Have you ever been told to “think warm thoughts” after complaining about the cold? Scoff-worthy advice, I’d say. However, there is some merit to this line of thought. After all, it is possible to change your perception of body temperature despite being physically chilly. Happy thoughts and memories soaked in a good measure of nostalgiaare enough to warm the body. So, as I’ve interpreted it, channeling a patronus will not only summon a dementor-vanquishing pearlescent being, it will combat the cold to some extent. The power of thought can force the body to feel warm despite the cold. It has to do with mindset: think warm thoughts and your body will comply. A handy wearable device is in the works, called Wristify, harnessing the power of perception to deliver immediate relief, hot or cold. That’s the high-tech side of things.
For an accessible and effective way to raise body temperature (a more structured approach to “think warm thoughts”) practice vase breathing. The technique, also referred to as g-tummo, is wholly concerned with raising the core body temperature. To do this, a person must engage in vase breath and concentrative visualisation, lending a mental image to the act of breathing. Air is pictured as clean water and the torso is a vase. With each inhalation, the practiser visualises water being poured into a vase, filling it up as the lungs expand. On the exhale, most of the air is released (85%) while the remaining pocket of air (15%) creates a vase-like shape in the lower abdomen. Paired with the vessel visual, one should imagine flames tickling the spinal column. These techniques used in conjunction work to successfully raise core body temperature.
To reiterate, vase breathing is akin to meditation. Concentrative visualisation is simply a method of centering, forcing the mind to focus on the act at hand, breathing, by creating an image. Inhalation is represented by an image of water, exhalation is enforced by the creation of a vase shape in the abdomen and warmth is encouraged in the core by envisioning flames licking the spine. For step-by-step instructions on how to practice vase breathing, visit this site.
I understand the wariness; how can meditation be so powerful as to actually raise body temperature despite ambient cold?
Scientists observed the befuddling effects of g-tummo firsthand as Tibetan nuns wrapped in wet sheets successfully raised their core body temperature to the point of drying the sheet in a -25°F (-31°C) temperature. The study, published inPLoS ONE, has been referenced as proof that core body temperature is something people can control. Not only does practicing vase breath increase core body temperature in cold environments, it can boost the immune system and aid in cognitive performance by improving response times.
Maria Kozhevnikov, one of the authors of the study, speaks about her experience with the technique: “The participants whom I taught this technique to were able to elevate their body temperature, within limits, and reported feeling more energized and focused. With further research, non-Tibetan meditators could use vase breathing to improve their health and regulate cognitive performance.”
Jacqui Litvan, wielding a bachelor’s degree in English, strives to create a world of fantasy amidst the ever-changing landscape of military life. Attempting to become a writer, she fuels herself with coffee (working as a barista) and music (spending free time as a raver).