The roadmap to a mindful life lies in the simple pleasure of consciously becoming aware. In particular, meditation techniques provide individuals with introspective means of becoming conscious of their own sensations, thoughts, and feelings as they exist without judgment and over-identification. Often times this goes well and meditators feel a sense of joyful peace and freedom. Their flow of mind seems to float in a transcendent state of gratitude and appreciation. However, others may experience their thoughts as jumping from one subject to the next like a chimp in a rainforest or as slow and as energy draining as a sloth. Whether it's anxiety, depression or another type of mental illness, incorporating Sudarshan Kriya Yoga (SKY) deep breathing meditative techniques can allow you to become even more intimate with your experience by re-establishing your own clarity and psychological wellness from within.
These SKY techniques are an increasingly beneficial, low-cost, alternative for the treatment of anxiety, depression, PTSD, OCD, Bipolar Disorder, substance abuse, stress-related medical illnesses, chronic stress and the rehabilitation of criminal offenders.
If you still don’t believe me, then consider this: Oprah and Lena Dunham practice it. Jokes aside, a recent 2017 double-blind study by the American College of Physicians determined that a breathing-based meditation significantly improved patient’s therapy outcomes. And these individuals all had been diagnosed with major depressive disorder with an inadequate response to antidepressants.
How could this be, you say? They did so by developing adjunct therapies that incorporate non-pharmacological and self-management practices. These SKY techniques not only improved their therapy outcomes but also maintained their overall health-related quality of life after reaching remission. The physiological effects of breathing meditations indicate their complex pleiotropic nature; that is the phenomenon of one gene to affect others. This chain reaction thereby promotes overall psychological wellness and joy while gleaning insight into other possible holistic approaches to mental health.
Intro to the Sudarshan Kriya Yoga (SKY)
Sudarshan Kriya Yoga (SKY) involves an intense rhythmic breathing pattern that brings about social, mental, physical and emotional wellness. Just like nature has its different seasons, cycles and rhythms, our emotions, minds, and bodies also have a kind of harmony to their biological nature. SKY Yoga is such an incredible holistic approach to mental health because it aids our bodies to heal from within as practitioners are able to stimulate and balance their autonomic nervous systems. It’s even been successfully integrated as a public health intervention to alleviate PTSD in survivors of mass disasters, enhancing user’s mood, attention, mental focus, and stress tolerance. The four SKY techniques consist of: Ujjayi or the “victorious breath,” bhastrika or “bellows breath,” the “om” chant and Sudarshan Kriya, also known as “proper vision by purifying action.” A proper education by a skilled teacher and a daily 30-minute practice will guarantee maximum benefits.
- Ujjayi / Victorious Breath:
Casually called the victorious breath or ocean breath due to the soothing sound created when your laryngeal muscles contract and the partial closure of your glottis mimics the gentle sound of the sea. You inhale and exhale extremely slowly (2-4 breaths per minute) increasing airway resistance and controlling your air flow so that each phase of your breath cycle can be prolonged to an exact measure. Subjects experience immediate physical and mental calmness associated with an awareness of their present experience.
- Bhastrika / Bellows Breath:
Unlike Ujjayi, during Bhastrika you inhale and exhale extremely quickly (30 breaths per minute) which provokes stimulation, which then promotes calmness.
- The OM Chant: The Om chant can be broken down by syllable: a-ā-u-ū-m-(ng)-(silence). To sound the first two syllables, purse your lips together with your mouth wide. Then place the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth to sound the last two syllables, “m” and “ng,” signifying the close of your first inhalation cycle.
- Sudarshan Kriya / Proper Vision by Purifying Action: An advanced form of rhythmic, cyclical breathing with slow, medium and fast cycles.
Brown, Richard P., and Patricia L. Gerbarg. "Sudarshan Kriya Yogic breathing in the treatment of stress, anxiety, and depression: part II—clinical applications and guidelines." Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine 11.4 (2005): 711-717.
McKennon, Skye, Sarah Elizabeth Levitt, and Grzegorz Bulaj. “Commentary: A Breathing-Based Meditation Intervention for Patients with Major Depressive Disorder Following Inadequate Response to Antidepressants: A Randomized Pilot Study.” Frontiers in Medicine 4 (2017): 37. PMC. Web. 23 May 2017.