Scientists have just confirmed that a yogic technique called Kriya yoga is highly effective at treating those who suffer from depression. Currently 41 million people are taking some kind of antidepressant to deal with anxiety and depression, but this single yogic practice, tested under clinical conditions, could help all those people toss their pharmaceutical medications for good.

Sudarshan Kriya is a breathing technique which yogis practice to increase relaxation, improve organ function, help with stress management, and help to control the various psychophysiological states. This type of 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. This yoga kriya has been used as a 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, but a newly released study proves it is undoubtedly effective for treating depression.

This latest study, published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry from researchers in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, bolsters the science behind the use of controlled yogic breathing to help battle depression. It is extremely timely, and important considering that most people stay on antidepressant drugs, which can have a variety of side effects, for at least two years. Some take them for a decade or more.

“It’s not only that physicians are prescribing more, the population is demanding more,” Dr. Mojtabai said. “Feelings of sadness, the stresses of daily life and relationship problems can all cause feelings of upset or sadness that may be passing and not last long. But Americans have become more and more willing to use medication to address them.”

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Anup Sharma, MD, PhD, a Neuropsychiatry research fellow in the department of Psychiatry at Penn who led the study said,

“With such a large portion of patients who do not fully respond to antidepressants, it’s important we find new avenues that work best for each person to beat their depression. Here, we have a promising, lower-cost therapy that could potentially serve as an effective, non-drug approach for patients battling this disease.”

He continued,

“Sudarshan Kriya yoga gives people an active method to experience a deep meditative state that’s easy to learn and incorporate in diverse settings.”

The study was conducted by enrolling 25 patients suffering from MDD who were depressed, despite more than eight weeks of antidepressant medication treatment. The medicated patients were randomized to either the breathing intervention group [Sudarshan Kriya group] or the “waitlist” control group for eight weeks. (The waitlist group was offered the yoga intervention after the study).

During the first week, participants completed a six-session program, which featured Sudarshan Kriya yoga in addition to yoga postures, sitting meditation, and stress education. For weeks two through eight, participants attended weekly Sudarshan Kriya yoga follow-up sessions and completed a home practice version of the technique.

Patients in the Sudarshan Kriya yoga group showed a significantly greater improvement in HDRS scores compared to patients in the waitlist group. With a mean baseline HDRS score of 22.0 (indicating severe depression at the beginning of the study), the group that completed the breathing technique for the full two months improved scores by 10.27 points on average, compared to the waitlist group, which showed no improvements.

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Patients in the yoga group also showed significant mean reductions in total scores of the self-reported Beck Depression (15.48 point improvement) and Beck Anxiety Inventories (5.19 point improvement), versus the waitlist control group.

Vinod Menon attests that the Sudarshan Kriya helps individuals to clean out toxins that exist beyond the cellular level.

Nikhil Toke says that the kriya helped him to complete an advanced physics degree.

You can learn how to practice this breathing exercise by watching the video below , but please note, Art of Living participants or trainees are not supposed to openly discuss their practice with outsiders. In order to teach the technique, you are supposed to be a trained and certified AoL instructor to impart sudarshan kriya. The Art of Living Foundation has registered the name because others were going to patent it. (Sudarshan Kriya bears a strong resemblance to kabalabhati, also called the skull shining breath in ancient yogic texts.) The official version can be found on the Art of Living website.

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