Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Writer, and a registered yoga instructor. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from SUNY Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.
By now, there's a good chance you've heard of Wim Hof—and his famous breathwork method that promises a wide array of benefits. But have you heard of tummo breathing? The Wim Hof method and tummo breathing, while similar, do have some differences. So if you're curious about trying one or the other, here's what you should know.
What's the Wim Hof method?
Wim Hof is a Dutch athlete known for withstanding extreme temperatures and completing incredible physical feats—and he says the secret to success lies in his research-backed method. The three pillars of the Wim Hof method are the breath, cold therapy, and commitment.
Hof combines a specific breathing pattern with cold therapy (whether a cold shower, an ice bath, or a dip in a cold natural body of water). Some of the followers of his method report feeling less stress, increased energy and focus, improved sleep, and even a stronger immune system when practicing it consistently.
To get a sense of how the breathing component of the Wim Hof method is done, you can watch this helpful guided breath video from Hof himself, or follow along with this basic rundown of the pattern.
How to do the Wim Hof method:
Find a comfortable seated position.
Inhale quickly and deeply through the nose and exhale through the mouth 30 times.
Take a deep breath in, exhale, and hold at the bottom of the exhale for as long as you can.
Inhale as deeply as you can and hold the inhale for 15 seconds, then exhale.
Repeat as many times as you like.
Pair with cold therapy to get the maximum benefits.
What's the tummo method?
Tummo breathing is an ancient breathwork technique originally practiced by Tibetan Buddhist monks. Translating to "inner fire," this breathwork has been found in research to help people raise their body temperature slightly.
As breathwork teacher and mbg class instructorGwen Dittmar previously explained to mbg, it's "an ancient tantric meditation that uses bioenergetic breathing plus visualization to increase your inner fire." It combines a specific breath pattern and the visualization of a flame going up the spine.
Along with briefly raising body temperature, this practice is also believed to help people manage stress, improve cognition, activate the chakras, and overall help facilitate inner transformation.
How to do tummo breath:
Sit comfortably with good posture and close your eyes. Your hands will rest over your stomach for the entirety of the practice. (Note: Once you become more acquainted with the practice, it can be done standing or walking.)
Begin to relax your mind as best you can, allowing thoughts to flow until your mind has quieted.
Visualize a fire in your stomach around your belly button. Imagine you are a large hollow balloon with this ball of fire inside. Continue visualizing throughout the practice.
Inhale deeply through your nose, arching your back slightly, expanding your torso and chest. Imagine the oxygen is fueling the fire within you, helping it to grow larger and hotter.
Exhale strongly through your mouth with rounded lips, as if you were blowing through a straw. Curl forward, rounding the spine, still holding your hands to your stomach. Imagine the flame and its heat are spreading all throughout your body.
Continue this breath pattern for five breaths and notice the heat start to build. After the fifth inhale, swallow gently and feel how that holds the inhale below the diaphragm. Contract your pelvic floor muscles so you're simultaneously pushing the breath down with the diaphragm and up with the pelvic floor.
Exhale after holding the breath for as long as you can, relaxing your muscles.
Repeat the sequence for a few rounds, and you should start to feel warmer and more mentally clear.
Which one's better for me?
Both practices offer similar benefits and may allow you to withstand cold temperatures. But what's the difference, really? As Dittmar told mbg, tummo breathing incorporates a more spiritual component and also includes visualizations, which the Wim Hof method does not.
She adds that tummo breathing can help you "summon spiritual knowledge" and that it "feels more meditative" than Hof's method.
On the other hand, as noted on Wim Hof's website, "The Wim Hof Method mainly comes from what Wim calls 'cold hard nature,' and has no religious components."
That said, figuring out which option is better for you will come down to your individual needs and experience level.
If you're brand-new to breathwork, it may be easier to start with the Wim Hof method so you can focus on getting the breathing pattern down before you incorporate a visualization as you would with tummo.
Or, perhaps you are looking for more of a spiritual, meditative breathwork experience, in which case tummo might appeal to you.
At the end of the day, the best way to really find out which one you prefer is probably to give them both a try. (Note: It is not recommended to try these practices if you are pregnant, have epilepsy, high blood pressure, heart disease, or have a history of heart failure, stroke, etc. Talk to your doctor if you have questions.)
The bottom line.
The Wim Hof method and tummo breathing are two similar breathwork practices with a number of benefits. While they have some differences, they both might help improve your focus and lower feelings of stress—not a bad deal for simply controlling the breath.