Have you ever heard of Tummo Breathing? It’s a fascinating practice from Tibetan monks but more than meditation. It can warm the body through breathing, which is useful when participating in winter sports.
In this article, I will explain more about Tummo breathing and how you can benefit from knowing about it.
Explanation of Tummo Breathing
Tummo, or inner heat, is a Tibetan meditation technique that involves generating heat in a part of your body. This heat is then used to warm up the rest of your body and mind.
Tummo breathing is the breathing technique used in conjunction with Tummo meditation. It’s also known as “inner fire” or “inner warmth” breathing.
The practice was first written about in the 11th century and has been practiced by Buddhist monks for centuries. However, anyone can learn this technique and gain the benefits it brings.
The foundation for Tummo breathing is based upon four main principles:
1) Moving energy within one’s body by breathing in a specific way.
2) Controlling thoughts to eliminate negative emotions such as anger, jealousy, hatred, and greed.
3) Creating a meditative state where one can visualize oneself without physical needs or desires. This helps to eliminate attachment from worldly belongings, including family members, friends, or material possessions.
4) Using one’s mind power to create inner heat raises body temperature significantly above normal levels. This heat is then transferred throughout the body for healing or to become enlightened spiritually.”
How Tummo Breathing Works
Have you ever wondered how tummo breathing is done? Or, maybe you’re interested in the health benefits. Or, perhaps you just want to know if this “heat-generating” breathing technique is too good to be true (I’ll show you the facts).
Tummo breathing involves focusing on one part of your body at a time — usually your navel — while breathing deeply through your nose and focusing on how it feels as you breathe.
The idea is that by concentrating on these sensations, you can generate heat within yourself using concentration alone. Here’s a brief overview of how Tummo breathing works.
Increased oxygen intake: Tummo breathing involves a rapid and deep breathing pattern, which can increase the amount of oxygen taken into the body. This increased oxygen intake can help to raise the body’s temperature.
Heat production: Tummo breathing also involves the contraction of certain muscles, which can generate heat. This heat production is thought to be a key factor in the ability of tummo practitioners to increase their body temperature.
Mind-body connection: Tummo breathing is also thought to involve a strong mind-body connection. Practitioners can do so even in cold conditions when they focus on generating heat. This suggests that the mind can play a role in regulating the body’s temperature.
Benefits of Tummo Breathing
Tummo breathing has been used for centuries to help promote inner peace, self-control, happiness, and overall well-being through specific breathing techniques. Read on to learn more about the benefits in detail.
Increased physical fitness
One of the main benefits of tummo breathing is that it helps you build up your inner heat, which improves cardiovascular health (heart rate and blood pressure). This can help increase your endurance and energy overall, making exercising regularly easier.
Reduced stress levels
Tummo breathing helps release negative emotions such as anger, fear, and anxiety because it allows your mind to relax more easily. It also helps improve concentration so that you can focus on the task without feeling distracted by negative thoughts or emotions that may be holding you back from achieving success in your life goals.
When you can focus on controlling your breath, you’ll find that your mind has less time to wander off into other thoughts and distractions. This will make it easier for you to concentrate on whatever task without getting distracted by extraneous thoughts or ideas.
Better sleep quality
When we don’t get enough oxygen through our sleep, it can lead to poor quality sleep — which results in feeling tired during the day no matter how much rest we get at night! By practicing tummo breathing before bedtime, we can increase our oxygen intake and improve our ability to fall asleep quickly — thus helping us wake up refreshed instead of groggy.
How to Practice Tummo Breathing
Breathing is a very important part of meditation. It helps you calm your mind and focus on one thing. You should try to breathe slowly and deeply but don’t worry if you can’t. Just try to make it as slow and deep as you can.
Here is a step-by-step guide to practicing Tummo Breathing:
- Find a quiet and comfortable place to sit. You can sit cross-legged on the floor or in a chair with your feet flat.
- Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths to relax.
- Begin by taking a deep breath through your nose, filling your lungs.
- Hold your breath for a few seconds, and then exhale slowly through your mouth.
- Repeat this deep breathing exercise several times, focusing on your breath and clearing your mind of any distractions.
- Visualize a flame in the center of your body, just below your navel. Imagine the flame growing brighter and hotter with each breath.
- As you inhale, imagine that you are drawing air in through your nose and down into your belly, where it feeds the flame.
- Hold your breath for a few seconds, then exhale slowly through your mouth, imagining you are blowing on the flame and making it grow even brighter.
- Repeat this visualization and breathing exercise for several minutes or as long as you feel comfortable.
- As you finish your practice, take a few deep breaths and slowly open your eyes.
Remember to take your time and be patient as you practice Tummo Breathing. With regular practice, you can gradually increase the length and intensity of your practice and experience the full benefits of this powerful technique.
Related Read: How Does Tummo Differ From Wim Hof Method
Advanced Tummo Breathing Techniques
Advanced tummo breathing techniques are typically taught within the context of traditional Tibetan Buddhist practices. They are often reserved for experienced practitioners who have already mastered the foundational aspects of tummo.
These techniques involve intricate breath control, visualization, and concentration exercises to refine the practitioner’s ability to generate and direct inner heat. Here are some examples of advanced tummo breathing techniques:
1. “Inner Fire” Visualization
Practitioners visualize flames or radiant heat at specific energy centers or chakras within their body, typically starting at the navel area and moving upwards along the central channel (Sushumna).
The visualization is accompanied by focused breath control and concentration to intensify the experience of inner heat.
Here’s how it works:
- Find a comfortable position on the floor or in a chair with your spine upright and relaxed. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths to settle calmly.
- Begin by bringing your attention to your breath. Take a few moments to observe the natural rhythm of your breath, allowing it to become steady and smooth.
- Once you have established a relaxed breathing pattern, imagine a small, radiant flame in your lower abdomen, just below the navel. Visualize this flame as a source of warmth and energy.
- As you inhale, imagine that you are drawing in air through your nostrils and directing it toward the flame in your abdomen. Visualize the flame growing brighter and more intense with each inhalation as if the breath is fueling it.
- As you exhale, imagine that the warmth and energy from the flame are spreading throughout your body, permeating every cell and filling you with a sense of vitality and inner fire.
- Continue this visualization, synchronizing the breath with the image of the flame growing brighter on each inhalation and spreading warmth and energy throughout your body on each exhalation.
- As you practice, you can deepen your visualization by imagining the flame expanding beyond your abdomen, encompassing your entire body in a warm, radiant glow.
- Feel the heat and energy emanating from the flame, nourishing and revitalizing your entire being. Stay with this visualization for a few minutes, fully allowing you to experience warmth, vitality, and inner fire.
- If your mind wanders, gently bring your focus back to the visualization and the sensation of the flame. When you are ready to conclude the practice, gradually release the visualization and return your attention to your breath.
- Take a few moments to observe any shifts in your body and mind, and express gratitude for the energy and warmth you have cultivated.
2. “Bellows Breath” Technique
This technique is also known as “Bhastrika Pranayama” in yoga and is a practice that involves forceful and rapid inhalations and exhalations. It is a powerful and energizing breathing exercise that can affect the body and mind.
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to perform the Bellows Breath technique:
- Sit comfortably on the floor or in a chair with your spine upright.
- Take a few deep breaths to center yourself and prepare for the practice. Begin by exhaling forcefully and completely through your nose, emptying your lungs.
- Inhale deeply and rapidly through your nose, filling your lungs with air. Allow your abdomen and chest to expand fully.
- Exhale forcefully and quickly through your nose, pushing the air out in a powerful manner. Contract your abdominal muscles to squeeze out the breath.
- Continue this forceful inhalation and exhalation rhythm, maintaining a steady pace. The breath should be audible, resembling the sound of a bellows. Aim to perform around 20-30 rounds of Bellows Breath or as many as you feel comfortable.
- Gradually increase the number of rounds as you build familiarity with the practice.
- After completing the rounds, release the forceful breathing and return to normal breathing. Take a few moments to observe any sensations in your body and notice the effects of the practice.
3. Energy Locks (Bandhas):
Energy locks (bandhas) are internal body locks that help direct energy flow in your body. The three main locks are:
Mula Bandha – Root lock
Mula Bandha is a powerful lock practiced in the Mulabhandasana and other asanas. It helps to strengthen the pelvic floor, raise the kundalini energy, improve digestion, and relieve constipation.
Mula Bandha is performed by following the below steps:
- Sit with your back straight in a comfortable position on the floor or in a chair.
- Take a few deep breaths to relax and center yourself. Bring your awareness to the base of your pelvic floor, the area between the anus and the genitals.
- As you exhale, gently and gradually contract the muscles in this area, drawing them upward and inward. Imagine lifting and drawing energy upward from the base of your spine.
- Hold the contraction for as long as it is comfortable while maintaining a smooth breath. Release the contraction on your inhalation and allow the muscles to relax.
- Practice this lock as part of your breath cycle, or hold it during specific poses or meditation.
Uddiyana Bandha – Abdominal lift or ‘caged bird’ lock
Uddiyana bandha is a yogic practice that involves contracting the abdominal muscles and drawing the navel towards the spine.
To practice this, follow the below steps:
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent, and hands resting on your thighs. Take a deep breath in and exhale fully through your mouth.
- After exhaling completely, bend slightly from the hips and place your hands on your thighs above the knees. As you breathe, draw your abdomen in and up toward your spine.
- Imagine lifting and engaging your lower belly muscles just below the navel. Hold the lock for as long as it is comfortable while holding your breath.
- Release the lock and inhale slowly and deeply. Practice this lock in coordination with your breath or as part of specific yoga poses or meditation practices.
Jalandhara Bandha – Throat lock
Jalandhara bandha is a yogic practice that involves contracting the muscles of the throat and chin. It helps to balance and calm the mind, which can lead to a higher concentration level.
Here’s how to do it:
- Sit in a comfortable seated position with your spine upright. Take a deep breath in and exhale fully through your nose.
- After exhaling completely, lower your chin slightly toward your chest.
- As you hold your breath, gently and comfortably press the chin down toward the notch at the base of your throat, creating a slight compression in the throat area.
- Keep your shoulders relaxed and your chest lifted. Hold the lock for as long as it is comfortable while holding your breath.
- Release the lock and slowly inhale. Practice this lock in coordination with your breath or during specific meditation practices.
Simultaneous Breath Retention
Simultaneous Breath Retention is a technique where you hold your breath while doing a pose. This differs from holding your breath while in a pose, as you are not inhaling or exhaling.
You simply stop breathing momentarily and then continue with your regular practice.
- Find a comfortable position on the floor or in a chair with your spine upright and relaxed. Take a moment to settle into a comfortable and balanced posture.
- Begin by taking a slow, deep breath through your nose, filling your lungs with air. Focus on expanding your belly, ribcage, and chest as you inhale.
- Once your lungs are full, gently and smoothly pause your breath without strain or force. This is the first breath retention, known as Antara Kumbhaka.
- Hold your breath for a comfortable duration that feels appropriate for you. Start with shorter durations, such as a few seconds, and gradually increase the length of the breath retention over time as you become more familiar with the practice.
- After the breath retention, exhale slowly and completely through your nose, allowing the air to empty from your lungs. Focus on releasing the breath in a controlled and relaxed manner.
- Once your lungs are empty, pause your breath, holding it without strain or force. This is the second breath retention, known as Bahya Kumbhaka.
- Maintain the breath retention comfortably, similar to what you practiced during the first retention. When you need to breathe again, inhale slowly and smoothly through your nose, filling your lungs with fresh air.
- Focus on the sensation of the breath entering your body and expanding your belly, ribcage, and chest. After the inhalation, resume a normal breathing pattern, allowing your breath to flow naturally and smoothly.
- Take a few moments to observe any sensations or effects in your body and mind. Notice how you feel energetically, emotionally, and mentally after practicing simultaneous breath retention.
The Secret to Cooling Your Body Off
While the science behind tummo breathing is uncertain, it still has many proven advantages to its practice. It requires minimal equipment, and the technique itself is exceedingly simple.
Essentially anyone with access to a comfortable space where they can sit or lie down can explore the practice, which has little to no drawbacks for those who elect to perform it. Perhaps the time has come for us to entertain this age-old Tibetan tradition further and discover whether the claims surrounding it are true.
As the number of people practicing Tummo increases and more scientific research is conducted, there’s hope that practitioners of this meditation will make real strides in finding a way to achieve physical enlightenment.
What Is Tummo Breathing?
Tummo breathing is a form of meditation that originated in Tibet and is said to help increase inner energy, focus, and mental and physical strength.
How to Do Tummo Breathing?
To practice Tummo breathing, sit in a quiet, comfortable place, close your eyes, and focus on your breath. Visualize a flame in the center of your body and imagine it growing brighter and hotter with each breath.
What Are the Benefits of Tummo Breathing?
Tummo breathing has been shown to positively affect the cardiovascular, respiratory, digestive, and immune systems and reduce anxiety, depression, and stress.
Is Tummo Breathing Safe?
Tummo breathing is generally safe when practiced correctly and under the guidance of a qualified instructor. However, it is not recommended for individuals with certain medical conditions, such as high blood pressure or heart disease.
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- Zope, S., & Zope, R. A. (2013). Sudarshan kriya yoga: Breathing for health. International Journal of Yoga, 6(1), 4. https://doi.org/10.4103/0973-6131.105935