Tuesday, July 15, 2008

What Yoga and the Five Rites Do for Your Body

A Body Blueprint: The Master Plan for Energy Flow

According to the systems of thought in which both yoga and the rites are rooted, human beings have a number of energy centers. In yoga they're called chakras and the Tibetan monks described them as vortexes. Specific movements can stimulate and "open" these energy centers (see Chapter Four).

According to the principles of yoga, the chakras are not actually located in the physical body. They comprise what's called the energy body, an energy field that surrounds your physical self. But they correspond to precise points within the body where our life energy flows into the nervous system.

Those who practice and understand yoga believe that not only do we produce energy in our bodies, but we also receive energy from outside ourselves. Other cultures and healing philosophies include similar references: the Chinese call this essential and subtle energy Qi (pronounced chee). And in Ancient Secret of the Fountain of Youth, Colonel Bradford uses the Hindu term prana (vital life energy). (For a detailed discussion of the chakras, see Chapter Four.)

To Western minds, the idea of invisible chakras and subtle energy may seem strange at first. But is it any stranger than the way a television works? A satellite dish set up outdoors picks up invisible electromagnetic waves. We can't see those waves rippling through the air but we know they're there. When the whole system's working properly, they're translated into vivid pictures and sounds on TV screens.

Similarly, chakras are like the satellite dishes that "catch" needed energy. In fact, according to Peter Kelder's account, the Tibetanmonks taught the Colonel that the vortexes represent powerful electrical fields. When they're in balance, or spinning at a normal rate of speed, vital life energy flows through our system as it should.

Indeed, science has confirmed that this ancient system of physiology is rooted in biological fact. We now know that bundles of nerves, called plexi, are actually located at the site of each chakra. These plexi are part of the sympathetic nervous system, which helps energize and stimulate our organs and glands. This is the "activating" system that, for example, tells the heart to beat and the lungs to expand and contract.


Two Paths to a Healthy Lifestyle

While there are many similarities between the practice of yoga and the Five Rites, there are also contrasts. It seems to me that the Five Rites offer a simpler, more practical way to reap the rewards of yoga and enjoy its benefits every day. The rites are less daunting than yoga, and when described clearly, they can be self-taught, making them easier to learn and follow than the unfamiliar and often difficult postures of traditional yoga. The rites are appealing because they involve repetitive movements, much like the kind of exercise routines most of us are familiar with. They require only a small commitment of time, and people find that attractive, too.

But it's important to understand that the rites and the practice of yoga are not in competition with one another. I don't want to say that one is better than the other. They are related, they are different, and they can effectively complement one another.

Some people may actually find the Five Rites more difficult to do than yoga, especially at first. They can be challenging. You need muscle strength and a certain level of flexibility and balance to do them properly. A good way to begin is to do basic yoga postures, which, for the most part, are held for only twenty seconds, as a warm-up for the more strenuous rites.


The Inside Story: What Yoga and the Five Rites Do for Your Body

Both yoga and the Five Rites, practiced independently or m combination, have a definite rejuvenating effect on those who do them regularly. From a medical point of view, it's easy to understand why.

CIRCULATION:THE KEY TO GOOD HEALTH

The exercises directly and positively affect circulation. Improved circulation speeds the healing process and gives the immune system a boost. More blood is pumped with fewer heartbeats, so there is less stress on the heart. When the flow of blood is improved, every cell in the body receives more oxygen and nutrients, and waste products are washed away more efficiently.

REJUVENATION, CELL BY CELL

Oxygen, sugar, and nutrients provide the fuel cells need to make energy. This fuel is carried to the cells by the blood. As cells make energy, they give off carbon dioxide, the waste they've got to get rid of. This is actually respiration and digestion on a cellular level. When we breathe, we take in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide. When we eat, we take in nutrients and eliminate what we don't need.

Visualize each cell in your body as a tiny factory. Better circulation, or blood flow, means more fuel and "spare parts" arriving all the time, so energy production stays high. The blood also acts as a conveyor belt, carrying away waste and debris more efficiently as circulation improves.

It's my view that this cellular rejuvenation could account for some of the "miraculous" changes people say the rites have generated, like the darkening of gray hair or the return of hair growth, profoundly new feelings of well-being and vitality, and smoother, younger-looking skin.

RELAXATION:THE REAL ROAD TO RENEWAL

It's important to understand the critical importance of relaxation in conjunction with any form of physical exertion, be it aerobic or isometric exercise, yoga, or the Five Rites. Exercise and vigorous yogic practices such as the Five Rites tend to increase muscle tension because of the great mental effort and physical exertion involved in these activities. While increased muscle tension brings extra blood to your muscles, it also decreases the flow of blood to vital organs. This increases the risk of injury, high blood pressure, anxiety, and stress on your heart. Therefore, it is essential to warm up prior to exertion, and to relax afterward to minimize muscle tension.

Relaxation before and after exertion, including the Five Rites, allows the muscles to relax, increasing blood flow to vital organs. Make sure you give yourself time to relax before and after practicing the Five Rites so that the physical, mental, and spiritual benefits aren't negated by excess tension. Through relaxation, the benefits of doing the Five Rites will be greatly enhanced!

If you enjoy aerobic and/or isometric exercise, I recommend that you practice the Five Rites or yoga in addition to your usual exercise routine. If you have no formal exercise program, you can view the Five Rites and yoga as a beneficial and complete approach to exercise.

A WHOLE BODY WORKOUT

Most Western-style exercise routines affect only certain parts of the body. A series of yoga postures or the Five Rites are designed to affect every part of the body, every energy center, organ, and system. For example, the rites cause the body to go against gravity. This stimulates the development of osteoblasts (cells that promote bone growth). In studies done with women in their 70s, it was found that if they simply walked four times a week for 20 minutes, a mildly antigravity activity, osteoporosis (bone deterioration) slowed down to almost premenopausal levels. Imagine how much gain could be achieved with the practice of yoga and/or the Five Rites, which involve the entire body in repetitive movements against gravity.

Another way in which both yoga and the rites impact the body systemically is by massaging the internal organs. Pressing, squeezing, and then letting go, as you do in Rites Two, Four, and Five, stimulates the release of toxins and old blood from the organs of the digestive system, as it brings in fresh blood which literally washes away these impurities. This in turn encourages healthy digestion and elimination. Rites Three and Five have a similar effect on the lungs, cleansing the muscles related to breathing in the chest and the diaphragm and giving them a good workout. Breathing will be deeper and freer, even when you are no longer exercising, which I think explains, in part, why those who do the rites notice they feel generally better throughout the day.


Excerpted from

Ancient Secret of the Fountain of Youth
by by Peter Kelder, Bernie S. Siegel
Buy this book at Barnes & Noble