October 3, 2007

Goin' to the dogs, Tibetan style

Anyone who knows me to any extent, knows that I get up obscenely early every morning (4:30am) and engage in morning yoga. I call it yoga, because it's too complicated to tell people that it's actually a combination of exercises I've assembled over the last twenty-odd years from the different systems I've learned. My routine has continuously changed during that time, and contains elements of aikido, t'ai chi, chi kung, and hatha yoga.

It all started when I was a fanatical aikidoist in my twenties, and started each day with bokken (wooden sword) practice. I always had in mind that my routine, whatever it consisted of at any given time period of my life, was a spiritual discipline, and not just a physical workout (though my aiki weapons routines used to make me sweat very nicely), which meant that the last part of the routine was always meditation.

As life got more complex (read: having to earn a living and nurse literary ambitions) and commitments increased (read: wife and children), I always strove to create the "ultimate" series that was relatively brief, still hit most of the muscles and joints in the body, and prepared the mind for meditation.

In August, while attending the AMORC World Convention in Berlin, I roomed with a member from Hungary. Every morning, he did a short series of five exercises. What got my attention was that they started with an exercise consisting of holding one's arms out, palms down, and spinning clockwise. I was already doing this exercise as part of my morning routine, but I'd picked it up from a book by Joseph Weed that had been out of print since the 1970s; a source I thought was pretty obscure. He showed me a Hungarian translation of the book Ancient Secret of the Fountain of Youth by Peter Kelder. He offered to loan it to me, but since I don't like reading English books in foreign languages, and since I felt I already had "my" routine, I politely turned him down. But I was really intrigued that the spinning exercise was the same as the one in the Weed book, although Weed said it was part of the training of an ancient Greek seeress. (I think the Weed thing is material for a future posting).

So a little over a week ago, I was researching something on the Internet, when I started getting hits for The Five Tibetan Rites, including this video.

Have you ever considered how that element of randomness to Internet searches makes the Internet kind of "oracular"? I mean: I don't know about you, but I seem to often "stumble across" things just at the very moment I need them in my life. Well, this Five Tibetans thing was popping up pretty often, so I decided to go for it. So now I've incorporated them into my morning routine. More than that: they've become the basis of my morning routine. I use a little chi kung twist to warm up my spine, and an aikido weight shifting exercise to get the circulation going in my legs and arms, but the heart of the workout is The Five Tibetans.

It's only been five days, and I can already feel things happening in my body. Yesterday and the day before I kept getting these warm sensations in my lower back like someone was holding a hot water bottle up against it. Yesterday I used it as the warm up for my every-third-day jogging session instead of my usual warm ups. I was bouncing down the sidewalk like a rubber ball the whole way (yee-haa!). Best run I've had in months!

There are all kinds of theories about why it works, and I have some thoughts on that, but I need to get to bed so I can get up and do my exercises in the morning. ;-)

Maybe I'll have to blog about this more later.


vero said...

How do you ever have the time to read with twice the children I have??? :D
Can any of these be done with a child hanging from the body?

I've experienced this stumble-into-the-right-one "thing, only with books in the library and most importantly with people in my life. :-) Ihave to go to get some sleep I've just forgotten what I originally wanted to say. :(

dh said...

Good post and blog Theo!

Tibetan yoga is interesting because it emphasise 'energetic' health for the body. As I watched the video I tried to see what inner meridians and energy sources the postures were working on. In Traditional Chineses Arts or Wushu the movements, when taught properly, lay emphasis on the efect the movements have on the subtle energies on the body. SInce breaking my collor bone I've taken time to do more Tai Chi work and found it to be highly effective. I'm sure the Tibetan yoga is the same. I've noticed that Bodhi is promoted as helping to attain a longer life. I just thought you and your readers might like to know that according to Taoists we are all given a fundmental store of primal chi at birth. This store is gradually used up over the years and when it is completly gone the body then 'dies'. However, this original store can be added to through practice of techniques such as yoga etc. You cannot add to the original birth Chi but you can add extra Chi and thus extend your physical life and health. Having seen some of the real masters of these arts being in their 90's and performing Wushu with the agility of 20 somethings I can beleive they know a great secret!

Anyway, I've rambled on! The subject of Bodhi is a fascinating one and I'm interested to hear the effects it's beginning to have on you personally.

Theo Huffman said...

Vero: Now that you mention it, life can be like one big oracle if you treat it that way. The universe is always trying to talk to us, we just aren't always paying attention.

There's a story about a man who hears that the Philosopher's Stone has been lost on a particular rock-strewn beach. The way one can tell it from the other rocks is that if you hold it for a second or two is feels warmer than the other rocks. He spends years going up and down the beach, picking up a rock, holding it for a second or two, and then hurling it out into the ocean. One day, he picks up a rock, and he feels that it feels warmer than the other rocks, but from hundreds of days of habit, he hurls it far into the water before he can stop himself.

I think that's how people behave toward the world. When messages from universe come to them in the form of a few words from the mouth of a friend or something that jumps to their attention in a shop window, they ignore it as unimportant, like they are in the habit of doing.

dh: I'm honored to get your comments. Please do tell us what you observed when you watched the video.

Re: T'ai chi, Wushu, etc. I once had an aikido instructor who sold his dojo to the senior students and then went off and lived in the middle of nowhere on a friend's ranch. He spent his days doing farmwork and Chinese internal arts (mostly Chi Kung). He'd come back to town to visit and do some aikido every couple of months and people were amazed at how all he had to do was wave a hand and people got thrown by the energy. Awesome stuff those Chinese arts.

Why do you refer to it as Bodhi? I only know this word as meaning "awakening". I did research and couldn't find any references to it meaning any sort of physical/spiritual discipline. Care to elaborate?

Again: thanks for commenting.

dh said...

Hi Theo,

'Bodhi' is the root word that 'Buddha' comes from. It does indeed mean awakening! I'll write something up over the weekend for you.Essentially Tibetan yoga is also refered too as 'Bodhi' because it deals with 'awakening' the inner energies of the body and the subsequent transmutation of those energies to a much higher and permernant frequency. Briefly put, in our Shaolin practices we seek to awaken the inner Chi and then transmute it into an energy that reflects a higher state of consciousness. Confused? I wouldn't blame you-lol Don't worry, I'll try and explain clearly soon!

vero said...

Can I ask an ignorant question?
Why is the title Going to the dogs?

Theo Huffman said...

I wondered if the joke was going to go over anyone's head.


Look at the picture illustrating this posting, then look at the pictures depicting rite number five of the Five Tibetans. What's that posture called in Hatha yoga?

A little bird told me you're considering taking up this practice. Is that true?

vero said...

I don't know much (in fact nothin' :( ) about Hatha yoga (yet).
So what came to my mind was NOT a yoga posture. (embarassed smile)

Yes, I'm considering it, but I'm kinda not well right now, so this little bird friend of mine told me to take it slowly, and it will be fine. :))

Sorry for being so not-well-informed, I will try to catch up! ;)

Theo Huffman said...

No need to apologize for not knowing something. To be honest, I don't know much about hatha yoga either. I do know the names of lots of postures, and I've done a few of them, but I'm no expert.

Regarding the fact that what came to mind for you was NOT a yoga posture: I'm sure glad now I had second thoughts about entitling the posting Doin' the Dog Tibetan Style. I can just hear the search engines sniffing that one out! We wouldn't want anyone thinking this is a porno blog.

vero said...


Adrienne said...

The Five Tibetans is a great sequence of yoga positions! I've never done that particular grouping, but think it would work quite nicely. I think the man in the video has slightly poor posture in his "downward facing dog" though! Otherwise, it's nice that people put things of that nature on the Internet...maybe it will persuade someone to try yoga, huh?

Henitsirk said...

The Internet is pretty oracular: many years ago I was surfing around, trying to find something else to do with my life other than working in the health insurance industry. Suddenly I thought of something I had read in Utne Reader magazine even more years before, about something called Waldorf education. I Googled it, and lo and behold, there was a teacher training center about 10 miles from my house! I've been involved with Waldorf and anthroposophy since then. What was guiding me that day?