A growing body of evidence shows that a breathing-based meditation practice called Sudarshan Kriya can help to lift depression and release negative emotions. Sundarshan Kriya uses a set of natural rhythms of the breath to bring your body and mind into harmony. Practicing this technique can help to transform feelings like…
Just one session can bring you to a state of energized, focused relaxation.
A Research-Backed Way to Transform Emotions
Research tells us that your breath is the link between your mind and your body. Every emotion you experience brings with it a unique breathing pattern, for instance, when you’re angry your breathing becomes short and quick. By breathing in a particular way, you can induce the corresponding emotion!
Using a specific breathing technique, like Sundarshan Kriya, you can skillfully shift your emotions and release worry, frustration, and fatigue by altering the pattern of your breath. After a single session of Sudarshan Kriya breathing, studies show that levels of prolaction, a hormone linked to feelings of wellbeing, increase significantly.
Research has also shown that Sudarshan Kriya can reduce the body’s output of stress hormones, and help to treat depression.
How Breathing Can Lift Depression
A recent study conducted by scientists in the Department of Psychiatry at Penn University found that Sudarshan Kriya can greatly improve the anxiety and depression experienced by individuals with major depressive disorder (MDD). The randomized, controlled pilot study, led by Neuropsychiatry research fellow Anup Sharma, MD, Phd, found that two months of practicing Sudarshan Kriya significantly lowered participants’ scores on the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS), the most widely-used means of clinically measuring depression.
The HDRS score takes into account factors including…
- Interest in activities
- Suicidal thoughts
- Feelings of guilt
Participants in the Sudarshan Kriya group substantially reduced their HDRS scores – the lower a score, the lower a person’s level of depression. Those in the waitlist control group (who were offered the chance to try Sudarshan Kriya at the conclusion of the study) showed no improvement to their scores.
At the beginning of the study, the Sudarshan Kriya group had a mean baseline score of 22.0, indicating severe depression. When the study finished, their scores improved by an average of 10.27 points! The group also showed positive changes on two other measures—the Beck Depression and Beck Anxiety Inventories.
Lead researcher Sharma said the study showed Sudarshan Kriya to be “a promising, lower-cost therapy that could potentially serve as an effective, non-drug approach for patients battling this disease.”
How to Try Sudarshan Kriya
You can easily try Sudarshan Kriya for yourself by searching for online tutorials and videos. You may also be able to locate a facility near you where classes are offered. The technique, which can be practiced alone or in a group, may seem difficult to master initially, but with time and focus you’ll experience a wealth of rewards!
To properly practice Sudarshan Kriya, you must learn to sit in the “Thunderbolt posture.” Begin by laying a mat or blanket on the floor. Kneel with your knees, ankles, and toes pressing into the mat or blanket, your weight resting on the soles of your feet, your heels separated. Drape your palms on the tops of your knees and sit with a straight spine and relaxed shoulders. Closing your eyes may help you draw your focus inward.
Once you can sit comfortably in this position, you’re ready to try Sudarshan Kriya breathing. The technique has four stages…
- Stage One: relax your throat and sternum. Concentrate on your inhalations and exhalations, make the length of each breath equal. After 20 equal inhalations and exhalations, you’re ready for stage two.
- Stage Two: Allow your exhalation to become longer than your inhalation. Ensure that your sternum and the rest of your body remain relaxed. Again, complete 20 inhalations and exhalations before moving on.
- Stage Three: Now, reverse the pattern of the preceding stage and allow your inhalation to be longer than your exhalation. Continue to relax your entire body. After 20 inhalations and exhalations, you can enter the final stage.
- Stage Four: For the last stage, return to the equal breathing rhythm from the first stage. Again, you should take 20 inhalations and exhalations.
The first time you practice Sudarshan Kriya, you may experience some discomfort. If it feels beneficial, work on each stage individually before attempting to practice all four back to back. As you progress, you’ll find that the effort you put in comes back to you many times over!