21 July 2009

Depressed? Just breathe…

Sudarshan Kriya Yoga, a modern breathing technique rooted in the ancient yogic tradition, shows promise as an adjunct therapy for depression, panic attack disorder and anxiety.


Sudarshan Kriya Yoga (SKY), a modern breathing technique rooted in the ancient yogic tradition, is showing promising results as an adjunct therapy for depression, panic attack disorder and general anxiety.

In a pilot study conducted at the Department of Neurosciences, Fatebenefratelli Hospital (FH) in Milan, an innovative therapy based on the application of SKY to patients affected by depression, generalised anxiety disorder and panic attacks yielded the following results after the first six months:

  • Average reduction of 60% in the rate of depression (according to the standard tests).
  • Average reduction of 40% in the rate of psychosis (according to the standard tests).
  • Significant improvement in cognitive function, which became evident in clinical interviews.
  • Effect of SKY on the parasympathetic tone as evidenced by correlation between cardiological data and respiratory parameters (RSA).

SKY was formulated by Indian spiritual leader and humanitarian H.H. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar in 1981, and is taught by trainers of the Art of Living Foundation in over 140 countries, including South Africa. Millions of people from all backgrounds, traditions and cultures have learned the technique. Research published in international peer-reviewed journals document significant mental and physical health benefits of SKY.

The therapeutic effect of SKY is believed to be based mainly on the rebalancing of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, as a result of which there is a positive effect on the stress mechanisms, and on anxiety and mood-related ailments. Its effect is being studied in depth in a series of questionnaire-based and laboratory tests at FH.

Fusion of modern and ancient techniques
Commenting on the study, Dr Claudio Mencacci, Director of the Department of Neurosciences at FH, said, “The task of modern neuroscience is to look for new evidence, but also to rediscover convincing methods of ancient treatments in a new setting.”

Dr Stefania Doria, the scientist responsible for the project, explained that the choice of SKY was motivated by some key characteristics of the set of techniques.

"They're easy to learn and are based on both a modern and ancient system of yoga," Doria says. "They can be practised by patients independently at home, and with little investment of time... They give tangible results in a short period of time, encouraging the patient to become more independent and consequently have greater self-respect."

(Art of Living Foundation, July 2009)


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