dervishes seek to reach the source of all perfection through abandoning one's ego, or personal desires, by listening to the music, focusing on the Divine, and spinning one's body in repetitive circles, which has been seen as a symbolic imitation of planets in the Solar System orbiting the sun.
With your arms spread out in a T-position, direct your gaze or drishti onto your right finger tips. Keep this gaze as you step your right foot to a 90-degree angle, then let you left foot meet it. Continue turning clockwise (Some sources say to spin in the direction that water drains out of your sink-which will change depending on which hemisphere you are in), towards the right.
When this feels comfortable and you’d like an additional challenge, try spinning a little faster. Keep your gaze on your right fingertips and count every time your fingers pass by your starting point. It helps to have a specific point of reference like a window or a pole.
At around 18 or 19 swirls, begin to slow down and lower your arms for the final few spins. Keep your gaze on your right hand until you arrive in mountain pose with your feet hip width distance apart and hands at your heart center. If you feel at all dizzy, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths in through your nose and out through your nose, expanding through your diaphragm to allow for a deeper breath.
Rite #2- Leg Raise
Affirmation: "My mind is clear and calm"
This exercise is designed to strengthen the abdominal muscles and core while focusing your third eye to your thighs.
Gently bend your knees and squat down until your sitting bones make contact with the earth and you recline all the way down. This exercise has a few variations, depending on your level of fitness, hamstring flexibility, or the condition of your neck. The easiest variation involves placing your hands, palms down, underneath your hips and rolling your shoulders behind you.
As you inhale, lift your straight legs and flexed toes up to the sky for the air element. Beginners can keep their head and shoulders grounded, but after you’ve been practicing these for a while, you should advance to lifting your upper torso on the inhale. On the exhale, relax your legs and torso back down.
The next variation would be to protect your neck by clasping your hands behind your neck. Other variations include reaching your arms overhead on the exhale, then reaching past your hips on the inhale as you rise.
After 21 repetitions of this exercise, curl your knees into your chest and rock side to side for a few breaths, then rock forward and back until you arrive on your knees for the next exercise.
Rite #3- Kneeling Back Bend
Affirmation: "I am flexible and receptive"
This flow works with spinal undulation and arching. It’s associated with the water element for the suppleness that it provides for the spine, like performing cat and cow from a different angle. You have the option to tuck your toes or just press the tops of your feet and toenails into your mat.
On the inhale, this pose looks like the popular Camel Pose in contemporary yoga. Make fists with your hands and bring them to the base of your lower back. Squeeze your elbows in towards each other and look up to the sky. Keep your hips aligned over your knees.
As you exhale, bring your chin in towards your chest, hug your belly in, curl your shoulders forward, sit back on your heels, and bring your hands to your knees.
Continue this pattern for 21 breaths then hold an open heart in Camel Pose or Reclined Hero for an additional three.
Rite #4- Reverse Table-Top
Affirmation: "I am strong and balanced"
The Tabletop takes the element earth, and its movements focus on stability, foundation and balance, giving us a solid base from which to form new ideas. It strengthens your arms, legs and glutes.
This practice connects the breath with Reverse Table Top and Staff Pose. To begin, extend your legs out in front of you. With your fingers facing your toes, plant your palms on both sides of your hips.
As you inhale, keep your arms straight and press into your heels. Your knees should rise to directly above your ankles and be level with your hips. Shoulders will rise in line with the knees and wrists while your gaze lifts up to the sky.
On the exhale, send your hips back down between your wrists, lift your feet back up and tuck your chin into your chest.
This pose connects with the earth element as you find grounding in all four limbs. After 21 breaths, take a few extra in Staff Pose (the position described in the exhale).
Rite #5- The Pendulum: Down-Dog/ Up-Dog
Affirmation: “I am positive and motivated”
The fifth and final rite is my favorite as it strengthens the entire body. Associated with fire, this exercise builds heat and excitement. To start, come into Downward Facing Dog, making a triangular shape with your body. From Staff Pose, cross your legs and walk your arms out in front of you. Press your hands into the mat with your fingers spread wide and index fingers pointing forward. Make sure that your index fingers and thumbs are active to protect your shoulders. Straighten your arms and roll your outer armpits towards the earth. Bend your knees, lift your hips and with this spinal length, descend through your heels.
On your next inhale, bring your shoulders over your wrists and send your hips down to be in line with your heels into a Plank Pose. Keep flowing all the way into Upward Facing Dog as you look up to the sky and reach your heart between your upper arms. Exhale as you use your core fire strength to lift your hips back up and press away from the earth.
After 21 repetitions, I like to take a few slow breaths in Twisting Downward Facing Dog then lower into Embryo Pose by bending my knees down to the mat and reaching my hands behind me.
If your body is not quite ready for this variation, you could also flow from Child’s Pose to Lion. Inhale in Child’s Pose, spread your knees as wide as the mat and bring your big toes together. Lower your hips back to your heels and reach your arms forward. Allow your head and neck to relax. Exhale as your shoulders rise above your wrists, hips descend and toes extend skyward. Inhale back into Child’s Pose. engenders equanimity and a sense of well-being. It makes you feel powerful and motivated.
Please try these rites yourself.
Do you feel more youthful?
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There is a fountain of youth:
it is your mind, your talents,
the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love.
When you learn to tap this source,
you will truly have defeated age."