Tummo meditation: an in depth guide


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 and studying something new. Also, 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 How to Meditate: A Practical Guide by Kathleen McDonald and summarised for ThoughtBrick.

1. Sit comfortably

First, find a suitable place to practise your Tummo meditation and create a positive intention for practising. Keep your mind relaxed and free from expectations

2. Visualise channels

Next start by imagining a channel running centrally through your body from the bottom of your spine to your head. Visualise it as a hollow, but transparent tube or channel about a finger’s breadth in diameter.

You then need to visualise two more channels (nadis) that are slightly thinner than the central channel running either side of the first channel you imagined. These channels start from your right and left nostrils, run to the top of your head and then run down either side of the central channel.

3. Visualise a hot bright ember

You can spend as long as you like visualising the channels before you move onto this stage, but once you’re ready, start to visualise a tiny seed size red hot  ember inside your central channel at the level of your navel. You might also like to imagine taking an ember out of a fire and placing it inside your central channel. As your ability to visualise gets stronger, start to feel an intense heat from within.

4. Contract your pelvic floor muscles and breathe

Start contracting your pelvic floor muscles focusing on your internal muscles, visualising energy coming up from the base of your spine to the top of your head. Now take a full yogic breath through both your nostrils and when you stop inhaling, swallow and try to gently push down with your diaphragm. This apparently compresses the energy that was brought down from your nostrils.

5. Hold your breath

Next, hold your breath for as long as you can without straining. As you do this, keep visualising the ember in your central channel level with your navel. Imagine the heat increasing and spreading throughout your body. Exhale when you feel the time is right — remember not to force. Despite the fact that air leaves through both nostrils, on the exhale, imagine it rising up through your central channel and dissolving there.

The heat should now be increasing. The idea is to burn away chakra blockages and warm the blissful energy found at the crown chakra.

Repeat steps 3-5 for a total of 7 and feel the heat grow and expand with each breath.

6. Imagine the ember bursting into flames

Once you’ve repeated steps 3-5 7 times, imagine the hot ember exploding into powerful bright flames inside you, shooting up through the central channel to the top of your head.

McDonald then goes onto say that once the fire meets the ember at the navel level, there will be an intense feeling of bliss, expanding out into every part of your body and making you feel extremely happy. You should concentrate on the feeling without judgement or expectation.

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

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

What to read next?

Reiki Tummo Level 1 experience

If you enjoyed this article, please share it and support ThoughtBrick by liking our Facebook page, following us on Twitter and signing up to the ThoughtBrick newsletter on the right side of the screen.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Pingback: Wim Hof Up to His Neck in Ice for 72 Minutes!()