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Neurocognitive and Somatic Components of Temperature Increases during g-Tummo Meditation: Legend and Reality

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Stories of g-tummo meditators mysteriously able to dry wet sheets wrapped around their naked bodies during a frigid Himalayan ceremony have intrigued scholars and laypersons alike for a century. Study 1 was conducted in remote monasteries of eastern Tibet with expert meditators performing g-tummo practices while their axillary temperature and electroencephalographic (EEG) activity were measured. Study 2 was conducted with Western participants (a non-meditator control group) instructed to use the somatic component of the g-tummo practice (vase breathing) without utilization of meditative visualization. Reliable increases in axillary temperature from normal to slight or moderate fever zone (up to 38.3°C) were observed among meditators only during the Forceful Breath type of g-tummo meditation accompanied by increases in alpha, beta, and gamma power. The magnitude of the temperature increases significantly correlated with the increases in alpha power during Forceful Breath meditation. The findings indicate that there are two factors affecting temperature increase. The first is the somatic component which causes thermogenesis, while the second is the neurocognitive component (meditative visualization) that aids in sustaining temperature increases for longer periods. Without meditative visualization, both meditators and non-meditators were capable of using the Forceful Breath vase breathing only for a limited time, resulting in limited temperature increases in the range of normal body temperature. Overall, the results suggest that specific aspects of the g-tummo technique might help non-meditators learn how to regulate their body temperature, which has implications for improving health and regulating cognitive performance.
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... Meditative visualization is a technique commonly used in medication by generation and maintenance of certain mental images, which helps the meditator quickly enter a state of deep concentration and relaxation [44]. For example, when practicing an ancient meditation technique called g-tummo [45], the meditator is required to visualize a 'channel' going from his perineum to the head. When he starts practicing slow breathing, the breath energy will ignite the "inner fire" in this channel. ...
... In other words, the local maxima in the data correspond to the point of maximum inhalation while the minima in data indicate the point of maximum exhalation, as shown in Figure 6. Finally, in advanced meditation practices, such as g-tummo [45], an experienced meditator usually feels a rising body temperature along the central axis of their body. To simulate this changing of body temperature, we created a virtual line in the center of the body. ...
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