Tummo Yoga is a Tibetan term meaning ‘heat practice’ and refers to a type of meditation cultivated by some Tibetan monks. All the behaviours we are capable of are classified as either sympathetic or autonomic.
The first are the voluntary actions like blinking, moving our limbs and swallowing. The second are those actions which we have no control over, e.g. the beating of our heart, the process of digestion and the rate our hair grows. One thing which we normally have no control over is our temperature. However, in the practice of Tummo Yoga monks learn to increase their temperature by as much as 12%, an ability unknown to science until just recently. In the 1980’s a team of doctors led by Dr. Herbert Benson of the Harvard Medical School studied monks doing this meditation and were astonished to find that they were able to increase their body temperatures enough to be able to dry wet cloths draped over them. One monk they studied was able to slow his metabolism by 64 %, the lowest level ever documented in a human being. While fascinating in itself and having some practical application, the main value of Tummo Yoga is that it shows the depth of understanding Tibetan monks have of the mind and their ability to control it. It is also a confirmation of the Buddha’s words: ‘The mind precedes all things, they are led by the mind, they are made by the mind’ (Dhp.1). From the Buddhist perspective, it is not a mythological being called God that we should seek to know and understand, but our own minds.