Practice Tummo breathing to rebalance your autonomic nervous system, reduce stress, and improve immune response.
Tummo stimulates the sympathetic nervous system and induces the stress response. It was made popular in the early 2000s, when a man named Wim Hof ran a half-marathon through the Arctic Circle snow, shirtless and barefoot. Since then, Hof has promoted the powers of Tummo breathing in a string of daredevil stunts. He submerged himself in an ice bath for an hour and 52 minutes and did not suffer hypothermia or frostbite. He ran a full marathon in the Namib desert in temperatures that reached 104℉ without ever sipping a drop of water. Over a decade, Hof broke 26 world records, each more baffling than the last.
Purposely breathing very fast and deep puts the body into a stressed state. It teaches us to consciously access and control the autonomic nervous system. Those trained in Tummo can control their heart rate and temperature, increase their energy, and stimulate the sympathetic system. They can also control their immune responses, heal wounds, fight off pathogens and infection, and downgrade inflammatory responses. It helps condition the body to remain flexible to the constant pressures of modern life.
Professional surfers, martial arts fighters, and Navy SEALs use Tummo-style breathing to get into the zone before a competition or black ops mission. It’s also especially useful for anyone who suffers from lower-grade stress, aches and pains, or a slowing metabolism. Tummo can be a preventative therapy, a way to rebalance a fraying nervous system.
Tummo can be profoundly therapeutic. Thousands of heavy breathers have shown profound improvements in a variety of conditions. People have reported their insulin levels normalized, pain subsided, blood pressure lowered, they reduced or quit medications, and slept peacefully due to Tummo. Those with arthritis, psoriasis, or depression, say that after only weeks of practicing heavy breathing, they no longer suffered any symptoms. Twenty thousand people in Hof’s community exchange blood work data and other metrics of their transformations online. The before-and-after results confirm their claims. Some of these people reduced inflammatory markers (C-reactive protein) 40-fold within just a few weeks.
Tummo takes some practice, and learning it from written instructions can be confusing and difficult. Chuck McGee, a Wim Hof Method instructor, offers free online sessions. Sign up at https://www.meetup.com/Wim-Hof-Method-Bay-Area. Other instructors can be found on the internet for personalized instruction.
- Find a quiet place and lie flat on your back with a pillow under your head.
This technique should never be practiced near water, while driving or walking, or in any other circumstances where you might get hurt should you pass out. Consult your doctor if you are pregnant or have a heart condition.
- Relax the shoulders, chest, and legs.
- Take 30 very deep, very fast breaths through the nose into the pit of the stomach and exhale.
If the nose feels obstructed, try pursed lips. Each inhalation should look like a wave, filling up in the stomach and softly moving up through the lungs. Exhales follow the same movement, first emptying the stomach then the chest as air pours through the nose or pursed lips of the mouth.
- At the end of 30 breaths, exhale to the “natural conclusion,” leaving about a quarter of the air in the lungs and hold that breath for as long as possible.
- Once you’ve reached your absolute breath-hold limit, take one huge inhale, and hold it for another 15 seconds.
- Very gently, move that fresh breath around the chest and to the shoulders.
- Exhale and start the heavy breathing again.
- Repeat the entire pattern at least three times.
- If you are at all unsure about this exercise, find a qualified instructor.
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