We don’t know exactly how the Five Tibetan Rites work, not scientifically
anyway. We don’t know how they invigorate, how they energize and
how they lessen the weight of the years. The original texts say they
speed up energy vortexes. Those from a yoga background say the Rites
strengthen the chakras. Others say they are just good range of motion
exercises. The correct answer is, however, that we just don’t know for
sure — not really. So, there’s room for an idea or two.
This is an important topic among Five Rites practitioners. Here I offer,
not an opinion, but a theory, which is sort of like an opinion dressed up
for a night on the town — yet it may be a theory to stand the test of
time. My dressed up opinion is capillary pumping.
A Working Theory
Please bear in mind that this article has been written by a non medical
layman who has trouble operating Band Aids. It has been not my intent
to provide anything more than a working theory as to how the Five Rites
may work. Much, much more research needs to be done. At best this
article can only be incomplete, just a first chapter rather than the final
story.(1) As Carolinda Witt wrote in a private message, I am presenting
but “one picture in a gallery of hundreds.” (And many thanks to
Carolinda for her editorial assistance.)
Capillary circulation is sometimes called micro circulation or peripheral
circulation. Capillaries are microscopically small blood vessels that
deliver oxygen and nutrients to the far reaches of the body. After
dropping off their loads of oxygen and nutrients, they carry away waste
and toxins for elimination. Some say there is anywhere from 60,000 -
100,000 miles of blood vessels in the human body, the vast majority of
which are capillaries.
Anytime we flex a muscle, we squeeze blood along the capillaries.
When we relax it, blood flows back in. This is capillary pumping.
There are two types of exercise, dynamic and static. In dynamic
physical exercise, such as walking, certain muscles or groups of muscles
are alternately flexed then relaxed. This flexing and relaxation aid
Same with static exercise. In static exercise (commonly called isometric
exercise), the muscles are flexed without movement. Blood is still
squeezed out of the muscle and when the muscle is relaxed, blood flows
The relaxation period determines the amount of blood that can flow back
into the capillaries. The longer a muscle is relaxed, up to a point, the
more blood that can flow back in.(2) So, relaxation is a good thing.
Well that’s interesting. The Five Rites call for periodic flexing of the
muscles followed by significant relaxation. Ever wonder why so many
people experience detox effects from practicing the Rites? Capillary
pumping, specifically the removal of toxins, explains it rather well. Ever
wonder why so many people feel energized by the Rites? Capillary
pumping, specifically the replenishing of oxygen and nutrients to the
body, explains it rather well.
Stretching & Yawning
Apparently Mother Nature thinks capillary pumping is quite important.
She has provided for capillary pumping in her own way. Who hasn’t
stretched and yawned after sleep or other period of inactivity? If you
like medical jargon (and who doesn’t?), this is called pandiculation.
When we stretch and yawn, a form of isometric tension, we tense
virtually every muscle in our bodies, squeezing the capillaries to carry
away waste accumulated during periods of inactivity. Yawning involves
taking a deep breath which helps oxygenate our blood. Then we relax,
and fresh oxygen and nutrients flow into our capillaries getting us ready
for increased activity.
By Any Other Name
Capillary pumping, under various pseudonyms, is not a new idea. My
first exposure to capillary pumping was through Harry J. Gardener’s
publications, although he did not use the term “capillary pumping.” In
several of his monographs, Gardener describes variations of an exercise
involving muscle contractions followed by relaxation.(3) Indeed, his very
first monograph, the Garden of Allah,(4) Gardener writes of a “Foot to
Head Tension Exercise.”
Gardener’s exercises are isometric, which means muscle tensing without
movement. Among other names, he called his exercises “wringing out”
and “nine lives” (as in a cat stretching). Mr. Gardener, you may
remember, was the publisher of both editions of the Eye of Revelation.
Yet, I don’t think he connected the Five Rites with his muscle tensing
exercises; yet, who can say for sure?
More important to our discussion here are isometric exercises pioneered
by Drs. Broino (also Bruno) Kiveloff and Olive Huber. Drs. Kiveloff and
Huber, you see, saw a connection between aging and poor peripheral
In 1983, Dr. Kiveloff was interviewed by Stefan Bechtel for Prevention
Magazine.(5) Entitled “A 60-Second Shortcut to Vitality,” Bechtel’s article
delved into Dr. Kiveloff’s theory concerning isometric tension.
Aging, the article tells us, is a process that begins with impaired
circulation, a constriction of the capillaries that supply oxygen and
nutrients to tissues and organs and carry off waste. Quoting Dr.
Kiveloff, the article states, “There are thousands of theories of aging ...
[t]his is a new one — the best one!”(6) “The human body is like a
plant,” Dr. Kiveloff continues. “When there is not enough moisture it
withers; when the blood supply to the body tissue and vital organs is
impaired a loss of vitality, early aging and cardiovascular diseases
follow.”(7) Bechtel adds:
So aging is a process that begins with impaired circulation, a
constriction of the vessels that supply oxygen and nutrients to
tissues and organs and carry off waste ... Crucial to a healthy
cardiovascular system is good peripheral [capillary] circulation ...
Isometrics, Dr. Kiveloff maintains, [has] been shown to dramatically
and reliable improve peripheral circulation ... And it checks the
steady upward creep in blood pressure that usually accompanies
age, which can lead to serious and often fatal complications ...
Along the way, Dr. Kiveloff says, you take up arms against age in
other ways: Good peripheral circulation helps prevent wrinkles, for
example. Improved posture aids your overall health and fights off
one of the classic signs of age: stooped shoulders.(8)
Here’s how to perform the “Kiveloff,” as I call Dr. Kiveloff’s isometric
exercise: Relax while standing or lying down. Tense all your muscles
while counting out loud to six and breathing normally. Then relax all
your muscles for a few moments. Repeat for a total of three reps. This
exercise is repeated three times in a row, three times a day for a total
of nine reps per day. [Note: check with your health care professional
before undertaking any exercise program.]
So, Drs. Kiveloff and Huber have given us another version of capillary
pumping, and they associated it with reversing the aging process. How
very interesting for Five Rites practitioners. Further, both Dr. Kiveloff
and his wife lived into their nineties.
The Five Rites and Isometric Tension
Four of the Five Rites also utilize isometric tension. Rite 1 is the
spinning Rite and does not involve muscle tensing. I’ve always viewed
Rite 1 as an energy “charging” exercise, probably involving an energy
variously known as ki, chi, mana, prana or, in Tibetan, rlung (pronounced
lung). Some esoteric traditions, specifically Huna, tell of how this
Universal energy, mana, has an affinity to water, especially to flowing
water. More about this later.
Capillary pumping requires both tensing and relaxing the muscles. The
Five Rites include relaxation pauses for Rites 2 through 5, that is clear.
Rites 4 and 5 specifically call for muscle tensing while Rites 2 and 3
imply muscle tensing. Let me explain.
The Mystery of Rite 2
Whenever I perform the Rites (however fecklessly), I am almost always
focused on the why’s and how’s of their workings. For the longest time,
I was baffled as to why Rite 2 (the leg lift) called for the hands to be
placed by the hips with the fingers together and pointing inwards. Why
pointing inwards? I thought the reason might have something to do
with energy flow but I couldn’t figure that one out.
Now, Rite 2 calls for trying to push the raised feet back over one’s head.
One day, I noticed that my form had slipped a bit; I was no longer
pointing my fingers inward. When I corrected myself, I noticed that I
had greater leverage to push my feet toward my head. That was it. I
suddenly realized the purpose of pointing the fingers inward was to give
you greater leverage for pushing your feet toward your head. And that
push is isometric (the tensing muscles without movement) because your
feet, at some point, can’t go further over your head. You are still flexing
your muscles but can’t move, therefor it becomes isometric. Here a
range of motion exercise becomes an isometric exercise.
To be sure, the instructions for Rite 2 do not seem to emphasize this
“push.” They say, “If possible, let the feet extend back a bit over the
body toward the head ....” However, when I realized how important it
was to point the fingers inward, I could only conclude that this push was
intended to be isometric — just as Rites 4 and 5 clearly have an
isometric component, specifically calling for tensing all the muscles in
And for Rite 3, the instructions tell us to “lean forward as far as
possible, bending at the waist ....” then “to lean backward as far as
possible.” It is very hard to bend forward and backward as far as
possible at the waist without tensing all the muscles involved. At the
extremes you find yourself flexing your muscles without movement, and
this is isometric. So, even though the instructions do not specifically
call for tensing the muscles, it seems most likely that this is the intent
— again, a range of motion exercise transitioning into an isometric
Capillary Pumping in Rites 2 - 5
Here is a summary of the range of motion and isometric elements in
Rites 2 - 5:
Rite 2: Place the hands next to the hips with fingers together and
pointed inwards. “The feet are then raised until the legs are
straight up. If possible, let the feet extend back a bit over the
body; but do not let the knees bend.” This “extending” action
requires a push from the hands which are perfectly placed for this
push, which is isometric in nature. After slowly lowering the feet,
“allow all muscles to relax.”
Rite 3: “lean forward as far as possible ... lean backward as far as
possible,” then “relax as much as possible for a moment.” The acts
of leaning forward and backward “as far as possible,” give an
isometric dimension to this Rite.
Rite 4: “When the body is pressed up to [a] complete horizontal
position, tense every muscle in the body ... return to a sitting
position and relax for a moment.”
Rite 5: “The muscles should be tensed for a moment when the body
is at the highest point, and again at the lowest point” which is
followed by a “moment of hanging in suspension.” Because muscle
tension is needed to hold the “sagging” position, true relaxation is
difficult. Still, it calls for a “moment of hanging in suspension”
which would provide an opportunity for blood to flow back into as
many muscles as possible. Further, as this is the final Rite, you’re
going to be relaxing anyway.
Most who practice the Rites probably don’t do the relaxation pause
between reps. However, even if one practices the Rites without all the
muscle tensing and relaxation pauses, one is still getting a good dose of
capillary pumping through range of motion movements — just not the
full dose. However, adding relaxation pauses will give the blood more
time to flow back into those muscles that just had the blood squeezed
out of them, making the capillary pumping more efficient.
Massage is another way to improve capillary function. Merely by
squeezing, stroking and compressing skin and muscle, blood is moved
through the capillaries. Oxygen and nutrients are delivered as waste
and toxins are carried away, giving at least one explanation as to why a
massage feels so good. The Five Tibetan Rites carry this idea of
capillary pumping to our internal organs.
The last four Rites alternately compress and expand our internal
organs. They alternately compress our internal organs from foot to head
(Rite 2), from head to foot (Rite 3), from spine to belly button (Rite 4),
and from belly button to spine (Rite 5). You could say that they give us
a very good internal massage. This massage, this gentle squeezing of
our internal organs from four directions, helps move blood through the
capillaries of our internal organs, thus taking away toxins and waste
while providing oxygen and nutrients. It would seem that the Five Rites
offer a more complete system of capillary pumping than ever offered
Go Slowly, Gradually
Colonel Bradford makes it quite clear that we are to proceed slowly in
working up to a full 21 reps of the Five Rites. We are to start with three
reps and increase those reps two a week until the tenth week when we
will be performing the full 21 reps. Further, if you have reached 21 reps
in the morning and want to perform them at night, also, you need to
build up slowly to 21 reps at night. The Colonel states:
"They can be used either night and morning ... in the morning only,
or just at night, if it is more convenient. I use them both morning
and night, but I would not advise so much stimulation for the
beginner until he has practiced them for a number of months. At
the start he could use them the full number of times in the
morning, and then in the evening he could gradually build up until
finally he is doing the same amount of practice as in the morning."
(9) [Emphasis supplied.]
It appears that one of the great benefits of the Rites is in removing a
buildup of toxins from the body. In improving peripheral circulation, the
Five Rites, especially for beginners who may be (and likely are) dealing
with a buildup of toxins, for these beginners the Rites may release too
many toxins into the blood stream all at once if the reps are not
increased gradually. Too many reps too soon may result in self-
poisoning of the body, thereby delaying or negating the benefits a
gradual buildup would generate.
Some people, those in relatively good shape, pride themselves on going
straight to 21 reps, or they may try to get to 21 reps as quickly as
possible — the Colonel’s instructions be damned. Logically, this excess
of toxins could explain why some people do not get the great results so
many others realize. And, when they do not get the results they
wanted, they give up the Rites, unaware that they really just weren’t
following the instructions.
Colonel Bradford also recommended tepid or cool (but not cold) showers
after doing the Rites. The Colonel states:
Take either a tepid bath or a cool, but not cold, one after practicing
Going over the body quickly with a wet towel and then a dry one is
probably even better. One thing I must caution you against; you
must never take a shower, tub, or wet towel bath which is cold
enough to chill you even slightly internally. If you do you will have
undone all the good you have gained from performing the Five Rites.
The Colonel’s caution about not chilling yourself internally, even slightly,
relates to circulation. When the body cools to the point that the
internal organs become chilled, it begins to shut down circulation to the
extremities. It will sacrifice an arm or a leg to keep the heart, lungs
and liver working. You can live without an arm or a leg, and such
triflings matter little if the heart slows to a stop because of hypothermia.
What the Colonel is saying, I believe, is that if you take cold showers
rather than cool or tepid showers, circulation to your extremities may
shut down. This would be the exact opposite of improving circulation,
which is the whole point of the Rites, it would seem.
Yet why would the Colonel recommend taking a cool or tepid shower in
the first place? Think goose bumps.
Goose bumps are caused by several things including strong emotions
and the sound of chalk screeching across a blackboard — also, the cold,
which is the point of the tepid shower. What happens is that tiny
muscles at the base of each hair contract, pulling the hair erect. Thus,
little bumps are formed. These muscular contractions, the Colonel might
say, provide a bit of capillary pumping, thus nourishing the skin while
eliminating toxins. We can’t know for sure, of course, but it seems
likely to me that tepid showers may rejuvenate the skin.
Label this section as speculation. As mentioned above, Rite 1, the
spinning rite, does not involve muscle tensing. Yet it may be vitally
important to capillary pumping as well.
Rite 1 can be viewed as an energy “charging” exercise, probably
involving an energy variously known as ki, chi, mana, prana or rlung.
Some esoteric traditions, specifically Huna, tell of how this Universal
energy, mana, has an affinity to water, especially to flowing water.
Well, blood is mostly water. Perhaps (just perhaps) Rite 1 charges the
body with mana (or prana, if you prefer) and then the other Rites carry
this energy all throughout the body via the capillaries. We can’t know
any of this for sure, of course, but I find it an intriguing speculation
worthy of followed up.
When I started exploring this idea of capillary pumping, I was surprised
by the number of things it explained about the Rites. Capillary pumping
connects the dots between seemingly unrelated aspects of the Rites.
Capillary pumping explains:
* why many experience detox effects from the Rites (especially at
* why the Rites are so energizing (due to nourishing our bodies as
the cellular level).
* why muscle tensing in the Rites is important (to squeeze old
blood out of the capillaries).
* why relaxation between repetitions is important (to allow fresh
blood back into the capillaries).
* why the number of repetitions should be increased gradually (to
minimize the detox effects of the Rites which may counter the
* why a cool shower following the Rites is good (to cause tiny
muscles in the skin to contract and improve circulation to the skin).
* why overcooling after a warm shower should be avoided (because
over cooling would shut down much of our circulation, counteracting
benefits from the Rites).
The Five Tibetan Rites combine (1) range of motion exercises along with
(2) isometric exercises and (3) a gentle compression massage of internal
organs followed by a (4) skin tightening cool shower, all of which provide
full body capillary pumping which could possibly (5) carry healing energy
throughout the body. Perhaps this explains why the Rites work so
1. As an example of new information which may be developed, consider
the fact that, during the Five Rites, the neck is flexed forward and
backward whenever possible. This likely relates to the lymphatic system
and the lymph nodes in the neck. A close study of the lymphatic system
may reveal even more reasons why the Rite are so beneficial.
2. “Blood flow to muscles increases markedly during the relaxation
phase of dynamic exercise, whereas it remains at a lower level during
the contraction period.
“Between muscle contractions, intramuscular pressure transiently returns
to a level below the venous blood pressure and blood from the capillary
system refills the veins until the next contraction.
“Dynamic exercise is characterized by relaxation periods between
contractions. The relaxation period is a causal factor in determining the
magnitude of blood flow during dynamic exercise.” [“Blood Flow in
Skeletal Muscle.” Boundless Anatomy and Physiology. Boundless, 21 Jul.
2015. Retrieved 27 Dec. 2015 from https:// www.boundless.
3. See: F. M. J Smythe (pseud. Harry J. Gardener); Fire, Air, Earth &
Water; The New Era Press, Los Angeles, 1944, p. 28.
4. Harry J. Gardener, The Garden of Allah, 26th ed. (1st ed. 1933),
privately published, Los Angeles, 1942.
5. Stefan Bechtel, “A 60-Second Shortcut to Vitality,” Prevention,
February 1983, p. 70.
6. Bechtel, p. 70.
7. Bechtel, p. 74.
8. Bechtel, p. 74.
9. Kelder, Peter; The Eye of Revelation (J. Watt, ed.), Booklocker.com,
Inc.; 2008, p. 37.
10. Kelder, pp. 40-41.