Life can be difficult. Regardless of where you’re at in your self-knowledge and self-growth journey, it is normal to have anxiety or to feel isolated or sad.
Although no technique will remove the cause of suffering, some, like tummo meditation, can help you manage it.
Tummo meditation is a technique developed by Tibetan monks, to release tension and awaken the inner fire. Although it’s best known for raising the temperature of the body – so it can also help if you’re cold – the “side effect” is a greater sense of awareness and calm.
In this article, we will get to know Tummo meditation by covering:
- What is Tummo Meditation?
- Benefits of Tummo Meditation
- How To Practice Tummo Meditation?
- The Science of Tummo Meditation
- Tummo Breathing Vs. Wim Hof, Kapalbhati, and Bhastrika
- Visualization Makes It Work?
Without further ado, let’s explore this unique tantric practice that awakens your inner fire and has inspired a lot of scientific interest.
What is Tummo Meditation?
The first mention of Tummo meditation is in sacred Tibetan texts from the 8th century. At the time, tummo simply meant “heat”.
The monks developed the technique for practical reasons, to raise their body temperature due to harsh weather conditions. In the high altitudes of the Tibetan mountains, the winters can be extreme.
In such low temperatures, Tibetan monks would wear only basic robes made of wool and slept outdoors, on rocks. In this area, temperatures can get as low as -17 degrees Celsius so it is astonishing they slept outside – and did that with no effort.
Tummo meditation strengthens the connection between the body and mind, so the brain has even better control over bodily functions. It also treats conditions related to stress, such as depression, insomnia, and high blood pressure.
This warmth that is awakened in tummo is connected to Agni, the inner fire we all naturally have within us. It resides in the solar plexus chakra, but we usually don’t use it, at least not consciously.The Tummo meditation technique awakens this inner fire through breathing and visualization. The best thing – you don’t have to be a monk to do it. We described the steps to do it yourself in the article below, but first, let’s quickly cover the benefits.
Benefits of Tummo Meditation
So, the most obvious benefit of tummo meditation is raising the body temperature. Hence, it can be helpful in the winter, particularly if you find yourself outside with no way to heat up.
Furthermore, it enhances your awareness of the connection between the body and mind, and you can notice the power of your thoughts. As a result, your stress response may improve, which also has a positive effect on immunity.
Tummo meditation and breathing exercises also stimulate the vagus nerve improving the health of multiple organs.
It also enhances core strength and stability, which can be helpful both in exercise and in everyday posture and tasks.
The meditation activates the solar plexus chakra and inner fire. This can awaken your personal power and help you transform, overcome the ego, and go into a space of joy and bliss. That increases your confidence and creativity.
The practice also improves concentration and focus, so you can do it before other types of meditation or even before work.
How To Practice Tummo Meditation?
Tummo meditation is a combination of breathwork and visualization, and though everyone can try it, we think it would be easier to achieve if you have the basics in these techniques first.
Here’s how to do it:
- Start as you would any meditation, in a comfortable seat with the spine upright. Close your eyes.
- Rub your hands together to warm them up, then place them on your navel.
- Start by observing the mind and trying to slow down the thoughts. Allow it to quiet down.
- Now inhale deeply and expand the rib cage, slightly arching the back. Follow with a loud exhalation and slightly rounding the spine forward.
- Repeat 3 to four times.
- For a couple of moments, breathe normally.
- Then repeat the loud and deep inhale and a forceful exhale while pushing the abdomen out. Repeat for a couple of times.
- Switch to gentle breathing again, and repeat this sequence 5 times.
- While you’re there, visualize a fire in the stomach, imagining it filling your belly like a balloon when you inhale, and imagining it spreading throughout the body with the exhalation.
- After the last round, hold the inhale, and contract the pelvic muscle, trying to keep the air between the diaphragm and the pelvic floor. Hold for as long as you can then exhale. You can then start again if you want.
Tips For Learning Tummo Meditation
Here are some tips that will help you while you’re learning tummo meditation:
- Learn with a guide: you might have noticed from our instructions, that this breathwork is a bit more complex than other pranayamas. Monks take years to master it. For this reason, it might be best to learn from a qualified teacher. It’s perfect if you can find one in person, but if not, there are also some good opportunities online.
- Practice with an empty stomach: this exercise involves strong contraction of the abdomen, and you need to breathe deep into the stomach. For this reason, it will be much more effective on an empty stomach.
- Consult your doctor: not everyone needs to consult their doctor before practicing tummo meditation, but you should if you have health conditions such as epilepsy, heart disease, high blood pressure, or if you’re pregnant.
- Learn it in normal temperature: This goes without saying, but we’ll still say it just in case: learn tummo at a normal temperature before you test it out in the cold.
- Best time to practice: Since it’s best to practice tummo meditation on an empty stomach, morning is the most suitable time of the day for it. But that’s not the only reason. It also bumps up your energy levels and increases your focus. The morning is the time when we need that, and you could also do it before an important meeting or simply before work.
The Science of Tummo Meditation
Although tummo breathing shares many well-researched benefits with other types of breathwork, the reason why it sparked the interest of science is the heating effect.
The first big study was done in the 1980s by Harvard Medical School and led by professor Herbert Benson.
He used EEG recordings and measured the temperatures of the Tibetan monks, and found that the practice increased the body temperature, especially in the core. The difference was quite high, going from 98.6°F (36.6°C) up to 101°F (38.3° C).
He noticed they could reach these levels of body temperature even in extreme cold.
Furthermore, he found it lowered metabolic rate by 64%.
Later, in 2013 the study called ‘Neurocognitive and Somatic Components of Temperature Increases during G-Tummo Meditation’ confirmed his findings. It highlighted the increased heat in the core, and fingers and also enhanced the mental imagery of the monks.
This study also found the visualization part of the meditation is crucial and that the temperature increases weren’t as significant without it.
Tummo Breathing Vs. Wim Hof, Kapalbhati, and Bhastrika
There are other breathing techniques that also heat up the body, namely Wim Hof, Bhastrika, and Kapalbhati. So how do these differ?
Wim Hof is a famous Dutch creator of the like-named breathing technique, who is known for his ability to withstand insane cold. He broke many records, like completing a full marathon in shorts, above the Arctic Circle, where temperatures were close to – 20 degrees Celsius, and climbing the altitude of 22,000 feet on Mt Everest.
Although he was inspired by the tummo method, his breathing technique is different and doesn’t include the visualization. Where tummo focuses more on meditation and the spiritual aspects, Wim Hof looks at the science, and his breathing method is a bit different.
Kapalbhati and Bhastrika
Kapalbhati and Bhastrika are both breathing techniques known as breath of fire, which involve fast and powerful inhales and exhales and encourage the awakening of inner fire and enhancing energy.
Kaphalbati raises body temperature like tummo, while bhastrika doesn’t.
Just like Wim Hof, both these techniques differ from tummo meditation because they don’t include visualization.
Visualization Makes It Work?
So, from the previous paragraphs, we can see that visualization is a) where tummo differs from other breathing techniques and b) an important part of raising body temperature according to science.
We visualize the fire igniting in the navel and spreading throughout the body, which enhances the effect of the meditation on raising the temperature. The high temperature can also be held for longer.
If you feel more tension in a certain body part, you can focus your visualization there. Another idea is to focus it on your mind so it burns away any negative thoughts.
Tummo breathwork is one of the most powerful techniques you can learn to control your body and mind.
It is more complex and advanced than most other breathing exercises, so you will probably need to learn it from a teacher. Also, approach it with patience and respect – after all, it is an ancient practice that even the monks take years to master.
However, it is also a rewarding practice and can be very effective and transformative on your journey.
If you’d prefer other meditation or breathwork techniques to start, here are some of our other articles that can help: