Sudarshan Kriya

Sudar­shan (less fre­quently spelt sud­har­shan) is San­skrit. Su stands for “proper” and dar­shan means “vision.” Kriya is a yogic prac­tice that is meant to purify the body. In Eng­lish, Art of Liv­ing staff used to refer to it as the Heal­ing Breath Tech­nique, but that has fallen out of favor. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar thinks that peo­ple should learn the San­skrit name. My AOL instruc­tors refer to the kriya as a kind of toxin purge for the body, mind and spirit. This prac­tice came to Sri Sri when he was on a retreat in 1983, and it has formed the foun­da­tion of his mis­sion since then.

Sudar­shan kriya is the core of the Art of Liv­ing approach. It’s a crash course in pranayama, the yogic prac­tice of breath exten­sion or con­trol. It is incor­po­rated into a daily prac­tice and also forms part of the weekly gath­er­ings, called Sat­sang, where Art of Liv­ing prac­ti­tion­ers fol­low a more extended process with an audio record­ing of Sri Sri lead­ing a Maja Kriya.

As Art of Liv­ing par­tic­i­pants or trainees, we are not sup­posed to openly dis­cuss our 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. The offi­cial ver­sion can be found on the Art of Liv­ing website

The Prac­tice

In both the daily prac­tice and the extended ver­sion, the Art of Liv­ing users engage in four exer­cises: yogic three-​​part breath­ing (three cycles, once with hands on waist, hands at chest level with elbows extended to the side, and arms up and hands touch­ing back shoul­ders, biceps by the ears), bas­trika (also called bel­lows breath, three rep­e­ti­tions), Om chant­ing (three rep­e­ti­tions) and Sudar­shan Kriya. All four of these breath­ing exer­cises or prac­tices are part of yogic tra­di­tion, and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has mod­i­fied them slightly or sub­stan­tially. Sudar­shan Kriya bears a strong resem­blance to kabal­ab­hati.

What does the kriya add to my yoga practice?

It’s increased my lung capac­ity in a really short time; it’s increased my alert­ness; it’s given me meth­ods to refresh my mind through­out the day. By giv­ing me greater aware­ness and sen­si­tiv­ity to my breath, I’ve improved my con­cen­tra­tion and med­i­ta­tion. By com­ing to AOL and yoga together, I was able to see how much yoga could ben­e­fit me. At my first yoga class after the AOL intro course, I was able to get into deep bends and other poses and hold them because I was breath­ing more eas­ily and deeply. I sup­pose I could have to come to the same con­di­tion through other meth­ods, but it would have taken more time.

Art of Liv­ing also says that the kriya prac­tice has accu­mu­la­tive effects over time. Med­ical research shows that it has promis­ing results in recov­ery from mood dis­or­ders and build­ing HIV.

Intro­duc­tory Course

Photo: three adults doing a breathing exercise with arms positioned across chest
Sudar­shan Kriya starts with 3-​​part breathing

The course goes through the mechan­ics of sudar­shan kriya and other pranayama exer­cises assum­ing that you do not have any prior knowl­edge of yoga. In the two week­end ses­sions, you are guided through a fair exten­sive yoga prac­tice — it is more than just stretch­ing, as described in the lit­er­a­ture. But no one gets penal­ized for bad form or being out of shape.

In all Art of Liv­ing prac­tices, there is a strong empha­sis placed on bal­ance and mod­er­a­tion — not going over­board. You’re not going to major ben­e­fits from dou­bling or tripling your time in kriya. How­ever, some Art of Liv­ing prac­ti­tion­ers encour­age more fre­quent use of kriya prac­tices for peo­ple suf­fer­ing from mood dis­or­ders. There is no claim that you should assume other aspects of yoga tra­di­tion, like becom­ing a vegetarian.

Other Courses

The Art of Liv­ing Foun­da­tion and its affil­i­ates employ sudar­shan kriya and other pranayama exer­cises as the core of other spe­cial­ized courses, like the Stress Man­age­ment pro­gram for cor­po­rate employ­ees, prison inmate work, or its youth pro­gram. In addi­tion, there are efforts to help peo­ple with ill­nesses like depres­sion and anxiety,

Part II Course

Infor­mally known as the advanced course, this expe­ri­ence requires a 4-​​6 day res­i­dence at a retreat or an Art of Liv­ing ashram. Fre­quently, the course is given by Sri Sri him­self. The course com­bines four aspects: Silence, Sad­hana (Med­i­ta­tion), Sat­sang (Cel­e­bra­tion) and Seva (Service).

Silence takes you deeper into your­self, Sad­hana builds Energy, Sat­sang main­tains it (ele­vat­ing con­scious­ness) and finally this energy is lov­ingly chan­neled through Seva.” (From Art of Liv­ing web­sites and literature)

The Part II Course is really the door­way to full under­stand­ing of Art of Liv­ing. If you have a desire to be a vol­un­teer instruc­tor or take the yoga course, you will need to take the course. I’ve heard of the course tak­ing place in New York in the Hud­son val­ley, at the Mon­treal ashram and in Lake Tahoo, CA.

Research

In India, there is a lot of research on the ther­a­peu­tic effects of yoga and pranayama. The lead­ing insti­tute is Vivekananda Yoga Anu­sand­hana Sam­sthana (Research Foun­da­tion) or VYASA, some­times referred to as Vivekananda Kendra. The lead­ing researcher is Shirley Telles. There is a US branch in Hous­ton, sVYASA.

64 thoughts on “Sudarshan Kriya

  1. I have anx­i­ety prob­lem .Some­times my heart is rac­ing but when i do sudar­shan kriya my heart becomes nor­mal . What should i do .? should i con­tinue this kriya or not ?

    1. It is best to do the SK early in the day but it can be done any­time. Before bed­time it might ener­gize you too much. Now, also regard­ing your ques­tion about after food, the prac­tice can be done after eat­ing but allow at least 2 hours to allow your food to digest. I hope this helps.

  2. Start­ing with shar­ing my per­sonal expe­ri­ence. It was a game changer for me. Not only shed all my inhi­bi­tions and fal­si­fied notions of I being not so good to a very con­fi­dent teenager. My sinus cytus got com­pletely cured, so much so that It didn’t bleed any­more from the nose. I made it to the national bas­ket­ball team of my state of which, I had denied the priv­i­lege to. My sta­mina increased, pro­duc­tiv­ity increased, knowl­edge increased, time man­age­ment was as if – “First i used to com­plain, I don’t get time, then After doing SKY(sudarshan kriya for quite a while, i could find time, but even after that long while, when i con­tin­ued, time just came right at me, say­ing “use me, m here”)”.

  3. To be clear Com­plete Sudar­shan Kriya is not ‘just set of pranaya­mas’. It includes them fol­lowed by a pow­er­ful rhyth­mic pat­tern breath­ing essen­tially called ‘Sudar­shan Kriya’. If you don’t know about some­thing com­pletely, first know then crit­i­cize. It’s atleast bet­ter than annual intake of sev­eral thou­sands of rupees on anti-​​depressants.
    PS : No offense

    1. Shikha,
      Do you stop breath­ing dur­ing men­stru­a­tion? That said (and con­sid­er­ing I am not a woman), there might be instances when a rare com­pli­ca­tion might merit cau­tion. I don’t think it falls in the same cat­e­gory as not doing yoga inver­sions dur­ing men­stru­a­tion (and some believe that pro­hi­bi­tion is an old wife’s tale).

  4. sud­er­shan kriya is noth­ing but a set of pranayam , SRI SRI SRI SRI SRI SRI RAVI has made mod­i­fi­ca­tion since Pranayam is com­mon . Its a Sell­ing Tech­nique . Old Wine in New Bot­tle . And In India this will Sell eas­ily as there are lots of mind­less edu­cated pro­ple there.

  5. Hi ,i’m priya, i ‘d been to art of liv­ing and did sudar­shan kriya for a month, i felt good after doing it, now when i see these com­ments , i’m scared but i per­son­ally feel no breath­ing exer­cises are harm­ful, it’s help­ful in strength­ing your lungs…i stopped doing it long back, wan to con­tinue it again,can any­one tell me will it cure ma insom­nia and give me proper advise on its ben­e­fits please

    1. Dear Priya, Dont for­get that there are peo­ple who criti­size things. Sudar­shan kriya is well known for its amaz­ing ben­e­fits. So, I sug­gest you to have faith in Guruji and just neglect criti­sism and con­tinue to do Kriya regularly…..

    2. hel­loo priya, sudar­shan kriya has a very pow­er­ful ben­e­fits. i have live exam­ples peo­ple suf­fer­ing from can­cers are treated through sudar­shan kriya rather than med­i­cine or chemotherapy

      1. Hi thanks thanks for the info, can u please let me know how it has ben­e­fit­ted can­cer patients. I am curi­ous to know as i want to help a can­cer patient. pl call me on 9971129420

    3. Hi Priya,

      The Skep­tics here are igno­rant peo­ple we should have com­pas­sion towards them.

      A skep­tic is stuck in a par­a­digm and closes all other pos­si­bil­i­ties. But this cre­ation is of all pos­si­bil­i­ties. As one under­stands the par­a­digm shift, skep­ti­cism is removed.

      A real sci­en­tist can never afford to be a skep­tic because skep­ti­cism closes down pos­si­bil­i­ties and does not con­tinue to probe into unknown areas of existence.

  6. hi, I ve joined the AOL course and com­pleted 3days till now.. To day after the course, when I was try­ing to sleep, I had a chest pain.. Is it due to SK?! bcos, I’m only 30yrs of age and never had any sort of chest pain due to my healthy life style.. Pls, give me some sug­ges­tions, though I’m gonna ask my AOL teacher about this 2moro

    1. Praveen
      I am not a doc­tor or a health spe­cial­ist — nor an AoL instruc­tor, for that mat­ter. One-​​time events are hard to diag­no­sis. It has to be a per­sis­tent con­di­tion. There are hun­dreds of rea­sons to have chest pain, and most have noth­ing to do with the lungs or heart. The human body does not change overnight (for the bet­ter or the worse), but requires time and con­sis­tency. Fol­low your instructor’s lead, and ask him to con­sult with his super­vi­sor for more infor­ma­tion. Don’t try too hard. Hope this helps.

      M

  7. On 25th Sep 2012, I gave a small sug­ges­tion. Will u be kind enough to pro­vide any VCD, on Sudar­shan Kriya in the large inter­est of the soci­ety. U may let me know by a mail. Thank u Sir

  8. Sudar­shan Kriya is geat as so many peo­ple are claim­ing to have made good for them. In the large wel­fare of the soci­ety, total process of the Sudarsan Kriya must be dis­played in the online and CDs are to be sold at cheap rates as that of Ramdev baba who works on no profit no loss basis.Anything in the wel­fare of the soci­ety must be made pub­lic and a small price may be charged for the VCD or what­ever it mat be. Enlight­ened soul must revive the soci­ety for bet­ter­ment!!! Pl reply Sri Sri Yoga JIs.

  9. After expe­ri­enc­ing sudar­shan kriya for last 3 days ,i got numb­ness in hands and feet ,tin­gling sen­sa­tion all over the body and sweat­ing on face but did not expe­ri­ence any­thing divine about it ……..I was a prac­tic­ing yoga before doing sudar­shan kriya . Per­son­ally I feel pranayam brings a lot of men­tal peace ,seren­ity and divin­ity and no dis­com­fort .pranayam also increases lung power.Pranayam is lot bet­ter than sudar­shan kriya ……

    Mad­hura

    1. Sudar­shan kriya is a set of pranayama prac­tices. Art of Liv­ing has been pro­mot­ing this set of prac­tices as a means of reliev­ing stress, not access­ing any­thing divine, although I am sure that its lead­ers may explain it dif­fer­ently to mul­ti­ple audiences.

      Prac­tic­ing kriya for three days is not going to bring about any sig­nif­i­cant change phys­i­o­log­i­cally or psy­cho­log­i­cally. The human body and brain are not altered so quickly. Obvi­ously, you can have symp­toms sim­i­lar to hyper­ven­ti­la­tion, which may explain some of the prob­lems you men­tion. Back off the inten­sity of your kriya and you may find relief.

      If you find your per­sonal yoga and pranayama prac­tice ade­quate, then stay with it, by all means.

  10. the art of liv­ing course is not only great but deep­ens us into spir­i­tu­al­ity.
    the bhajans,talks,etc are what takes to tune in with the mas­ter.
    a beau­ti­ful experience.

  11. I also believed in the story of SK and attended a 3 days ses­sion a year and half before . After doing the way it was told in the ses­sion , i prac­ticed sev­eral times at home . after few months i had mild pain in my viens of my fore­arm , i thought it was some­thing else. ini­tially doc­tors had no clue what hap­pened and it went to extreme level … i was given antibi­otics for virul arthri­tis , had sev­eral tests done and noth­ing came-​​up . the doc­tors stated it is vas­culi­tis with no def­i­nite med­ical cause , that was strange . only thing i didnt tell them that i was prac­tis­ing SD and per­haps that could have caused this. After doing SD it would make me dry , head heavy and sleepy and drained , loose mem­ory but yes – it opened my hunger a lot than usual . i believe that SD has many dis­ad­van­tages for com­mon peo­ple who live a casual lifestyle and it should not be prac­tised . the momen­tary hap­pi­ness that peo­ple get while doing the kriya is pri­ma­ryly due to hyper­ven­ti­la­tion – it may have some few ben­e­fits but comes with lot of other health costs . This kind of kriya can lead to per­ma­nent sick­ness with doc­tors hav­ing no clue of the cause. AOL is just inter­ested in mint­ing money because i under­stand that they have large employ­ees to feed … there maybe good things or noble causes that it would have con­tributed to , but the bot­tom­line is Sudar­shan Kriya defined by AOL is def­i­nitely dan­ger­ous to practice.

  12. i have done sudar­shan kirya 1 eight years back now i am suf­fer­ring from depres­sion can any body help me to come out of it

  13. Sir, I have done AOL course in decem­ber 2011. I do short Sudar­shan Kriya every­day (20-​​40-​​40) as instructed by teacher. But yet i didnt find the benifits of kriya and change in me. What could be the rea­son? And one more when­ever I do Long Sudar­shan kriya (in pres­ence of Sri. Sri ‘s voice) i loose my patience means my mind starts feel­ing when it will over and when i will lie down. means i can not enjoy it. My friends who are with me in course told me they enjoy whole 45 mins. but i cant breath with that enjoy­ment. Is this rea­son that i am not get­ting benifits??
    Pls reply.
    -Pooja (India)

    1. Where there is mys­tery there is no mas­tery. I praise the AOL and Sri Sri for its con­tri­bu­tions to a health­ier and hap­pier world but the idea of secret kriyas seems to be a bit dated. Espe­cially if the way to the kriya is $$$. By mak­ing the kriya exclu­sive to those who pay the AOL cre­ates sep­a­ra­tion in peo­ple by caus­ing them to think that the orga­ni­za­tion knows some­thing they don’t. Which in turn takes the seeker far­ther away from the truth that there is noth­ing to achieve.

      This pay for knowl­edge model isn’t exclu­sive to the AOL but many spir­i­tual lin­eages. It helps to fund the move­ment which is great because the move­ment helps mil­lions. How­ever real knowl­edge, divine knowl­edge is free. How much did Jesus charge? How about Buddah?

      There is a right yoga for every­one one but not every yoga is right for every­one. If you’re hav­ing dif­fi­culty with the kriya pos­si­bly con­sider mov­ing on. There are thou­sands of pranayama tech­niques that may work for you. Please don’t be con­vinced that the Sudar­shan Kriya is the only way for well being.

      Read the book Yoga of Heart by Mark Whitwell.

      Love and bless­ings on your path.

      Aham Prema.

    2. You can do pranayam along with the guid­ance as some Cd,s are avail­able like pranayam count .
      med­i­ta­tion music etc. .

    3. Hi Pooja,

      Any act of human being is dri­ven by self but not by any exter­nal forces espe­cially when it is a mat­ter of emo­tions. In sim­ple terms, u can’t get ben­e­fit from any­thing unless you are will­ing to take it. For me AOL course is just a tool for them to indus­tri­alise & earn mil­lions. They are just reap­ing from the oppor­tu­nity on the life style shift in aver­age indi­ans. Be what you are and u can live long & happy! for­get the paid ideas!

  14. Hey There Prana­jour­nal,
    I just stum­bled across this and, Hi I recently tried Sudar­shan Kriya and expe­ri­enced numb­ness, extreme light­head­ed­ness and headache. I did some research and it says that it is hyper­ven­ti­la­tion. Is it dan­ger­ous to prac­tice? does it cause brain dam­age?
    Catch you again soon!
    Regards, Paul

  15. Has any­one con­ducted real west­ern, dou­ble blind stud­ies, “real sci­ence test­ing,” on the effects of AOL’s ver­sion of kriya? When I took the first course the instruc­tor advised our par­tic­i­pants of “tin­gling around the lips, cramp­ing of fin­gers or toes,” dur­ing the breath­ing exer­cise. I raised my hand and asked if he wasn’t sim­ply describ­ing the effects of hyper­ven­ti­la­tion syn­drome, to which he became mildly defen­sive. The mild con­fu­sion and eur­pho­ria of Hyper­ven­ti­la­tion is most likely the intro to feel­ing “med­i­ta­tive” in the prac­tice of kriya. AOL instruc­tors and devo­tees would have us think dif­fer­ently, yes?

  16. Great arti­cle! Kriyas and Pranayama are a great tool to help increase lung capac­ity as you say. In ani­mals we see those ani­mals that breath slower live longer!

    Through exten­sion we can say the yogi or indi­vid­ual who prac­tices Kriya and Pranayama to slow (and even con­sciously stop their breath­ing like Samadhi) their breath, increase vital­ity, life force and ulti­mately length of life!

    Thanks again for this arti­cle. It is a much needed infor­mati­ive dis­cus­sion and I am glad you shared it with your readers!

  17. It’s in point of fact a nice and help­ful piece of info. I’m glad that you just shared this use­ful info with us. Please keep us informed like this. Thank you for sharing.

  18. I have done my Art of Liv­ing pro­grams at all lev­els and repeated them within 5 years ago and never prac­ticed on reg­u­lar basis. But I strongly rec­om­mended AOL pro­grams to many of my friends and rel­a­tives. I didn’t for­get the steps even as of now, until i repeat the Part-​​1 pro­gram in 9th – 14th, Oct’11. And started prac­tic­ing on reg­u­lar day to day basis with­out fail with the com­mit­ment of 3months. But Unfor­tu­nately i started feel­ing light headed on one side of head ( Left ), stiff­ness on left side neck and feel­ing more, if i don’t take or post phoned my food intake. Also started loos­ing sleep on few days. I checked with Neuro spe­cial­ist and under going with some tests. Since 5 yrs, Im a Hyper­ten­sion patient under med­ica­tion, i check also with Car­di­ol­o­gist and received reply as every thing is OK no issues. Kindly help or sug­gest to under­stand my prob­lem and con­tinue with Sud­harsan Kriya.

  19. i want to become an art of liv­ing instruc­tor. how do i go about achieve­ing this?? i have always wanted to become a motivator,counsellor etc. am presently a stu­dent pur­su­ing my final year of engi­neer­ing in hyder­abad. thanks and regards.

    1. I am sure there are sys­temic ben­e­fits to prac­tic­ing sudar­shan kriya, but if you have prob­lems with a hyper­thy­roid, it would be best to con­sult with a physi­cian or med­ical spe­cial­ist. The breath­ing prac­tice will not hurt you, but you may need more appro­pri­ate treatment.

      1. I DID ART OF LIVING PART 1 COURSE 3 YEARS BACK, WITH OUT AUDIO OF SRI PANDIT RAVI SHANKAR I AM NOT ABLE TO PRACTICE SUDARSHANAKRIYA, CAN I FIND A VCD OR MP3 AUDIO OF SUDARSHANA KRIYA

        1. As men­tioned many times here, I don’t have the audio or video of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s instruc­tions. My sug­ges­tion is to search out an AoL group and take the course again (if I remem­ber cor­rectly, at no cost). Or just go with stan­dard pranayama — there are hun­dreds of videos and audios of breath­ing exer­cises. There is noth­ing mag­i­cal about Art of Liv­ing methods.

  20. What is Sudar­shan Kriya ? In what way, it is dif­fer­ent from other pranayama tech­niques and Kriyas like: Nadi Sud­dhi Pranayama, Suryan­u­loma viloma pranayama, Chan­dran­u­loma Viloma pranayama, suryab­hedana Pranayama, Chan­drab­hedana Pranayama, Bhra­mari Pranayama, Kapal­ab­hati, Bhas­trika, Shi­tali Pranayama, Sitkari Pranayama, Sadanta Pranayama, etc ? When I am prac­tic­ing all these tech­niques reg­u­larly from last 30 years, do you really feel that I will be ben­e­fit­ted by sudar­shan Kriya ? Please send reply to mail BOX.

  21. Hi there..i did AOL part 1 course few yrears ago..it was very relexing..but didnt prac­tice sud­er­shan kriya..i was just wod­ner­ing if you guys can help me in get­ting back to my practice.i cant remem­ber num­ber of long and short breaths.

    1. With the Sudar­shan Kriya, there are three cycles of three breath­ing paces (a slow, mea­sured rhythm, a mod­er­ate pace, and a quick, almost stac­cato). I was instructed to do 40 breaths for each. I used to be a stick­ler for the breath count, but now I don’t fol­low that limit; instead, I increase the count with the speed. There is noth­ing mag­i­cal about the breath count; it’s prac­tic­ing every­day that does the miracle.

  22. My native is coim­bat­ore tamil nad, I am mem­ber in art of living,I am basi­cally civil engin­neer, I have no time to learn Sudar­shan Kriya in art liv­ing cen­tre in coim­bat­ore
    I want Sudar­shan Kriya breath­ing exe­cise in pdf ,it will very help­full to me. please con­sider my oblig­a­tion.
    Thank you
    N.Muralidharan

    1. Check out my pranayama sec­tion –  there is noth­ing really mag­i­cal about Sudar­shan Kriya as opposed to other pranayama rou­tines or kriyas. I started with the prac­tice because the Art of Liv­ing Foun­da­tion had a course that intro­duced a well-​​rounded set of acces­si­ble meth­ods and pro­vided the cultural/​spiritual con­text of the prac­tice in a learn­ing envi­ron­ment. I wanted to get up and run­ning quickly.

      You are not sup­posed to teach Sudar­shan Kriya unless you have under­gone AoL train­ing so hand­ing out PDFs goes against that. But there are other sources for writ­ten instruc­tions (or videos) if that’s your only option.

    2. Murali, you will never get time in life if you dont take out time. Kriya shall be learnt only from the AOL teacher. It is a magic with sev­eral advan­tages. dont delay it any more, learn it ASAP.

Leave a Reply