By Melissa Downes - Sunday Telegraph 20 April 2003

The Dalai Lama is into it and so is Uma Thurman's dad. Melissa Downes discovers an ancient secret that is finally out of the bag. If someone had told me I'd spin around in circles in a bid to grow younger I'd have laughed out loud. But the money-back guarantee that it would change my life intrigued me. So, here I am practising my "spin", the first rite in an ancient technique called The Five Tibetans. The Five Tibetans are best described as energising exercises that originated in the Himalayas. In the 1930s, a retired English army officer called Colonel Bradford heard of a monastery of remarkably old, yet healthy `ageless' monks and went in search of their "fountain of youth". Colonel Bradford studied the postures the monks performed each day. He dubbed them The Five Rites of Rejuvenation. In 1935, Peter Kelder wrote a book, Ancient Secret of The Fountain of Youth (Doubleday), based on the Colonel's findings and an updated version released 50 years later sold more than two million copies. The five postures require a minimum amount of daily effort but work by balancing and squeezing the body's seven endocrine glands (the endocrine regulates the organs and has been linked to ageing) and rebalancing the seven energy centres, also known as chakras. This, its followers claim, regulates the body's ageing process by detoxing and restoring life energy or Ki. Barry Hogg teaches the rites at Camp Eden on the Gold Coast. He claims they changed his life. "I'd fractured my spine and I had four years of pain until I tried The Five Tibetans," says Hogg. "In 29 years of trying different therapies, no one thing has given me more benefit for an investment of 15 minutes a day." Christopher Kilham, author of The Five Tibetans, (Healing Arts Press), says the postures tone and strengthen the major muscle groups, "contributing to a strong, resilient physique." No-one likes to look old and advocates of The Five Tibetans claim the moves will postpone if not outright reverse ageing. It's a big claim for five little moves but Kelder is adamant. "There is no doubt that for some people the rites generate a transformation that includes the disappearance of age spots, blemishes, facial wrinkles and flabby jowls," he says. "Posture improves and for many people, hair that was grey and white grew thicker and more lustrous." How is this possible? US-based Dr Charles Bowen believes the postures work because they effectively wake up the nervous system. "There is nothing mystical about it," says Dr Bowen, who is one of only 119 board-certified chiropractic neurologists in the world, with a Ph.D. in neurology. "One of the primary contributors to premature ageing and chronic illness is our sedentary way of life," says Dr Bowen.

WAKING UP YOUR SYSTEM

"Better circulation increases blood flow, especially to the face, bringing fresh oxygen and nutrients to the skin and carrying away waste products. Daily practise of the rites, which stimulate the nervous system, which in turn controls the circulatory system, contributes to a younger, better-looking appearance." Advocates of The Five Tibetans say they are a practical way to deal with pressure, stress and fatigue and improve overall health. Many devotees say the postures have enhanced their mental focus and helped them lose or gain weight. They say they feel younger and more energised and report lower stress levels. A shift in attitude also seems to take place. The routine is a modified version of Hatha yoga, so if you've never done yoga before, the postures may take getting used to. "Like any exercise routine, if you haven't been exercising you'll go through a bit of muscular discomfort," says Caroline Witt, who teaches The Five Tibetans in Sydney. So, how long does it take to get them down pat? "It took me three weeks to feel really confident doing them," Witt says. Anne Lewis has been teaching Hatha yoga for 20 years. She suffered from allergies and eczema until she started doing the postures. "Once I started I didn't get eczema any more - they were more powerful than any yoga I'd done. They are so simple but they really work." So what are you waiting for? I'm already wearing a circle into the carpet.