The Loh Down On Science

Can meditators change their body temperature at will?

Can Tibetan monks . . . have hot flashes?  And why would they want to?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

In Tibet, monks and nuns practice a sacred meditation.  It’s called “Tummo.” Or “Inner Fire.”  They sit in subzero weather, wrapped in wet sheets.  Using meditation and special breathing techniques, they raise their body temperature.  It warms them, and rapidly dries the sheets! Wowza!

Psychologists at Singapore’s National University wondered:  Can meditation really control body temperature?  They checked scientific measurements on Tummo from the 1980s.  The research clearly showed that Tummo-ists warmed their fingers and toes.  But it didn’t indicate much else.

So the team worked with Tibetan nuns. While the nuns meditated, the researchers recorded their core temperatures. They also recorded the nuns' brainwaves. 

Result?  As the nuns practiced Tummo, their temperatures rose to at least one hundred degrees.  A low fever!  Their brainwave patterns showed enhanced focus.

Then the nuns taught just the breathing techniques to non-meditators.  Their temperatures also rose, just not as much.

So unfortunately those Buddhist sheets had to go back into the dryer.  Another form of Detachment.

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The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, with 89.3 KPCC. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

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