The last several weeks of winter have seemed particulary snowy, dark, and icy. It’s been a struggle for many, with virulent viruses abounding, exacerbated by the bitterly cold weather. What has kept me going is the discipline of my daily routines: Qi Gong, meditation and exercise. My spirits are always lifted and I realize anew how rewarding is the ability to control one’s mind and body.
Most recently, I have thought of the Buddhist monks who practice tummo , the art of controlling one’s body temperature through meditation . Originally developed by Himalayan monks to survive freezing conditions, it has developed over time to heal illness and to advance physically, mentally and spiritually. Like Kundalini energy, tummo energy is achieved by meditating, working with the breath, and visualizations.
Interestingly enough, doctors and scientists have reported measurable increases in the bodies of monks doing tummo exercises. Herbert Benson, the author of The Relaxation Response did a study in the 1980’s , and since then studies in 2002 and 2013 have replicated the same results with Buddhist and non-Buddhist Western yoga practioners. Subjects sat in frigid conditions, outside in the Himalayan mountains or in freezing rooms, wearing barely anything, and were able to keep their body temperature high for hours, even overnight. Other subjects had wet, frigid sheets placed on them and were able to completely warm and dry the sheets quickly, and repeat it again with fresh wet sheets. Benson found that some subjects could raise the temperatures in their fingers and toes by as much as 17 degrees, and that they could slow their metabolism by over 64%!
The sun is shining, the birds are singing and it is 50 degrees out now so my dreams of practicing tummo don’t seem quite so pressing now. Spring is right around the corner and I feel hopeful that the bad weather is now behind us. Soon I can do my Qi Gong out on the deck and celebrate having made it through another winter.
Image source: Wikimedia Commons