The secrets of ancestral Tibetan breathing: the Tummo

Tummo Breathing is a form of meditation that uses a mixture of breathing and visualization techniques. Meditators use it to enter a deep state of meditation. When practiced by experts, tummo breathing can raise body temperature.

Meditation is a practice that people can use to improve their health and well-being. Several types of meditation use specific breathing techniques. Tummo breathing uses a combination of visualization, breathing and muscle contractions. The combination of these techniques can allow a person to enter a meditative state.
This article discusses tummo breathing, including its history, how to practice it, and its health benefits.

What is Tummo breathing, and what is it for?

Tummo breathing, which translates to “inner fire” in Tibetan, is a meditation practice that incorporates a blend of mental and physical techniques. It is part of the Vajrayana practices, which are a form of Tantric Buddhism. Buddhism is a religion that aims to relieve living beings from suffering. A person can achieve this by combining meditation, good ethics and spiritual teachings.

Tantric Buddhism includes visualizations and rituals, as well as meditation, to achieve spiritual enlightenment. Practitioners believe it can free a person from suffering. Tummo followers use it to train their mind to enter a state of deep meditation. Deep meditation is a state in which a person loses awareness of their physical presence and surroundings.
Also, tummo breathing experts can use it to increase their body temperature. An older paper from 2013 noted that this increase in core temperature was not the main purpose of tummo breathing. Rather, it is a means for a person to reach a state of deep meditation.

History of tummo breathing

Tibetan Buddhist monks developed tummo breathing thousands of years ago. They practiced this technique as part of the Six Dharmas of Naropa, a set of advanced tantric practices in Tibetan Buddhism. Tibetans used these teachings to help them achieve enlightenment at an accelerated pace.

In 1981, a cardiologist named Herbert Benson observed Tibetan monks practicing tummo in the Himalayan mountains with the support of the fourteenth Dalai Lama. Benson noted that the monks were able to raise the temperature of their fingers and toes up to 8.3ºC. In 2013, researchers repeated this experiment and found that tummo practitioners could raise their body temperature to levels consistent with mild to moderate fever.

People who practice Tantric Buddhism consider tummo breathing an important part of their teachings. Tibetan practitioners have described tummo breathing as one of their most sacred spiritual practices. Teachers of this technique may not teach the practice to a person until they have reached a certain level of spiritual awakening.

How to practice tummo breathing

There is little scientific information on how to practice tummo breathing. Some people who practice this technique suggest that only experienced gurus or teachers should teach it. To know the best way to practice tummo breathing, it is advisable to speak to a practitioner of Tantric Buddhism.

The following information on how to practice tummo breathing is anecdotal and has no scientific basis. Therefore, one should exercise caution when using this technique.

Sit in a comfortable position with your eyes closed and your hands on your stomach.
Try to relax the mind as much as possible.
Visualize a fire inside the stomach, near the navel, imagining it to be a hollow balloon with a ball of fire inside. This visualization should continue throughout the meditation.
Inhale deeply through your nose, leaning back slightly and expanding your torso and chest. Imagine that the oxygen from the breath fuels the fire within, causing it to grow bigger and hotter.

Exhale forcefully through your mouth, pursing your lips, as if blowing through a straw. Bend the spine forward and imagine the flame spreading its heat throughout the body.
Repeat this pattern five times, imagining that the heat increases. After the fifth inhale, swallow gently and focus on how this holds the breath below the diaphragm. Contract the pelvic floor muscles, holding the breath between the diaphragm and the pelvic floor.
Hold this breath for as long as possible, then exhale and relax the muscles.
Repeat this pattern several times.


Research from 2015 found that tummo breathing increases a person’s metabolism and alertness. A person may want to practice tummo breathing in the morning or do it multiple times to boost their energy levels throughout the day.

An older study from 2013 suggests that if a person’s body temperature rises due to tummo breathing, it can lead to the following benefits:

boost immunity
improving how the learning and memory center of the brain responds to stimuli
increased alertness
faster reaction times
improved cognitive performance in visual attention and working memory


Tummo breathing requires the person to perform various breathing techniques. However, people with a medical condition that affects their breathing, such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, should consult a doctor before practicing tummo breathing. Some tummo practitioners may use it to raise their body temperature before swimming in cold water or other similar activities. A person should not attempt this experiment unless they are expert in tummo breathing.

If someone participates in a cold water swim without proper preparation, they are at risk of:

sudden drowning
shock of cold
heart failure
a sudden drop in blood pressure that can lead to loss of consciousness

Method Wim Hof: Iceman

The Wim Hof ​​method is a breathing technique that involves periods of hyperventilation, followed by breath holding. It also involves meditation and exposure to cold.
Much like Tumor Respiration, the Wim Hof ​​Method allows a person to endure cold temperatures without adverse effects. However, the Wim Hof ​​Method is a lifestyle practice rather than a religious teaching. Moreover, this technique does not involve visualization techniques.


Tummo breathing is a form of meditation meant to help a person achieve enlightenment according to Tibetan Buddhist monks who created this method thousands of years ago as part of the Six Dharmas of Naropa. Expert tummo practitioners can use it to increase their body temperature to achieve a deep meditative state.

However, there is little information on how to perform tummo breathing correctly. Practitioners of Tantric Buddhism recommend learning the technique from an experienced teacher.

* Presse Santé strives to transmit health knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE, the information given can not replace the advice of a health professional.

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The secrets of ancestral Tibetan breathing: the Tummo

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