Introduction to Sudarshan Kriya
Yogic breathing, or what is more popularly known as pranayama globally, has been part of the ancient yogic sciences of India. However, in recent times it has gained much popularity because of the multitude of benefits it has to offer.
Formerly a part of alternative medication, yogic breathing, and the various breathing techniques and exercises that are part of it are increasingly infiltrating the mainstream health system.
They are now being used by doctors for psychological as well as physical healing and treatments. Breathing exercises are known to relieve anxiety and stress, improve focus and awareness, and are effective in muscle relaxation as well as the improvement of muscle function.
Sudarshan Kriya is one such set of breathing techniques introduced by the Art of Living foundation and taught globally. The Sudarshan Kriya came into being in 1982 in Shimoga. It was created by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar who, over a ten-day period of silence, formulated the Sudarshan kriya in an attempt to “bridge the gap between inner silence and outer expression of life”.
Let’s take a look at Sudarshan Kriya and the various ways in which it can benefit us and improve our bodily functions.
What is Sudarshan Kriya?
Sudarshan Kriya is a set of breathing techniques that attempts to incorporate specific natural rhythms to one’s breath.
This breathing technique intends to create a sync between the breath and the rhythm of nature exemplified by its cycle of life followed by death, creation followed by destruction, spring followed by autumn, day followed by night, and so on.
It is intended to create a sync between the body, mind, and emotion and create a harmonizing effect. The resultant effect of this practice is the holistic improvement of one’s physical, emotional, mental, and social well being.
It is an art of breathing that incorporates mainly four types of breathing techniques under it. It typically takes anywhere between 25 to 30 minutes to complete the entire procedure. The techniques, in proper order, are as follows-
- Ujjayi (victorious breath)
- Bhastrika (bellows breath)
- The chanting of ‘Om’
- Sudarshan Kriya
How to perform Sudarshan Kriya
Sudarshan Kriya literally translates to ‘proper vision by purifying action’. As such, it is a purification practice that allows you to take control of your breath and use it as a tool to improve your well being. The practice includes multiple breathing patterns.
Before you begin the practice, it is pertinent that you sit in the vajrasana position, also known as the diamond pose.
Let us now take a look at the breathing techniques in Sudarshan Kriya-
Also known as the victorious breath, ujjayi is the very first breathing technique of Sudarshan Kriya. It involves taking long breaths consciously. You are typically going to take two to four breath in one minute in this exercise.
This breathing technique allows for an increase in airway resistance while you breathe, thereby strengthening your lungs and also allows for having control over the breath by prolonging the breath cycle to an exact count. It further helps in reaching a stage of calm and alertness.
Following the calmness that is infused with the practice of ujjayi, is the second step of Sudarshan Kriya called bhastrika (or bellows breath). This involves rapid and forceful inhalation and exhalation creating exhilaration. The breaths are taken at a rate of 30 per minute. It is important to keep the breathing rhythmic and controlled.
This breathing technique has a favorable effect on the respiratory system, as well as the digestive system. It is also effective in energizing the body and mind.
The chanting of Om:
This step involves chanting Om three times while exhaling.
According to Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, ‘Om is the sound of the universe’. It is the sound that is always present in the universe, and hence chanting it is an invocation of the rhythm of nature, and the imbibing of that rhythm within ourselves. It is believed that this leads to peace and calm.
The final step is an advanced breathing technique that is cyclical and rhythmic in nature. It incorporates slow, medium, and fast pace of breathing in succession.
This step is also known as ‘purifying breath’. It begins with slow-paced breathing, followed by medium-paced breathing, and finally fast-paced breathing. All three paces are performed over multiple counts.
These four steps are followed by meditation and relaxation which helps in channelizing the energy of the body. Relaxation allows the body to address the impact of the practice.
Benefits of Sudarshan Kriya:
Sudarshan kriya has been known to affect a holistic improvement in those who practice the technique. Let us look at the various benefits of performing this in terms of its physical and psychological impact.
Physiological benefits of Sudarshan Kriya
Sudarshan kriya has been known to improve and strengthen the immune system. Increase of cell count and increase of the lifespan of white blood cells have been observed in persons who practice this art of breathing.
This practice also improves the heart rate, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels in an individual, and is generally known to improve the respiratory system as well as the cardiovascular system.
Practitioners of this yogic breathing have also shown a general improvement in the biochemical status of the body, including improvement in the level of antioxidant enzymes.
Psychological benefits of Sudarshan Kriya
Research shows that Sudarshan Kriya is beneficial in relieving anxiety and stress. It is often also considered helpful in the treatment of PTSD and Depression related problems. The remission rate of depression patients after this practice is 68-73% within a month according to some studies.
Sudarshan Kriya has also proved effective in reducing impulsive and addictive behavior patterns. Additionally, it improves emotional regulation and the level of optimism in life.
Sudarshan kriya has been known to instill calmness and improve one’s focus and concentration as well.
Sudarshan kriya is a very effective breathing technique that is used by people across the globe. Once you start practicing it, you will realize the power that your body holds to heal itself, both physiologically and psychologically, with its own breath.
It’s also highly recommended people who are going through stress or stress, or have any other mental problem, or for those who are in need if physiological recovery. You can also speak to your doctor about the possibility of its effectiveness for you specifically.
For people who are looking to nurture self-awareness and focus in their lives, are also encouraged to practice this. After all, awareness begins at the breath!
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