How to stay warm: The ancient Tibetan secret of Tumo revealed?

By | January 3, 2009

How to stay warm: The ancient Tibetan secret of Tumo revealed?How possible is it to survive by growing food underground? Are there any stored foods now that would still provide nutrition 100 years from now? What human knowledge should I save on my hard drive in case I have to help rebuild civilization? These odd questions  have been floating through my mind as I watch the swarm of quakes at Yellowstone, the site of a potential super volcano.

What will be needed most are simple instruction manuals for providing first aid, finding and purifying water, scavenging and storing food, keeping warm, and instructions for growing enough food to survive in extreme cold and with limited sunlight.

First, how to stay warm. Knowing the ancient Tibetan secret of Tumo would help!

Wim Hof, of the Netherlands, stands up to his neck in ice for 72 minutes, Saturday, Jan. 26, 2008, outside the Rubin Museum of Art in New York, during a successful attempt to break his previous world record for immersion in an outdoor ice bath. Known as “The Iceman,” Mr. Hof controls his body temperature by the tantric practice of tumo and is the only non-Tibetan in the world to have mastered this art.


Tumo is described this way:

By means of breathings and of a formula connected therewith, the practitioner generates a warmth which flows all through the body by means of the channels from the tsas (Tibetan for the three Sanskrit nadis) — roma, kyangma, and uma. Thus the practice of tumo falls under the category of hatha yoga.

Here is another:

According to Alexandra David-Neel, tumo “is also the subtle fire with which warms the generative fluid and drives the energy in it, till it runs all over the body along the subtle channels.” – answers

None of these explanations explain how it works, however.

… the  neophyte  must  practice breathing exercises, self-hypnosis, how he visualizes fire originating in the region of his solar plexus and gradually extending to all parts of his body. But she also states that the method of generating “tumo,” as this mysterious heat is called, is a closely kept  secret and  cannot be learned unless one is personally trained by an adept. –katink

If the human race is going to be plunged into an icy world due to a super volcano blotting out the sun for years, then I think it is time that this secret should be revealed.

Wim Hof may be the only non-Tibetan master of Tumo, but another person has discovered the primary secret, it seems.

One westerner’s experiments suggest that our bodies, in proper health and with good nutrition, have the ability to be shocked into a special metabolic state. Dr Mayne R. Coe claims to have found Tumo without self hypnosis. Special breathing didn’t seem as important at low altitudes, but deep breathing was part of his body’s natural response.  Being naked or clothed only in thin cotton garments was important. The breakthrough came when Coe wrapped  an ice-cold wet woolen blanket around himself. He writes:

Then it dawned on me that I actually was goading my body to more and more heat production with the chill wet blankets on my skin. My pores were alternately closing and opening as I was chilled and then warmed by the flush of my skin and the insulating properties of the wet wool which confined the heat to my hody and the air inside the blanket surrounding me. I knew I had the answer. I had gone about the whole thing backwards. Instead of ex­posing the body nude to the air for extended periods of time to generate the mystical tumo you shock the body into heat produc­ion.  The ice-cold blankets shock the body to a warm glow and don’t conduct the heat away as outside  air or immersion in wa­ter would. It is quite easy to sit this way for an extended time at a very low temperatures. I had succeeded in stimulating my metabolism in this way. One night when the tempera­ture dropped to 180 1 applied the freezing wet blanket eight times to my naked body. I rewet the blanket at 1~minute intervals over a period of two hours. I noticed that my respiration  auto­matically became very deep, which meant my body was demanding more oxygen to main­tain my body heat at normal temperature. I became warm as toast and remained delightfully warm, naked in the freezing air each time I resoaked the blan­kets.

I haven’t tried this, but when I get over this flu, I’d like to. I believe we may all have this ability because I’ve been amazed by my own body acclimatizing to heat when I worked in agriculture for a summer. Notes on heat acclimatization may apply in the other direction as well, since Coe worked at it for some time.

… exercise science has shown us that heat acclimatization can be attained by 10-12 days of exercising in the hot, humid conditions for 1 hour per day, there are numerous antecdotal reports that more total heat exposure is required. Many people who have worked in extreme heat (roofers, steel mill workers, etc) will say that you can never afford to cool off….that you must stay hot all the time or your tolerance will be reduced. In fact Arthur Lydiard, the great New Zealand running coach, said that in order to run in heat and humidity that one must never stay or sleep in an air conditioned environment. -maxbal

As a tall person with not much body fat, I may not do well at this, but I’m still curious to try.

The short arms and legs of large people from cooler regions, for example Eskimos, helps reduce heat loss.  … Major examples of geographic acclimatization to cold are the indigenous people of the African Kalahari, the Australian desert, and Tierra del Fuego in Southern Chile. Many sleep outdoors nearly naked in freezing temperatures. – scuba

Beyond the super volcano survival tricks, imagine the country wide energy savings if Americans could all learn to sleep nearly naked in the cold.

For each lowered degree, you’ll save one to three percent off those heating bills. At night, turn down the thermostat to 60 degrees: It’s much healthier, you’ll feel better when you awaken, and you’ll save money. If you go away for a weekend or more, lower thermostat to 55 degrees. – businessknow

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