Newshub - NUS' News Portal

Meditation technique helps boost immunity

29 May 2013

Tibetan meditator getting prepared for an EEG recording at his home in Nangchen, a county of the Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Qinghai province, China

G-tummo, an ancient meditation technique practised by Tibetan nuns and monks, has now been shown to have modern applications. Associate Professor Maria Kozhevnikov from the NUS Department of Psychology documented this evidence-based observation recently on the science journal PLOS ONE.

"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," said Assoc Prof Kozhevnikov.

Collecting data via electroencephalography recordings and temperature measures, her team found that the meditating Tibetans nuns and monks could raise their core body temperatures up to 38.3 degree Celsius. They achieved this through vase breath - a specific breathing technique causing heat generation - and concentrative visualisation, a focus on a mental imagery of flames along the spinal cord in order to prevent heat losses.

"Understanding the mechanisms underlying body temperature increases during g-tummo practice could lead to the development of effective self-regulatory techniques in 'ordinary' individuals or non-meditators to regulate their neurocognitive and physiological functions and fight infectious diseases," explained Assoc Prof Kozhevnikov.

She highlighted that self-regulation of the core body through specialised breathing techniques in g-tummo meditation opens up a wide range of possible medical and behaviour interventions. One scenario is for chronic hypothermia, a condition whereby the core temperature drops below that required for normal metabolism and body functions.

Other applications of the study include adapting and functioning in a cold hostile environment, improving resistance to infections, boosting cognitive performance, as well as decreasing performance problems linked with lowered temperature in such instances as shift work or continuous night work.

Moving forward, Assoc Prof Kozhevnikov plans to continue to explore the effects of guided imagery on neurocognitive and physiological aspects.