Tummo meditation: an in depth guide

tummo-wim-hof-method

Tummo, meaning inner fire is a Tibetan Buddhist meditation practice that allows us to make significant physical changes to our body temperature using meditation, breathing techniques and our minds.

If you’re not so familiar with the practice of Tummo, think Wim Hoff, the iceman who is able to immerse his naked body in freezing temperatures for long periods and walk across snowy landscapes for hours without freezing to death. Although, Wim Hof (featured in the photo) doesn’t use Tummo exactly — he has his own method called the Wim Hof Method, Tummo is a practice that is designed to help you gain greater control over your body’s temperature.

In this post, I’ve included a mix of videos and guides that I’ve come across about Tummo. However, like with any meditation technique, please be objective when reading. The material here is a collection of information I have discovered and collated to share on ThoughtBrick. I know people have mixed opinions about sharing certain meditation techniques online, so with this in mind, be careful and use your intuition if something doesn’t feel right.

Tummo meditation and body temperature

Watch this Tummo experiment, only 2:30 minutes long. It features a group of Tibetan Tummo practitioners who are able to control their body temperatures and explains what the Monks do when they practise Tummo. I’ve summarised the exercise further on in this article.

What are the benefits of practising Tummo meditation?

Before I talk about the science behind Tummo and how you can practise the technique, I think it’s important to discuss what the purpose of Tummo is. Why practise Tummo meditation in the first place and how does it differ from other types of meditation?

1. More control of your body’s temperature

Being able to control your body’s temperature using breathing techniques, meditation and your mind.

2. Surviving in freezing temperatures

As a result of being able to control your temperature, advanced Tummo practitioners may be able to survive in freezing temperatures with very little clothing. Human installation artist and photographer Spencer Tunick springs to mind.

3. Intuitive, mental and physical progression

According to spiritofchi.com when you have the flow of Tummo inside you, your physical, mental, emotional and intuitive levels will “progress much faster.” I’m not entirely sure what this means, but I’m happy to take it on board — not as scientific fact — just as an idea.

4. Healing

Again, many people advocate Tummo’s ability to heal — physically, mentally, emotionally … How exactly and for which illnesses is unclear but the potential is clearly there.

How to practise Tummo?

I’ve included two Tummo exercises:

1. The exercise the Tibetan practitioners were doing in the video above

2. An in depth inner heat meditation taken from How to Meditate: A Practical Guide by Kathleen McDonald

Tummo meditation exercise taken from the video

To summarise, in the video, the Tummo practitioners say they practise the following three techniques in order to get the Tummo energy flowing.

1. Relax

Details weren’t specified in the video, but do whatever you need to do to reach a state of relaxation. Tensing different parts of your body and then relaxing them might help.

2. Focus on your breathing

Similar to other types of meditation, once you’re relaxed and sitting still with your eyes closed, focus on your breath — first your in breath and then your out breath — over and over again.

3. Visualise a flame

The Tummo practitioners said they pictured air coming in and out as a “kind of energy” that they visualised as a flame or fire coursing through their chest.

Inner Heat Tummo Meditation Exercise

This Tummo exercise was taken from the book How to Meditate: A Practical Guide by Kathleen McDonald and also on the Sea Kayaker.

Tummo and scientific investigations

Here are a few Tummo experiments that have been conducted over the last few decades. Hopefully we’ll see more in the coming years.

1. In 1982 Benson and colleagues studied the physiological effects of practising Tummo by conducting an experiment with three Indo-Tibetan Yogis in India (Himalayas). They found that the Yogis were able to increase the temperature in their fingers and toes by a massive 8.3 degrees. You can find more info here Tummo Wikipedia page

2. Find out more about this 2012 Tummo experiment that took place in Normandy, France with Tibetan Monks. Meditation changes temperatures:Mind controls body in extreme experiments

Additional resources

Whilst researching Tummo, I came across a blog called The Tummo Experiment which involved a group of people who were new to Tummo but interested to experience first hand what it had to offer. The blog is their fascinating journey of what happened, what they discovered and their own thoughts on Tummo.

The information about Tummo on this page is a collection of resources I have discovered about Tummo over the last year and thought I’d share what i’ve found out with others.

However, you might also be interested in learning about the Wim Hof method which is an inner heat meditation similar to Tummo, but doesn’t just involve sitting. You can find out more here: Wim Hof Method. If you have any specific questions about Tummo or inner heat meditations, Wim Hof is the person to ask.

If you have had any personal experiences with Tummo, you’d like to give other readers Tummo tips or you have any thoughts, questions or opinions about this meditation practice, please leave a comment below or email hello@thoughtbrick.com

What to read next?

Reiki Tummo Level 1 experience

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  • http://programminglife.net/ mcatlett

    Interesting stuff – bringing a powerful visualization exercise of heat into our meditations. I’m interested in it mostly for the healing aspect you mentioned, although there’s a bit of inner dork in me thinking about the Human Torch from the Fantastic Four. :)

    • http://www.thoughtbrick.com/ Clare

      Haha, well I’m glad you found it useful. If you do give Tummo a go, let me know how you get on. As for the healing aspect, that really fascinates me too although I’d like to be able to write about the specifics. I’m going to start working on another Tummo post, specifically about Tummo and healing, so stay in touch and let me know if you come across any interesting research or articles.

      • http://programminglife.net/ mcatlett

        Excellent, I look forward to that post of healing using Tummo! And I’ll keep my eyes peeled for anything Tummo-related that might be of interest.

        • http://www.thoughtbrick.com/ Clare

          Fantastic. Stay in touch and let me know if you’d like to write at all for ThoughtBrick!

          • http://transformyourmindcou.fatcow.com/ David Moore

            Although this is specifically about raising the body temperature, when one meditates and therefore gains greater purity of the energy system, the body temperature rises during meditation.

          • http://www.thoughtbrick.com/ Clare

            Hi David, that’s true. There are also specific pranayama exercises such as kapalbhati which can heat the body. Personally, I think it’s important to experiment. What works for one person may not work for another. There are also many routes leading to the same outcome.

  • Andre Abelian

    I started to learn 2 years ago and the difficult part for me is life in California is too stressful to be able to keep nervous system calm and balance. I noticed meditation doesn’t work when I am tired but when I am rested I can feel the energy flow internally but when I check with thermometer I do not see any change. according to Tibetan monks first thing to do is the master must put his hand on me for 15 minutes in order to open my heart. without master next option is higher forces has to do. this part i never could clearly understand how to communicate with higher forces or find a true master. my question is are you able to increase your body heat and when you check with thermometer shows higher? I practice pranayama but vase style still doesn’t work. tummo wants ether vase breathing or visualization method. I am up to the point where I can make myself to sweat doing visualization and different pranayama since I can do vase. my second question is what do you know about master touching top open up the heart ? thanks Andre

    • http://www.thoughtbrick.com/ Clare

      Hi Andre, thanks for your questions. I know that in Reiki Tummo, to become a practitioner, your crown chakra has to be opened by a master. Whether this is true or not, I have no idea and can’t say I felt much difference when my crown chakra was supposedly opened. But what I have found is that when you meditate or practise meditation exercises around people who have been meditating for years, the meditation feels deeper. Also, if you’re interested in Tummo, you might also be interested in the Wim Hof technique (which I do plan to write about in the future). Anyway, take care and good luck with your practice.

      • nocturnalnightmares

        In Kundalini practice, when the crown chakra is open, you do indeed feel different. I’ve experienced it before, by accident. I was self healing through meditation but didn’t realize I was doing it. Upon my crown chakra being opened, I was intuitively led to info on Kundalini, through the music I had been listening to. The last song on the cd was about the Third Eye and I had wanted to check the titles of the songs, in order. Upon using wiki, that last song shared a link on Kundalini. Lo & behold, as I was feeling this blissful state of mind, I discovered the answer as to why. I didn’t fight it. I’m not sure why anyone would judge or discredit the experience of it either. It’s a feeling of complete comfort and who doesn’t enjoy that these days? For me, I’ve never experienced it since (or any real peace of mind due to stress and health issues). I recommend learning about the chakras, as this will help aid your understanding of the cental “tube” you write of. Also, the album I had listened to during the course of my experience, was by Tool, called “Lateralus”. I listened to it entirely from start to finish, as I drew my feelings and emotions on a sketch pad. The colored pencils came out and something within me awoke. I am now practicing Kundalini by clearing chakras with meditative chakra sleep music on Youtube and researching Yoga poses, stones that I might have on hand, and an open heart and mind, with each chakra meditation sleep track. I expect it’s goinggoing to take time to clear the blockages and hope to experience the Prana energy to its fullest potential.

        • http://www.thoughtbrick.com/ Clare Hudson

          I think it’s important to realise that although people can have similar kundalini or meditative experiences, it’s important not to compare. I do however, agree with you that it’s useful to clear blockages from al the chakras first — or at least to become more aware of what’s going on in your body energy wise. Russill Paul is probably one of the most powerful musicians I’ve come across when it comes to chakras. I wrote a short post on him about a year ago where you can find a link to his music, plus a chakra chart. http://thoughtbrick.com/chakras/chakra-pranayama-exercise-russill-paul-shakti-music/

  • Yogi Slobo

    I started doing tummo and the heat is definitely there. What I tried else is combining it with the Wim Hof method. I first do Wim Hof method and then I do tummo. Lately, during tummo I started seeing energy in form of two waves coming from left and right, and they are crushing in to each other and creating something like an opening, circle, door or smth…Clare, what do you think? And I’ve been using crystals in my meditations before. Do you think it would be a good thing to try with tummo?

    • http://www.thoughtbrick.com/ Clare

      In many eastern philosophies and certainly in Yoga, people talk of two main energy channels (nadis) running down the left and right sides of your body either side of the main central channel, sushumna. When you meditate and practise pranayama breathing exercises, you become more balanced and ida and pingala are said to merge. Whether this is happening with you, I’m not 100% sure — listen to your intuition. As for using crystals, I can’t say I meditate with crystals, so I would experiment and see how you find it. Everyone’s experience is different, so personally I think it’s important to discover for yourself.
      Let me know how it goes.

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  • Cbui

    I am sorry, I think this is missing the point of Tummo which is what I did at first too. The point of Tummo has nothing to do with body temperature or the ability to practice in the snow. The point is to actually help to attain enlightenment by manipulating the subtle body and energies. The heat is just a byproduct of this process.

    How did your mind feel when you were practicing? Tummo is suppose to help your mind arrive at a blissful non-dual state which merges perceptions of object and subject together. Subject and object are illusory which Tummo can help penetrate. Milarepa, the great Tibetan yogi, practiced Tummo to set his mind up into the right state before going into Mahamudra, the highest practice in the Tibetan Kagyu school.

    When I did it, my mind arrived at a state very similar to meditating on emptiness (a sutra method), except with much greater penetration, depth, and staying power. I found it amazingly effective for developing the mind.

    I realize the approach here may be more scientific or experimental in nature (versus “religious”), but the real point of Tummo is aiding in enlightenment. The heat is just a gimmicky, but cool, side effect.

    • http://www.thoughtbrick.com/ Clare Hudson

      Hi Cbui, you’re absolutely right and in some respects, now meditation and mindfulness practices are popular in the west, the spiritual aspect has been lost to some degree. However, when I started to look into Tummo and the Wim Hof Method, i did find it fascinating that when Tummo and/ or the Wim Hof Method are practised, the practitioner is able to gain control of his/her immune system. It may have once been a side effect, but I think today it’s very relevant and important. It could well end up playing a huge part in helping to prevent disease. Going back to your original point though – I think it’s important to have the balance of science and spirituality.

      • Cbui

        Hi Clare, yes, awareness meditation is being advertised for its health and productivity boosting benefits when in fact it has the ability to do so much more. From my end, comparing spiritual benefits to health (or personal performance) benefits is like comparing diamonds to pebbles. Something as awesome as Tummo (& awareness med) has the ability to do so much more…
        It seems that as the world becomes more materialistic, we don’t know any better than to focus on these things. Like this guy Win Hof you mentioned, awesome that he can do all those things. But… what about the mind? Has he reduced his craving, aversion, delusion? Is he a wiser, better, or kinder human being because of his method?
        I am probably not on the right site to say these things and apologize since I am probably being rude to the host without understanding your context. Thank you for being accommodating.

        • http://www.thoughtbrick.com/ Clare Hudson

          Hi Cbui,
          It’s important to debate this stuff. In regards to Wim Hof – I would argue that he probably is a kinder more compassionate human being as a result of his method. His focus is on both the spiritual and health benefits. I get what you’re saying but I don’t think either should be compared. In some respects, whatever your reasons for meditating – for spiritual enlightenment, better health, curiosity … over time, you probably will develop a deeper sense of empathy and compassion along with feeling less attached to ‘stuff’, and more connected to the world around you . This seems to be the nature of meditation. Yoga is similar. A lot of people might start off practising to get a fit body. I have no issue with this. Over time, however, that same person might then decide to go deeper and explore the practice in more depth. This I feel is inevitable, but everyone’s practice is different.

  • Matt Martin

    I created an alternate meditation branching from Tummo and Reiki, where you use the Reiki to isolate the heat from the Tummo into a specific spot that is in pain, and use the fire from the Tummo to sort of push the pain and damage out of my body through my hands and feet, and into my surroundings. I was hit by a car, and was very much injured, and my doctor didn’t think I would survive. I used Tummo and Reiki to confine the pain and injuries to my left arm, and the doctor said that he was surprised that I was even alive. I had 21 broken ribs and 23 broken bones, as well as a severe head injury, and now I have 8 cross country top 10 ribbons, and received 6th place in the middle school state track meet for the 100 meter dash.

    • http://www.thoughtbrick.com/ Clare Hudson

      Hi Matt,

      That’s incredibly inspiring and good to know that Reiki and Tummo helped you to recover. Had you heard of Reiki Tummo before or did you create something entirely new? Do you still practice it?

      • Matt Martin

        Hi Clare,

        I hadn’t heard of Reiki Tummo before I used it to recover from the injuries. Yes, I still practice, and it’s helped me a lot, though I definitely still have much to learn. I will monitor this discussion as much as is sensible, and find new techniques to meld into my own. If I am successful in finding new techniques to combine with what I already do, then I will share them here.

        • http://www.thoughtbrick.com/ Clare Hudson

          That’s interesting. I wonder if what you practise is similar or works in a similar place to this: http://www.reikitummo.org.uk/

          • Matt Martin

            It is similar, though I don’t know the exact details on how Reiki Tummo works. I guess what I do isn’t even Reiki or Tummo, because I discovered what I do entirely by myself. I hadn’t heard of Reiki or Tummo before my injury, or until after I had recovered. I found out about both around the same time, when I looked up meditation and healing methods online, but I had already made my own “brand” of the two.

          • http://www.thoughtbrick.com/ Clare Hudson

            Did you instinctively know what would would work for you or did other people suggest meditation techniques? Also, did you meditate prior to your injury?

          • Matt Martin

            It was mainly instinct, but also I’ve always been fairly attuned to my surroundings, and that is helpful with the concept of Reiki, where you sort of channel energy from surrounding sources, or from yourself to something else. Before the accident, I didn’t have the patience for meditation, but after spending a lot of time in a hospital, unable to do anything but wait for something interesting to happen, I was able to just sit down and relax, even in uncomfortable circumstances. So I guess what didn’t kill me made me stronger, as per the saying. My apologies for not answering more quickly, I’ve been very busy studying for finals testing next week.

          • http://www.thoughtbrick.com/ Clare Hudson

            Thanks again Matt for sharing your thoughts and experiences. Good luck with your finals.

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