Former US President Franklin D. Roosevelt used to drink gallons of coffee per day. Philosopher Voltaire drank 40-50 cups of coffee in a day too.
Baroque composer Johann Sebastian Bach wrote an opera about his coffee obsession while Beethoven would meticulously count the 60 beans for his coffee. Coffee is powerful.
Even the greatest of the greats needed their morning cup of joe. So, you are not alone when you take that espresso shot for that two o’clock meeting. It helps you gain focus and energy to stay ahead all day, every day.
But does that mean the path to greatness is paved with – caffeine?
Tummo Breathing is an ancient Tibetan meditation technique that has been used by the monks in the mountains to raise their body temperature. The method originated to strengthen focus and control over the body and mind in order to stay calm and handle extremely cold weather conditions.
Thus, the foundation of the Tummo practice lies in inward focus and attention and ignoring the external stimuli.
The technique is a mix of visualization, muscle contraction and breathing method that helps the practitioner enter a deep state of meditation, which is used to increase a person’s ‘inner heat’. The visualization has a meditative approach which occurs at specific points in the body engaging both the body and mind.
There are two types of Tummo practice, Forceful Breath(FB) and Gentle Breath (GB). FB meditation increases body heat, while GB meditation helps maintain an increased body temperature.
Tummo breathing is characterized by a breathing technique known as the “vase”, which is done along with isometric muscle contractions and after inhalation, during a period of holding their breath, the practitioners tense both abdominal and pelvic muscles as the protruding lower belly takes the shape of a vase or pot.
Tummo meditation tends to increase the respiration rate and blood pressure, it can be a concern for persons with health conditions. Make sure to speak with your doctor first before practicing this breathing technique.
Stories of Himalayan monks drying wet towels with their body heat while meditating in snow have fascinated people from all walks of life.
The Tummo Breathing method originated to relax the body and focus the mind to battle to challenge the extreme cold conditions. It came out of practical use and today it continues its use in ice baths, a cold bath, and in cold weather conditions.
The technique was studied by Herbert Benson, a cardiologist at Harvard Medical School in 1981. (http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2011/07/tibetan-monks-can-raise-the-temperature-of-their-skin-through-meditation/) His research confirmed the astonishing feat of the Tibetan monks.
The study tracked vital signs and body-heat output during the meditation sessions and found evidence that the monks could regulate their oxygen intake, body temperatures and brainwaves. They could increase their body temperature up to seven degrees with the power of their mind!
This evidence is corroborated by the 2003 study by Maria Kozhevnikov, the National University of Singapore, titled, “Neurocognitive and Somatic Components of Temperature Increases during g-Tummo Meditation: Legend and Reality” (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3612090/), which agreed that the results of this method indicate improved health and cognitive performance.
In addition, the study found evidence that breathwork and visualization techniques in Tummo helped not only increase the body temperature but also aided in sustaining the temperature for longer periods.
The EEG in Kozhevnikov’s study helps us in understanding how brain activity alters during meditation.
Russ Pariseau, a UK filmmaker, whose feature documentary titled, “Advanced Tibetan Meditation: The Investigations of Herbert Benson MD” includes Benson’s landmark research further illustrates the evidence through the documentary listed below.
Tummo Breathing also brings us to the most well-known Dutch extreme athlete, Wim Hof, also referred to as ‘The Iceman’. And rightly so.
Wim Hof developed a controlled hyperventilation technique. The Wim Hof method includes breathing techniques, cold showers and ice baths. Wim claims that the benefits of the Wim Hof method include reduced stress levels, strengthening immunity and improving blood circulation. Moreover, he says that his method floods the brain with endorphins.
Some of Wim Hof’s methods resemble Tummo Breathing. While Wim Hof acknowledges the similarities, he states that it’s the cold hard nature that taught him what he is today.
Wim Hof, the Iceman, has run a half marathon in the Arctic at -20 degrees Celsius barefoot and only wearing shorts. He climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in shorts and sandals. He swam under ice in a Finnish lake for 57.5 meters on a single breath, and stayed in a container while covered with ice cubes for over 112 minutes. Currently, the Iceman has 26 official world records for his numerous feats.
So, does the Wim Hof method work?
He has worked with scientists to further study his method.
In 2014, researchers injected Wim Hof Method practitioners with an endotoxin, which demonstrated how they controlled their sympathetic nervous system and immune response. This means that his method can effectively deal with symptoms of autoimmune diseases. A 2018 study supported that method activated areas in the brain that are responsible for pain suppression.
There’s so much more to it. And the research continues.
It almost sounds like a miracle. But then again, nobody was willing to believe the astonishing feats of Tibetans monks or Wim Hof for that matter. Their breathing methods worked for them.
But how to know it’s working for you? We certainly don’t have a team of fitness professionals working with normal people recording and tracking their progress.
We need more professionals and more data. For now, you can rely on your fitness watches and other health accessories to log all your data and evaluate how it changes over time.
Tummo breathing is a complex method, but so are our body and mind. It requires attention and as we get busier and busier in our everyday lives, we lose out on what really matters. We matter. They say before you can help anyone, you must first help yourself.
So, consider making changes to your current habits to start the journey to feel more energized and focused.
Tummo breathing can help with this focus. You don’t have to be a monk in the mountains in order to try Tummo breathing. You only need a few moments of focus to make a significant change in how you feel.
What if it’s not for me?
Talk to your doctor if you need answers to your questions related to Tummo breathing.
There’s ample evidence that emphasizes the many uses of Tummo breathing in everyday life, even if we’re not or are planning to be monks in the mountains.
This could just make you more confident before your big meeting at the office or simply make you fitter and healthier, which in turn could result in a happier, fulfilling and pain-free life.
The magic of Tummo Breathing lies in your breath – your life source as your life force. Relying on external stimulants like coffee are short term benefits and you have to stand in line to buy it.
Ultimately, you have a powerful tool that is more powerful than your cup of coffee. It’s free and it’s under your nose. You don’t have to wait in line at Starbucks for that extra boost.