“I was born Mohammad, but after becoming a militant I was called Khalid. We were taught to operate guns, arms and other weapons,” said Khalid, a former leader with Hizbul Mujahiddin, “We were made leaders of local villages and we were asked to spread terrorism even at the cost of our lives. But after learning the power of breath we realized we had chosen the wrong path. We now want to spread love in Kashmir. Our message is to live and let live.”
Does breath have the power to heal wounds of conflict at the individual level and at the level of communities? Apart from keeping the body alive, can breathing really transform peoples’ lives and bring out life-affirming qualities of peace, generosity and a sense of caring and sharing?
The answer is a resounding yes and 3.7 million people across the world in 155 countries may vouch for it. The number is growing each day. These 3.7 million people come from all walks of life, backgrounds and religion-farmers, doctors, militants, prisoners, war veterans, youth, businessmen, lawyers, Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Jews, Jains and many others.
The connection lies in the power of breathing and to be precise, in Sudarshan Kriya, a powerful rhythmic breathing technique cognized by the global humanitarian leader and founder of the International Association For Human Values, Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, who among many other conflicts, played a pivotal role in bringing an end to the 50-year-old civil conflict in Colombia, one of the bloodiest in history. His continues to guide the stakeholders on the path of peaceful resolution of the longstanding differences and hurt caused to both the sides. It is only through spiritual tools like meditation and Yoga, that a peaceful mind can be achieved. No good decision has ever come about from the state of conflict and inner turmoil, which makes peace education so important at all levels of the society.
Sudarshan Kriya meditation (SKY) incorporates specific natural rhythms of the breath which harmonize the body, mind, and emotions. This unique breathing technique eliminates stress, fatigue and negative emotions such as anger, frustration, and depression, leaving you calm yet energized, focused yet relaxed.
Why should you learn Sudarshan Kriya?
An expansive body of research work has documented the significant mental and physiological benefits of Sudarshan Kriya-
- Significant reductions in anxiety are found in many populations, including a 71% to 73% response rate and 41% remission rate in individuals for whom medication and psychotherapy treatments had failed.
- Multiple studies demonstrate that depressed patients who learned SKY experienced a 68-73% remission rate within one month.
- Significant reductions in PTSD symptoms were found in 6 weeks and the 60% reduction was sustained 6 months later without any follow up.
- Reduces impulsivity and addictive behaviors [15, 16]
- Improved emotional regulation [14, 17]
- Increases levels of optimism, well being and quality of life [4, 5, 12, 18, 19]
- Increased mental focus / heightened awareness 
- 3x more time spent in deep restful stages of sleep 
- Reduced biochemical markers of stress: cortisol [2, 22], corticotrophin blood lactate, ACTH, and plasma MDA[2, 24] 
- For example, blood lactate levels in police cadets who did not learn SKY were 4 times higher than their classmates who were randomized to learn SKY, suggesting a greatly increased resilience to stress in SKY practitioners.
- Since stressful physiological responses negatively impact immune, cardiovascular, endocrine and mental health, this has significant implications for wellness.
- 33% increase in the well-being hormone prolactin from the very first session. 
- Increased levels of antioxidant enzymes (glutathione, catalase, and superoxide dismutase) [6, 23, 27] which protect us from many diseases and rapid aging.
- Improved immune cell counts in health compromised individuals seen in 12 weeks (Natural Killer Cells) 
- Reduced heart rate and blood pressure in both healthy and health compromised individuals 
- Improved cholesterol and triglyceride (lipid) profile:  [6, 28] as early as 3 weeks, with no change in diet 
- Improved respiratory function: [3, 32, 33] where respiration rate dropped by 5% in 1 week and 15% in 12 weeks and lung (vital) capacity increased 
Travis Lenia, a war veteran from Wisconsin, USA, who saw combat in Iraq, shares, “As I got there(Iraq), the reality of the whole situation hit me hard. I found that as a young 20 year old, the balance of life and death being in someone’s hands was very hard to do. I found that a lot of things I had to do as my duty and my job as a security forces was something that I personally did not enjoy doing. Coming home, I noticed the shift in myself. I was very withdrawn, very distant. My pride and my military training of not really accepting weakness made it difficult to ask for help. Transitioning from military to college, just made things worse. I was walking across the hall one day and came across this ad(of the Art of Living workshop).”
Travis further shared, “When I got to the course, things started really changing for me. The breathing processes were super powerful and I cant tell you why but I definitely felt the change in myself. I noticed that it was easier to connect with other veterans in the group in a way I had never experienced before. I walked out of the there feeling like I had known them my whole life. In the following days, I started experiencing emotions. Doctors had called it emotional numbness. I started feeling invigorated(after the practices).”
Lt.Comm Imam Hussain Ali, Surinam, “You know in armed forces there is a lot of stress. So it was a very good opportunity for me to get the stress out of my mind and body.”
Athar from Iran, “Before doing the course, I had severe leg and joint pain. I could not sit on the floor. After completing the course, my leg and joint pains have vanished.”
How does the transformation take place?
People are seldom taught how to effectively manage this anger, frustration and other negative emotions caused by stress. A powerful tool like Sudarshan Kriya has for the first time made it possible to remove stress toxins from each cell of the body and leave the practitioner energized, fresh and positive. Once free from stress, this new found positivity brings about an experiential state of happiness, contentment, love and willingness to make a difference in the lives of others. And so, the process of inner transformation finds an outer expression in service leading to happier communities.
Feature Image-Photo by Stijn Swinnen on Unsplash
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