The Tummo breathing method has been practiced for thousands of years, but the more we learn about our breath, the more interest this amazing practice attracts people of all backgrounds and walks of life.
“You cannot breathe in the future, you cannot breathe in the past. Focus on the present.” – Buddhist Monk
The combination of breathing practices, meditation, and muscle tensing could be among the most powerful skills we can develop to increase health, longevity, vitality, and mental well-being.
Tummo meditation practices were first described by the Indian yogi Naropa. As a Buddhist scholar, Naropa was one of the first to record Tummo in writing.
Previous teachers such as Shakyamuni Buddha passed the traditions of the Tummo meditative practice verbally. The deep breath of Tummo is known as part of tantric meditation cycles for yogic body heat.
During the Anuyoga, or highest completion stage of yoga tantra, tummo is used to raise the normal body temperature to higher levels, and control body processes.
To begin to understand Tummo, you need to understand Chakra. These are the many focal points of the body during meditation practice. Tummo meditation focuses on manipulating the flow of energy through the chakras.
Tummo is a Tibetan word for Inner Fire, and moving this inner heat and fire through the arterial system is part of the meditation process.
Tummo Breathing Steps –
- You will want to sit in a comfortable position with your spine aligned straight. Place your hands in your lap. An empty stomach is also encouraged.
- Slowly close your eyes and visualize a fire burning beneath your navel. There are many techniques for the visualization aspect, but the main focus should be an inner fire burning to create body heat.
- Take a forceful breath through your nose and imagine the air entering your chest and down to your stomach. Picture the air fueling the inner fire at the navel area.
- As you exhale, imagine the air pulling the inner fire and heat up through your spine and toward the top of your head.
- Go through this cycle five times. Focus on the visualization of the inner heat. Focus on your core body temperature rising from the burning fire within your navel area.
- On the fifth breath, you will begin a breathing technique called Vase Breathing. Inhale with a full breath into the diaphragm. Tighten your pelvic muscles and abdominal muscles. This diaphragmatic breathing should engage the navel chakra area where your inner fire is originating.
- After the full breath, hold your breath as long as you are able. Focus on the inner fire and heat generated from your navel area. Continue to notice the inner body heat and calmness.
- When you find the need to breathe out, let the air out slowly from your lungs. At the end of the exhale, forcefully empty your lungs. Continue to imagine the inner fire shooting up from your navel to the top of your head and then throughout your entire body.
- Repeat this entire breathing exercise session at least three times.
The six doctrines, or “six teachings” of Tibetan Buddhist practices are called the Six Dharmas of Naropa. Another way to describe the Six Dharmas is an oral instruction for achieving liberation in the Bardo.
The first of the Six Dharmas is Tummo. This is the foundation for the other Six Dharmas, and by using inner heat, Tibetan Buddhists utilized the state of mind during Tummo for accessing a heightened state of consciousness.
The Science Behind Tummo
Tummo literally translates to ‘inner fire,’ an ancient technique used by Buddhist monks in Tibet, and many others who have learned Tummo breathing practices. The ancient breathwork practice not only changes your oxygen levels and Co2 levels but also incorporates visualization techniques.
Numerous studies conducted over the years challenge claims from Tummo practitioners. One of the most extensive studies was by Herbert Benson, a Harvard cardiologist.
After receiving the blessing of the Dalai Lama, Benson began a 20-year study of Tummo. In 1981 he traveled to the Mount Everest region of Northern India to investigate and observe the practice.
What Benson ultimately concluded was Tummo meditation can “uncover capacities that will help us to better treat stress-related illnesses.”
He also concluded Tummo shows an effective way to access specific processes that seemed inaccessible. “What advanced forms of meditation can do to help the mind control physical processes once thought to be uncontrollable.”
Benson shared his research while teaching at the Harvard Medical School and serving as president of the Mind/Body Medical Institute in Boston.
Among the fascinating research conducted, Benson remarked, “monks possessed remarkable capacities for controlling their oxygen intake, body temperatures, and even brainwaves.”
Accessing the Inner Body
Could breathing techniques be one of the most powerful tools for a healthier way of life? It’s amazing to consider the possibilities that every one of us already possesses access to these abilities.
Most people now recognize inflammation as one of the most significant risk factors in disease and deterioration of health. Excessive and persistent inflammation plays a central role in many autoimmune diseases.
Understanding how to stop the ravages of inflammation on the body could be one of the most important areas of study for the general public by creating a healthy society.
Not only could tummo breathing reduce inflammation, but it has been shown to improve immune response. Conditioning the body to experience a stressed state helps it remain flexible and ready to fight off infections and pathogens.
Fighting high blood pressure,
“To master our breath is to be in control of our bodies and minds.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
Tummo Breathing Techniques
There are so many resources available to learn Tummo breathing techniques it can be challenging to find where to start.
Here’s a brief description and the basic idea behind the inner fire meditation known as Tummo. Although Tummo is taught with many different variations, there’s only one way to begin learning about the practice, and that is to try it for yourself.
Wim Hof Method and Tummo Breathing
The Wim Hof Method reminds us that we hold incredible inner power if we decide to access it. Over time, civilization has worn away the natural stimulation of our bodies with temperature-controlled environments.
- Cold Therapy
Using breathing techniques and breathing exercises very similar to Tummo, the Wim Hof Method focuses on the power of our breath. If you’re not familiar with The Iceman, you really should check him out.
Deep breathing, heightened oxygen levels, breath holds, and reducing the Co2 level in the blood contribute to the Wim Hof Method to reduce stress levels, increase energy, and strengthen the immune system.
By offloading carbon dioxide from your body, you alter your blood’s physiology and change how your blood moves through blood vessels.
Wim Hof Breathing and Cold Therapy
The Wim Hof Method mixes tummo breathing with cold therapy through ice bath exposure, cold showers, and experiencing extremely cold conditions.
Holder of 26 world records, Wim Hof brings the breathing techniques of Tummo meditation to a whole new level.
Wim has also set records for cold exposure with the longest time in direct contact with ice.
Through Wim Hof’s rendition of the ancient meditation technique of Tummo, you may experience muscle contraction, a light-headed sensation, or a dizzy feeling. That’s perfectly normal, but caution should be taken.
Always practice the Wim Hof Method in a safe environment and never near water. Wim Hof does not advise anyone practice his method who has epilepsy, heart disease, high blood pressure, or is pregnant.
Inner Heat and Cold Therapy
Now, imagine you have the ability to create this “Inner Heat” or inner fire, as taught by Buddhist Monks and their practitioners. Naturally, you can use this heat to raise your peripheral body temperature and withstand cold weather and cold elements found in nature.
The second pillar of the Wim Hof Method focuses on this aspect. Cold Therapy has been used for thousands of years to condition the mind and body to focus energy to keep from freezing.
Exposure to icy water through ice baths or simply immersing yourself in a cold environment provides the atmosphere for beginning cold therapy.
Wrestling with these two opposing forces, heat and cold, is an essential aspect of Tummo Meditation.
Exposing the body to cold temperatures and overcoming them with Tummo breathing techniques, something Tibetan Buddhism has practiced for centuries, is only beginning to be understood by modern culture. And the benefits could be enormous to physical and mental health.
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Benefits of Tummo Breathing
While the health benefits of Tummo breathing are not entirely understood, the yogic practices show us a way to begin our understanding. Many who practice Tummo experience increased energy levels, increased cognitive performance, and reduced stress.
The physiological changes can be dramatic as well. Lower blood pressure, lower heart rate, decreased inflammation, and better sleep quality is some of the results reported from Tummo breathing.
The practice of Tummo has been a Tibetan Buddhist tradition and the foundation of the Six Teachings. But why is it mostly thought of as a religious practice when the benefits are wide-ranging and applicable to all?
Much like other ancient yoga traditions like pranayama, kundalini, and vajrayana, tummo has powerful health benefits and improved wellness possibilities.
The Tummo technique, conscious breathing, or a combination of different breathing techniques seems like a good thing to practice for long life and a healthy body and mind. Hopefully, Tibetan yoga and breath control routines will continue to be studied to discover all of their tremendous potential.
Autonomic Nervous System
If you thought access to the Autonomic Nervous System was off-limits and tapping into its strength was impossible, you would be wrong.
Scientific studies research how our breathing has the power to alter our body in ways previously thought impossible.
Scientists debate how it’s possible to alter the body’s inner temperature by breathing and meditation. A 2013 study by Maria Kozhevnikov observed brain activity during meditation and breathing practices with electroencephalogram (EEG) data.
Increased body temperature was possible by shifting the focus of the mind inward, and various breath-hold practices.
A study published by the US National Library of Medicine in 2014 states that “through practicing techniques learned in a short-term training program, the sympathetic nervous system and immune system can indeed be voluntarily influenced.”
The significance of the study and its positive effect cannot be ignored.
“Healthy volunteers practicing the learned techniques exhibited profound increases in the release of epinephrine, which in turn led to increased production of anti-inflammatory mediators and subsequent dampening of the proinflammatory cytokine response elicited by intravenous administration of bacterial endotoxin.”
READ more about great breathing and longevity practices –
Additional Resources –
Neurocognitive and Somatic Components of Temperature Increases during G-Tummo Meditation – Maria Kozhevnikov, PubMed,NIH.gov