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Meditation Allows Brain To Control Body Temperature, Say Scientists

Scientists report that the meditating brain can control core body temperature, a finding that could help in boosting immunity to fight infectious diseases or immunodeficiency.

| April 10, 2013 | Health

AsianScientist (Apr. 10, 2013) - Scientists report that the meditating brain can control core body temperature, a finding that could help in boosting immunity to fight infectious diseases or immunodeficiency.

A team of researchers led by Associate Professor Maria Kozhevnikov from the Department of Psychology at the National University of Singapore (NUS) studied Tibetan nuns practising a form of meditation known as g-tummo.

G-tummo meditation is believed by adherents to control “inner energy”. Tibetan practitioners consider g-tummo meditation as one of the most sacred spiritual practices in the region and monasteries maintaining g-tummo traditions are very rare, mostly located in the remote areas of eastern Tibet.

The scientists observed a unique ceremony in Tibet, where meditating nuns were able to raise their core body temperature and dry up wet sheets wrapped around their bodies in the cold Himalayan weather of minus 25 degree Celsius.

While g-tummo meditation practitioners have been studied before, previous results showed only increases in peripheral body temperature in the fingers and toes. Now, publishing in the journal PLOS ONE, the researchers document reliable core body temperature increases in the meditating Tibetan nuns.

Using electroencephalography (EEG) recordings and temperature measures, the team observed increases in core body temperature up to 38.3 degree Celsius. A second study was conducted with Western participants who used a breathing technique of the g-tummo meditative practice and they were also able to increase their core body temperature, within limits.

The findings from the study showed that specific aspects of the meditation techniques could be used by non-meditation practitioners to regulate their body temperature through breathing and mental imagery. The techniques could potentially allow practitioners to adapt to and function in cold environments, improve resistance to infections, boost cognitive performance by speeding up response time and reduce performance problems associated with decreased body temperature.

The two aspects of g-tummo meditation that lead to temperature increases were “vase breath” and concentrative visualization. “Vase breath” is a specific breathing technique that causes thermogenesis, the process of heat production. Concentrative visualization involves focusing on a mental imagery of flames along the spinal cord in order to prevent heat losses. Both techniques work in conjunction leading to elevated temperatures up to the moderate fever zone.

Assoc. Prof. Kozhevnikov explained, “Practicing vase breathing alone is a safe technique to regulate core body temperature in a normal range. The participants whom I taught this technique to were able to elevate their body temperature, within limits, and reported feeling more energised and focused. With further research, non-Tibetan meditators could use vase breathing to improve their health and regulate cognitive performance.”

The article can be found at: Kozhevnikov et al. (2013) Neurocognitive and Somatic Components of Temperature Increases during g-Tummo Meditation: Legend and Reality.

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Source: NUS. Photo: matthewvenn/Flickr/CC.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

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