Mental Depression & Sudarshan Kriya: Recent Research
by D.P. Agrawal
Even in the West, it is now generally accepted that traditional techniques
of Yoga and Pranayama do improve mental health. The effects of stress
and depression on physical and mental health are far-reaching. Anxiety and
depression have been found to aggravate the progression of serious diseases
like cancer, HIV, asthma and cardiovascular ailments. Psychoneuroimmunology
(PNI) is the name of the science which deals with these problems. The Sudarshan
Kriya and related breathing practices have been found to have remarkable
therapeutic benefits. These simple, yet powerful, breathing practices have
the advantage over many other forms of treatment because they are free from
negative side-effects, are much cheaper, and are easy to learn and practice
in daily life. These yogic practices are now focus of attention of India's
top medical research institutes.
In India both National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS),
Bangalore, and All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi have
been carrying out research on these practices and their effects. Clinical
trials at NIMHANS, Bangalore, showed that regular practise of Sudarshan
Kriya Yoga (SKY) a set of breathing techniques promoted by Sri
Sri Ravishankar, founder of the Bangalore based Art of Living Foundation
reduces symptoms of mental depression. NIMHANS researchers claim that SKY
is as effective as the established anti-depressant drug imipramine, a tricyclic
antidepressant, (Depsonil, Antidep). All India Institute of Medical Sciences
(AIIMS), Delhi, has reported that SKYand Pranayam sessions reduced serum cortisol
levels an indicator of stress in the blood more effectively
than listening to classical music. They are also employing SKY to cure alcohol
and tobacco addiction.
It has been reported that the distorted dream stage EEG brainwave patterns
of the depressed people, the dream-stage EEG patterns significantly improved.
Depressed people have a particular EEG brainwave abnormality, which is measured
by the P300 ERP amplitude. When P300 was post-tested at day 90 it had returned
to normal, (it was indistinguishable from normal controls) and they remained
depression free. There was a reduction in REM latency onset and an improvement
in NREM stages. About 70% of patients completing the program experienced remission
from depression, both at the one month and the three month retest times. Blood
analysis revealed statistically significant elevation of plasma prolactin
levels after the very first SKY session. This is important since elevated
plasma prolactin may be crucial in producing an anti-depressant response.
Cortisol ( a stress hormone) levels remained stable, indicating that the practice
of Sudarshan Kriya is not stressful.
In 1998, a pilot study on the effectiveness of Sudarshan Kriya and
its related breathing practices in the treatment of Multiple Sclerosis was
conducted at the Institute of Rehabilitation of the Republic of Slovenia.
There was recently a symposium at Delhi, which cautioned that larger groups
have to be studied before firm conclusions can be drawn. Dr Vinod Kochupillai,
professer and head of medical oncology at AIIMS who has coordinated these
studies, says that the available data on SKY and Pranayam seems to
validate the claims that such practices lead to a healthier body, calmer mind
and balanced emotions.
1996. Effects of Sudarshan Kriya in Dysthymic Disorders. B.L. Mehti, N. Janakiramaiah,
et al. Departments of Neurophysiology and Psychiatry, NIMHANS.
1997. Normalization of P300 Amplitude following Treatment in Dysthymia. P.J.
Murthy, B.N. Gangadhar, N. Janakiramaiah, and D.K. Subhakrishna. Biological
Psychiatry, 1997, Vol.42, pp. 740-743.
1998. P300 Amplitude and antidepressant response to Sudarshan Kriya Yoga.
P.J. Murthy, N. Janakiramaiah, et al. Journal of Affective Disorders, vol.
50, pp. 45-48.
2000. Anti-depressant Efficacy of Sudarshan Kriya Yoga (SKY) in Melancholia
- a randomized comparison with ECT and Imipramine. N. Janakiramaiah, M.D.,
B.N. Gangadhar, M.D., et al. Journal of Affective Disorders, vol. 57, Issues
1-3, pp. 255-259.