Academic journal article International Journal of Yoga

Sudarshan Kriya Yoga: Breathing for Health

Academic journal article International Journal of Yoga

Sudarshan Kriya Yoga: Breathing for Health

Article excerpt

Byline: Sameer. Zope, Rakesh. Zope

Breathing techniques are regularly recommended for relaxation, stress management, control of psychophysiological states, and to improve organ function. Yogic breathing, defined as a manipulation of breath movement, has been shown to positively affect immune function, autonomic nervous system imbalances, and psychological or stress-related disorders. The aim of this study was to assess and provide a comprehensive review of the physiological mechanisms, the mind-body connection, and the benefits of Sudarshan Kriya Yoga (SKY) in a wide range of clinical conditions. Various online databases searched were Medline, Psychinfo, EMBASE, and Google Scholar. All the results were carefully screened and articles on SKY were selected. The references from these articles were checked to find any other potentially relevant articles. SKY, a unique yogic breathing practice, involves several types of cyclical breathing patterns, ranging from slow and calming to rapid and stimulating. There is mounting evidence to suggest that SKY can be a beneficial, low-risk, low-cost adjunct to the treatment of stress, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, stress-related medical illnesses, substance abuse, and rehabilitation of criminal offenders.

Introduction

The environmental pollution, increased pace of life, psychosocial disturbances, eating habits, and sedentary lifestyle have increased stress levels and their related disorders. [sup][1] Yoga, an ancient Indian science, has been practised as a healthy way of life. Recently, yoga has been adopted as an approach to health within alternative medicine. [sup][2] Relaxation exercises aim at reducing stress, and thereby help prevent these unwanted outcomes. One of the widely used relaxation practices is yoga and yogic breathing exercises. Yogic breathing, Pranayama, is a unique method for balancing the autonomic nervous system and influencing psychological and stress-related disorders. [sup][3] One specific form of these breathing exercises is Sudarshan Kriya Yoga (SKY) which is shown to have favorable effects on the mind-body system.

Sudarshan Kriya Yoga

Sudarshan kriya yoga (SKY) is a type of cyclical controlled breathing practice with roots in traditional yoga that provides relief for depression, and it is taught by the nonprofit Art of Living Foundation. It has four distinct components. [sup][4]

Detailed descriptions of the four main SKY breathing techniques are as follows. [sup][5]

*Ujjayi or "Victorious Breath": This involves experiencing the conscious sensation of the breath touching the throat. This slow breath technique (2-4 breaths per minute) increases airway resistance during inspiration and expiration and controls airflow so that each phase of the breath cycle can be prolonged to an exact count. The subjective experience is physical and mental calmness with alertness. *During Bhastrika or "Bellows Breath," air is rapidly inhaled and forcefully exhaled at a rate of 30 breaths per minute. It causes excitation followed by calmness. *"Om" is chanted three times with very prolonged expiration. *Sudarshan Kriya which is a Sanskrit term meaning "proper vision by purifying action" is an advanced form of rhythmic, cyclical breathing with slow, medium, and fast cycles.SKY has been taught by the Art of Living Foundation to more than 6 million people in 152 countries worldwide. Possible mechanisms, effects, and benefits of SKY are given below.

Influence of Sky on Physiological Functions

Neurophysiological model of vagus nerve stimulation pathways

SKY consists of a specific sequence of varying breathing rates separated by brief periods of normal breathing. Strained breathing occurs in nature when an animal is defeated in battle. [sup][6],[7] It inhibits activity, increases brain perfusion, increases attention and vigilance (via vagal afferents), slows heart rate, restores energy, prevents hypoxia/hypercapnia, [sup][8],[9] and prepares the animal to protect itself. …

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