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.
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.
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
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 email@example.com
Image source: Wikimedia Commons
What to read next?
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.