Five Tibetan Rites of Rejuvenation: Ancient Secret of the Fountain of Youth in Shangri-La

by EmmaSRose

According to a 20th century adventurer, the fountain of youth is not a drink but a set of five exercises learned from ageless lamas in a remote Tibetan monastery.

In the 1930s Peter Kelder, a 20th century adventurer, learned from his mysterious mentor that the fountain of youth is not an elixir to be consumed, but rather a set of 5 secret exercises, called "rites" by ageless lamas in a remote Tibetan monastery.

Popularized as "the 5 Tibetans" by medicine hunter Chris Kilham, these exercises promote radiant well-being.

water as fountain of youth?

fountain of youth
fountain of youth


According to twentieth century adventurer Peter Kelder, the fountain of youth is attained by performing five exercises, not by consuming a particular elixir. As such, the legendary fountain of youth, rather than hiding externally in some remote paradise, already exists within, awaiting discovery.

The five Tibetan rites of rejuvenation were presented by Peter Kelder in a book, The Eye of Revelation, which was published in 1939 and updated in 1946. A Doubleday release, retitled Ancient Secret of the Fountain of Youth, in 1999 features a foreword by Bernie Siegel (born October 14, 1932), who retired from Yale University in 1989 as Assistant Clinical Professor of General and Pediatric Surgery several years after the publication of his New York Times bestseller, Love Medicine and Miracles (HarperCollins, 1986). Bernie Siegel enjoys international recognition as an articulate, compassionate expert on integrative holistic medicine and complementary therapies. In his appreciation of these exercises, Bernie urges they be used "not to avoid death, but to enhance the quality of your life."

Also included in reprintings is a minuscule biography of the mysterious Peter Kelder, whose birth date and presumed death date are unknown. Adopted by a family in the American Midwest, Peter fell under the spell of wanderlust in his teens and traveled extensively around the world.


endless Tibetan knot (Tibetan: Dpal be'u), a symbol with many layers of meaning

A Tibetan endless knot is featured on the cover of printings of Peter Kelder's pamphlet retitled as "Ancient Secret of the Fountain of Youth".
Tibetan endless knot
Tibetan endless knot


The Eye of Revelation recounts Peter's encounter in southern California in the 1930s with the equally mysterious, pseudonymous Colonel Bradford, a retired British army officer and former diplomatic corpsman for the Crown. At first acquaintance, Peter described the Colonel as

". . . an old man for that is exactly what he was. In his late sixties, he looked every year his age. He was thin and stooped, and when he walked leaned heavily on his cane." (p. 3)

The Colonel subsequently confided to Peter about fascinating tales of a remote Tibetan monastery where lamas had discovered the fountain of youth. Having first heard these reports from "wandering natives . . . of a particular district" while stationed in India, the Colonel became beguiled with the idea of locating the monastery. This irresistible desire monopolized his attention, especially since

"Like so many other men, Colonel Bradford had become old at the age of forty, and since then had not been growing any younger." (p. 4)

While Peter was tempted to accept the Colonel's invitation to join his search, he succumbed to the pull of daily practicalities and decided that

". . . perhaps one should be satisfied to grow old gracefully; that perhaps the Colonel was wrong in trying to get more out of life than was vouchsafed to other men." (p. 4)

Over four years later, Peter was visited by the Colonel, who was completely transformed and virtually unrecognizable. At first Peter assumed that the sprightly, confident person who presented himself at Peter's door must be the Colonel's son, certainly not the 73-year-old decrepit dreamer who had yearned for Shangri-La.

"Instead of the stooped, limping, sallow old gentleman with a cane, he was a tall, straight, ruddy-complexioned man in the prime of life. Even his hair, which had grown back, held no trace of gray."


seven major chakras with associated colors

Cymraeg: Mae'r llun hwn yn darlunio'r saith prif Siacra gyda disgrifiadau. English: 7 major chakras with descriptions.
Cymraeg: Mae'r llun hwn yn darlunio'r saith prif Siacra gyda disgrifiadau. English: 7 major chakras with descriptions.


The Colonel attributed his rejuvenation --- or "youthing" as termed by Bernie Siegel --- to the daily practice of five exercises, called rites by the lamas, which calibrate the body's seven energy centers (chakras) to spin harmoniously at the same speed in order to ensure the proper flow of vital life energy (prana) upward through the seven major endocrine glands (pineal, pituitary, thyroid, thymus, adrenals, pancreas, and testes [men]/ovaries [women]). Life energy flows through invisible, subtle channels (nadis), which are centered in the heart and which are estimated variously as totaling from 72,000 or 80,000 to 200,000 or even 300,000.


The Five Tibetan rites harmonize the seven major chakras and the seven major endocrine glands.

endocrine system (Greek ἔνδον, endon, “inner, internal” + κρίνειν, krinein, “to separate”).
endocrine system (Greek ἔνδον, endon, “inner, internal” + κρίνειν, krinein, “to separate”).


While a startlingly glowing metamorphosis may not be exhibited in all practitioners, the health benefits which are enjoyed by regular practitioners include emotional composure, mental alertness, and physical suppleness and vitality. Yet, while the veracity of flourishing well-being may be verified by practitioners today, particularly those who have been performing the exercises for decades, questions persist as to the authenticity of the five rites in the Tibetan yogic tradition, especially since Peter Kelder never revealed the location of Colonel Bradford's lamasery. Nevertheless, similarities exist in the last four rites with certain yoga postures (asanas) so that they easily conform to known yogic parameters.


counter-clockwise spinning by whirling dervishes

whirling dervishes from Turkey
whirling dervishes from Turkey


The first rite of twirling, however, is reminiscent of the whirling by dervishes in the Sufi order of Mawlaw'īyya (Mevlevi), except that the first rite observes a clockwise spin while the dervishes spin counter-clockwise. The Colonel cautioned that excessive spinning exhausts the vortexes (chakras) through overstimulation of minor vortexes in the knees, thereby first accelerating the flow of vital life energy (prana) only then to effect detrimental blockages. Thus, the goal of 21 spins within one session, for a maximum of two sessions with a daily total of no more than 42 spins, is not to be exceeded.


mudras (hand gestures) of whirling dervishes:

upward palm of right hand as symbol of heaven, sky, and spiritual existence; downward palm of left hand as symbol of ground and earthly existence
Sultanahmet, Old Historic district, central Istanbul, northwestern Turkey
Sultanahmet, Old Historic district, central Istanbul, northwestern Turkey


In 1994 interest in the rites was boosted with the publication of The Five Tibetans by medicine hunter Chris Kilham (born July 22, 1952). While the popular yoga teacher and Fox News world traveler has noted  the lineage quandaries over the five rites, he directs focus to the potential health benefits of practicing the rites for only ten minutes daily. Despite his hectic schedule, Chris exuberantly, skillfully, and gracefully devotes time for this daily practice, as he has since the 1970s.

In December 2011 Chris demonstrated the five Tibetans for Fox News and extolled their benefits for cardiovascular, digestive, metabolic, and respiratory health as well as for balance, stamina, and strength:

". . .I've gained all of these benefits over time. And, hey, I'm aging, so it matters to me that I can stay at least a little bit younger and healthier in my age.

As Chris pointed out, no complicated props and no special clothing are required for these exercises. They are easy to insert within a daily schedule because

"All you need for the five Tibetans is 10 minutes out of your daily schedule. And a piece of flat ground." ("5 Anti-Aging Yoga Moves")


Chris Kilham: "These are relatively easy to do, and I'm feeling great."


5 Anti-Aging Yoga Moves / Video / Fox News 

Chris Kilham demonstrates the ease, power, and simplicity of the five Tibetans.

Chris Kilham with goji berries, Ningxia region, northwestern China
Chris Kilham with goji berries, Ningxia region, northwestern China

The Colonel's precautions and recommendations: repetitions and incomplete sets


The Colonel recommended progressively increasing the number of repetitions of each rite over a period of ten weeks. In the first week, each rite should be repeated three times in a session which could be performed at the beginning or at the end of the day. The number of daily repetitions should then be increased by two with each succeeding week, until a total of 21 daily repetitions is achieved in the tenth week.

The Colonel also emphasized that each rite holds equal importance. Yet, if one rite presents difficulty, that rite may be omitted for a few months without affecting the overall process.

Ultimately, the goal for serious practitioners is to practice the five rites twice daily.

The first session greets the new day, and the second session closes the day. Thus, twenty-one repetitions for each rite would be performed twice daily.

Nevertheless, only performing each rite a few times daily or omitting a rite does not impair the effectiveness. Benefits ensue regardless of the number of daily repetitions or of the number of rites performed.


Shavasana (corpse pose) provides restful transition between rites, especially horizontally posed 2nd through 5th.

Ashtanga Yoga:  savasana
Ashtanga Yoga: savasana

The Colonel's breathing pointers


Peter Kelder did not include specific breathing instructions for the exercises. The only breathing suggested by the Colonel pertaining specifically to the five rites concerned the transition between each exercise. The Colonel mentioned that it would be helpful to "stand erect with hands on hips . . . and take one or two deep breaths." (p. 20)

A breath practice, however, was provided as a separate rite. This sixth rite comprises complete exhalation, steadfast retention, deep inhalation and exhalation, followed by almost a bellows style of deep in and out breaths. According to the Colonel, the proviso for performing this particular rite is a vow of celibacy in order to transmute sexual energy into pure vital force energy, the true elixir of life.

Subsequent printings several decades later included additional information which purportedly had been omitted accidentally in Peter's original pamphlets. One such insertion describes a breathing pattern of deep inhalation during folding, lifting, or raising movements and of full exhalations while returning to original, starting positions of each exercise. The breathing which many practitioners observe conforms with this suggestion.

Another popular step demarcates the transition from one rite to the next with a pause to breathe fully and smoothly, in accordance with the Colonel's suggestion. The transition from the verticality of the first rite to the horizontal second rite on the floor easily accommodates relaxing breaths in upright posture. Nevertheless, the second through fifth rites all feature horizontal floor postures.

As such, many practitioners pause for restful breaths between those four exercises by assuming briefly some semblance of the corpse pose (shavasana). Although perhaps unsettlingly titled, the corpse pose induces instantaneous restfulness through lying down on the back with arms by the sides and with palms upward.


International yoga teacher Dashama Konah Gordon includes modification for first Tibetan spinning exercise.

Yahoo! Video Detail for Grow Younger! 5 Tibetan Rites with Dashama: Uploaded to YouTube on June 28, 2011 by MERCATUR360

Additional precautions


The five Tibetans may seem to be rigorous exercises for those who are not kinesthetically inclined or who have been physically inactive. If such is the case, only commence this set of exercises after consulting with a health care professional and under the supervision of an experienced yoga teacher. Reputable yoga studios always are skilled in adapting exercises and poses according to their students' needs and levels of fitness. These adaptations are essential for guiding novices progressively through successive comfort zones.

Practice sessions should be preceded by sufficient hydration to counter fluid loss which always occurs, even with light exertion, and should be conducted on empty stomachs, generally about 60 to 90 minutes after consuming a full meal.

The five Tibetans may be performed indoors or outdoors. The only consideration is the safety of the environment. For example, a non-slip mat is necessary indoors.


First Tibetan

Peter Kelder, Eye of Revelation, p. 8
Peter Kelder, Eye of Revelation, p. 8

First Tibetan


First Tibetan benefits: 

  • strengthens vestibular system which controls balance in inner ear.


First Tibetan set:

  1. Stand straight.
  2. Maintain throughout a rhythmic breathing pattern of a deep, slow inhalation followed by a full, smooth exhalation.
  3. Raise arms to shoulder level with palms facing downward.
  4. Turn slowly in a clockwise direction, from left to right.

Note:  Focusing on left hand, which leads the spin, helps reduce dizziness.


vestibular system:

labyrinth of inner ear, where horizontal canal detects horizontal head movements as produced by twirling (1st rite)
vestibular system
vestibular system


Transition to second Tibetan:

  • stand straight or lie flat on floor, whichever is preferable;
  • enjoy several relaxing, rhythmic sets of deep inhalations followed by full exhalations;
  • when ready, assume posture for second Tibetan.


Second Tibetan

Peter Kelder, p. 10
Peter Kelder, p. 10

Second Tibetan


Second Tibetan benefits:

  • strengthens abdominal cavity; improves metabolism by massaging thyroid gland;
  • improves digestion and elimination.


Starting position:

  • lie on back with arms at sides, palms downward.


Second Tibetan set:

1.  Inhale slowly and deeply while lifting head up to tuck chin into chest and also raising both legs until perpendicular to floor (90° angle); keep knees straight and lower back flat on the floor.

  • Note:  Modern practitioners tend to insert a flexing of the feet towards the shins (dorsiflexion) to improve flexibility of lower leg muscles.
  • Note:  The ultimate aim is for the raised legs to surpass a right angle with the floor by tilting slightly obliquely towards the head.

2.  Exhale fully and smoothly while lowering head and legs back to floor.


The Colonel noted that a lama who was "so old, weak, and decrepit that he couldn't possibly lift up both legs," started out with bent legs until three months later he easily raised straightened legs.


Transition to third Tibetan:

  • lie flat on floor or kneel on both knees, whichever is preferable;
  • enjoy several relaxing, rhythmic sets of deep inhalations followed by full exhalations;
  • when ready, assume posture for third Tibetan.


Third Tibetan

Peer Kelder, p. 12
Peer Kelder, p. 12

Third Tibetan


Third Tibetan benefits:

  • opens lungs;
  • improves respiration;
  • improves metabolism by massaging thyroid gland;
  • promotes spinal flexibility;
  • stretches upper body and thighs.


Starting position:

  • kneel on floor with both knees bent;
  • feet are flexed, with balls and toes curled forward onto floor;
  • keep thighs and upper body straight while resting hands on outer sides of thighs, below hips.


Third Tibetan set:

1.  Incline head and neck forward to tuck chin briefly into chest.

2.  Then inhale deeply and slowly while moving head and neck backward, arching spine gently backward, and sliding palms back slightly to rest under the butt.

  • Note: Apart from the placement of the arms, this posture resembles the camel pose (ushtrasana or ustrasana).

3.  Exhale fully and smoothly while returning to starting posture.


Third Tibetan is reminiscent of camel pose.
ustrasana:  camel pose
ustrasana: camel pose


Transition to fourth Tibetan:

  • lie flat on floor, with arms resting along sides;
  • enjoy several relaxing, rhythmic sets of deep inhalations followed by full exhalations;
  • when ready, assume posture for fourth Tibetan.


Fourth Tibetan

Peter Kelder, p. 14
Peter Kelder, p. 14

Fourth Tibetan


Fourth Tibetan benefits:

  • strengthens arms, legs, and back; stretches and stimulates abdominal cavity;
  • enhances circulation and respiration;
  • stimulates metabolism by massaging thyroid gland.


Starting position:

  • sit upright on floor with legs outstretched in front and feet about shoulders' width apart;
  • keep head and upper body straight while placing palms on floor alongside hips.

Note: This is reminiscent of Dandasana (Sanskrit: danda, "staff, rod" + asana, "pose"), known as Staff Pose.


Fourth Tibetan set:

1.  Incline head and neck forward briefly to tuck chin into chest.

2.  Inhale deeply and slowly while gently allowing backward drop of head and neck, keeping arms straight with palms flat on floor, and also pushing forward and upward with hips to bend knees and place feet flat on floor, until a table is formed with the straight line of the thighs and upper body parallel to the floor and with the arms and calves parallel to each other.

  • Note: This pose is reminiscent of Ardha Purvottanasana (Sanskrit: ardha, "half" + purva, "east" + ut, "intense" + tan, "to stretch" + asana, "pose"), which is known variously as Reverse Table Pose or Table or Half Reverse Plank or Crab.

3.  Exhale fully and smoothly while returning to starting posture.


Transition to fifth Tibetan:

  • lie flat on floor, with arms restfully placed along sides;
  • enjoy several relaxing, rhythmic sets of deep inhalations followed by full exhalations;
  • when ready, assume posture for fifth Tibetan.


Fifth Tibetan

Peter Kelder, p. 16
Peter Kelder, p. 16

Fifth Tibetan


Fifth Tibetan benefits:

  • overall stamina, suppleness, and strength;
  • stimulates metabolism by massaging thyroid.


Starting position:

  • lie face down on floor with legs outstretched, feet about shoulders' width apart, balls of feet and toes curled forward on floor, and arms bent with palms downward alongside shoulders.


First part of Fifth Tibetan is reminiscent of Upward Facing Dog yoga pose (urdhva mukha svanasana).



Fifth Tibetan set:

1.  Raise body by straightening arms while allowing spine to arch and body to sag and gently moving head and neck backward.

  • Note: This position resembles an upward-facing dog posture (urdhva mukha svanasana), which is featured in the sun salutation (surya namaskara).

2.  Inhale deeply and slowly while pushing butt upward to bend at hips, forming an inverted V outline with the body, and slightly tucking chin into chest.

  • Note: This position resembles the downward facing dog pose (adho mukha svanasana).
  • Note: Some practitioners raise their heels while assuming the inverted V; others strive to let heels drop flat on floor in order to stretch lower body muscles.

3.  Exhale fully and smoothly while returning to starting position.


Transition to end of practice session:

  • lie flat on floor, with arms at sides;
  • enjoy several relaxing sets of deep inhalations followed by full exhalations;
  • when ready, arise and enjoy the gift of another day;
  • if session occurs in the evening, appreciate the closing day and the gift of another night.


Second part of Fifth Tibetan is reminiscent of Downward Facing Dog yoga pose (adho mukha svanasana).




The five Tibetans initially may seem easy or challenging. They are both. Yet these five straightforward exercises only require ten minutes of regular practice in order for benefits to be felt and seen. This inner tuneup promotes an external radiance and serene confidence which are derived from improvements in balance, stamina, strength, and suppleness. These benefits are timelessly age-defying, for they improve the quality of life through enhanced well-being. As such, they are suggestive of a fountain of youth.


Allure of Tibet: a utopia of pristine lakes, vast mountains, and wise ageless lamas ("high priests") on Rooftop of the World
Lake Yamdrok, southeastern Tibet: one of 4 holy lakes guarded by goddess Dorje Gegkyi Tso
Lake Yamdrok, southeastern Tibet: one of 4 holy lakes guarded by goddess Dorje Gegkyi Tso



My special thanks to talented artists and concerned organizations who share their fine images via the Internet.


The real Colonel Bradford may have been Sir Wilfrid Malleson.

Sir Wilfrid Malleson succumbed to throat cancer after a lifetime of smoking.
undated photo of Major-General Sir Wilfred Malleson (September 8, 1866–January 24, 1946)
undated photo of Major-General Sir Wilfred Malleson (September 8, 1866–January 24, 1946)

Sources Consulted


"5 Anti-Aging Yoga Moves." Medicine Hunter > Fox News: Nature's Medicine Cabinet
with the Medicine Hunter. December 2011. Medicine Hunter Inc. Web.

  • Available at:

"About the Tibetan Rites." T5T®. T5T: Carolinda Witt. Web.

  • Available at:

Borges, James. "A New Look at the Five Rites of Rejuvenation." Journal of Borderland Research: Serving Higher Intelligence Since 1945. July 6, 2010. Borderland Sciences Research Foundation. Web.

  • Available at:

Kelder, Peter. The Eye of Revelation. Burbank, CA: New Era Press, 1939.

Kilham, Chris. The Five Tibetans: Five Dynamic Exercises for Health, Energy and Personal Power. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 1994.

Kurus, Mary. "The Five Tibetan Rites: Exercises for Healing, Rejuvenation, and
Longevity." M.K. Projects International: The Home of Vibrational Health. 2001. Mary Kurus. Web.

  • Available at:

Lynch, Elmear. "Yoga Your Way Young." Q by Equinox > Archive > September 2013. Thursday, September 26, 2013. Web.

  • Available at:

Tansley, David V. Subtle Body: Essence and Shadow. Art and Imagination Series. London: Thames and Hudson, 1977.

Watt, Jerry. "Major-General Sir Wilfrid Malleson a.k.a. 'Colonel Bradford'." Jerry's Rare Books > Articles About the Five Tibetan Rites. November 15, 2010. Jerry W. Watt. Web.

  • Available at:

Witt, Carolinda. "The Five Tibetans Rite No. 1 (The Spin):  Which Direction Should We Spin?" erry's Rare Books > Articles About the Five Tibetan Rites. July 24, 2009. Jerry W. Watt. Web.

  • Available at:


White Tara, Tibetan Buddhist goddess of compassion, healing, long life, and serenity

statue by Öndör Gegeen Zanabazar (1635-1723)
Fine Arts G. Zanabazar Museum, Chingeltei District, Ulaanbaatar, north central Mongolia
Fine Arts G. Zanabazar Museum, Chingeltei District, Ulaanbaatar, north central Mongolia
somewhere between here and there
somewhere between here and there
Lost 1946 edition, edited by antiquarian bookseller Jerry Watts, leading authority on 5 Tibetan Rites
hardcover edition
foreword by Dr. Bernie Siegel
hardcover edition

Enlightenment ~ black t-shirt

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Acclaimed 5 Tibetans' teacher Carolinda Witt; alternative postures included for those with limited mobility.
The Five Tibetans(DVD): An Expert Teacher's Know-How Revealed

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Updated: on 06/26/2014, EmmaSRose
Thank you! Would you like to post a comment now?


EmmaSRose on 11/03/2014

Derdriu, Numbers 4 and 5 really work the abs. These rites feel healthy because they are healthy. I enjoy the flow from one position to the next.
Yes, indeed, your longevity comment is well phrased: "Assuming the colonel and the 'sir' to be one and the same, that's quite a long life span." And it would appear to have been a life well-lived.

DerdriuMarriner on 10/31/2014

Over the course of a couple of reads and re-reads of your article, I attempted all five Tibetan rites. They leave me feeling great, but wow, that's a lot of agility and stamina to get through numbers 4 and 5. They seem completely do-able, even twice a day. And what benefits!
Assuming the colonel and the "sir" to be one and the same, that's quite a long life span.
Thank you for the article and the ever-welcome gift ideas in books and t-shirts.

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