In a previous post I went over my journey with the five Tibetan Rites…and the benefits I received from practicing them daily.
[Missed it? Check out “My Journey with the Five Tibetan Rites“ here.]
But what if you or a student aren’t able to do the full five tibetan rites?
Modify, modify, modify!!!
Typically we think that being in the full pose is where all the juice is…but let me assure you that “modified” does not mean “less than.”
There’s benefit for you at EACH STEP OF THE WAY. Each step is a krama (or layer) and should not be discounted or thought to be “not useful.” Working appropriately at the krama most suited to your body is, in fact, MORE beneficial than a krama that’s beyond your body’s comfort zone.
Patanjali states precisely in Yoga Sutra 2.46: sthiram sukham asanam (steady, comfortable, seat).
Mastery in asana is achieved through our ability to find stability and ease when we take our seat. This is the true honoring of your body and simultaneously allows the mind to find comfort and steadiness (i.e., the true goal of yoga).
What follows are suggested modifications for each Rite. We encourage you to get creative and come up with your own modified Rites to use when the full movement is out of range.
Rite #1 modified: swinging ‘ha’ breaths
- stand with feet hip to shoulder width apart
- let arms hang loose at your sides
- begin twisting from side to side letting arms be like loose coat sleeves being propelled by the motion of the hips
- take gaze into the swing or twist
- allow arms to wrap loosely around body
- release the trailing heel from the floor and take the weight into the leading foot, keeping legs bent slightly, propelling hips around to the side
- do as many as is comfortable
- as you swing to the side exhale through mouth with a “ha” sound
- as you move through center inhale through nose
Rite #2 modified: modified leg lifts
- lie on floor, prop up on elbows and slide hands under hips to support low back
- lift legs a few inches off of floor, repeat five to 10 times
- may lift one leg at a time and may bend knees if needed
- keep spine long with natural lumbar curve
Rite #3 modified: 30 min of walking daily and/or squat against wall (hold for a three deep breaths), repeat a few times
- squat by allowing back to slide down wall as if sitting in a chair
- knees and feet hip-width
- slide down so knees are at 90° angle, knees over feet
Rite #4 modified: dynamic setu bandhasana
- lie on floor in ready position for setu bandhasana
- inhale hips up, exhale hips down
- breathe slowly and fully, move slowly
- repeat five to 10 times
Rite #5 modified: cat and dog stretch or dog stretch into down dog
- cat and dog stretch are the gentlest modification
- inhale into dog stretch
- exhale into down dog
- try switching the breathing pattern—what do you notice?
Warm-ups to the practice, if needed:
- wrist and finger stretches and strengtheners (as many Rites put weight on the hands—see our post on wrist strengtheners)
- neck warmups/stretches (as many Rites involve a large range of motion of head and neck)
- shoulder rolls and stretches (see our post on shoulders)
- moderate abdominal strengtheners
- cat and dog stretch to wake up the spine
After working with the modified positions and movements daily for a couple of weeks, try three repetitions of the full five tibetan rites. If it feels good, continue with the recommended gradual increase outlined in our article “My journey with the five Tibetan Rites.”
If one or more of the Rites is still too vigorous for you, return to the modified version of that Rite until you’ve gained more flexibility and strength.
It’s much better to do a mini or modified practice than no practice at all. 🙂
This blog is a labor of love and is offered in service of the yoga community and its amazing teachers. Comments are appreciated…let us know your thoughts and share your experience with our readers!
New to teaching? Check out Rupali’s Transform Your Yoga Teaching: The 5 Essential Elements of Teaching an Awesome Yoga Class for an easy-to-follow system of constructing your classes that will deliver a rich experience for both you and your students EVERY SINGLE TIME.
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THERE IS A 6TH MYSTICAL RITE NO ONE SEEMS TO KNOW ABOUT THESE DAYS..
Rupali Embry says
Yes, David, however, the sixth rite is beyond the scope of this article. I’ll refer you to the original text on the Tibetan Rites or the book Tibetan Secrets by Mary Solomon. She refers to the original text about the sixth rite.
Dear Tania, many thanks for your article. I have an issue with the 4th rite. When I’m sitting on my yoga mat, legs straight, my hands can’t reach the ground becaise my arms are too short and I can’t push myself up. What can I do? Maybe you have a hint for me? Many thanks in advance. KR, Sarah
Tania Ingrahm says
Aloha Sarah. This is a great question. I’m so glad you brought this to the discussion.
The easiest way to adjust for arms that are shorter than your torso is to place your hands on a yoga block or a thick book or a piece of wood about 2″ or more high. That should be enough to get you off of the ground, Sarah.
Oh my… the solution is so easy! Thank you so much for replying, you helped me a lot 🙂
Thank you for posting these modifications! In the last one I noticed when I exhaled into the stretch, I felt more of the burn as opposed to inhaling.
Rupali Embry says
Interesting observation, Demetrius! The breathing pattern in the 5th rite took us awhile to get used to…it’s the exact opposite to what we’ve had been doing in yoga for years so it was hard to break the habit of inhaling on the up-dog part. Now it feels very natural. I’ll pay attention to what you’re describing and see if I notice that too. Thanks for sharing!