More evidence that yoga and related disciplines can help heal the body and mind of people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or PSTD:
Washington Post —Yoga helps war veterans get a handle on their PTSD.But the new study is the first of its kind to provide scientific support for the benefits of yoga’s breathing techniques for PTSD patients in a randomized and controlled (though small) long-term study which monitored effects of yoga over the course of the year.
The study cited in this article actually deals with the practice of sudarshan kriya, a sequence of breathing exercises created and promoted by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. But he does not have a monopoly on the benefits of yoga practice.
Please note that the article was originally published in The Conversation, September 14.
I have added a new page to my Art of Living section.
Because the section tends to draw the most web traffic, I thought it was time to update some of its content and I chose to add a page on whether the Art of Living Foundation could be considered a religious cult or sect. Cult and sect are culturally charged words and any understanding of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and his organization will depend on your own cultural and religious background and beliefs. I will be cautious about passing judgment.
I have to admit something. Most of my visitors don’t come here to read about my yoga practice and other jottings.
They come to check out my pages on the Art of Living Foundation, sudarshan kriya and sahaj samadhi. I get a huge amount of traffic from google.in. Sometimes, they will ask questions about the practice or where to find a teacher or whatever. I am not very qualified to talk about AoL practices. I am not one of their trained and certified instructors. I haven’t been to the maja kriya (group practice) in at least four years, even though the Washington DC National Chapter has great facilities for classes and yoga (Meridian Yoga Studio) on 15th Street, NW. For a long time, I let my kriya practice lapse as I concentrated on hatha yoga. But this summer, I started to return more regularly to my breathing practice, and now I try to fit it in everyday, but it’s closer to five days a week.
In many ways, I’ve become less methodical with my kriya now. I don’t freak out if I don’t get the exact number of repetitions of pranayama that are prescribed. I’ve also softened my approach: I used to be a Type-A breather who tried to get the biggest volume of air in and out of my lungs as fast as possible. Ever since Howard Rontal liberated my diaphragm, I’ve become more mellow in my breathing practice because the same volume of air seems to flow without as much effort. I pay more attention to the quality of my breath.
I’ve also added my personal touch to the kriya practice. In between each exercise, I fit in yogic stretches for my arms and shoulders so that I open up my rib cage and broaden my shoulders as much as possible. I also need to stretch my legs if I am seated on the floor; otherwise, my legs will be numb by the end of the session.
I fit my routine in whenever I can. If I have 15 minutes to spare before going to work, I do it before going to the Metro station. At work, I may look for a vacant meeting room during lunch or on a break. Otherwise, I practice in the evening after dinner or my yoga class. On the weekends, it’s a nice boost of energy in the afternoon because I am usually dragging after yoga class in the morning.
Now that I am writing about the AoL kriya practice, it reminds me that I really should go to a maha kriya. There is nothing like 10-20 people breathing in unison to Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s high-pitched voice chanting the pace of the breath.
I had been meaning to mention that the Art of Living is celebrating the 25th anniversary of its founding on February 17-19. The Silver Jubilee is being held in India and it is going to be a big deal — 2.5 million attending, according to AOL. People will be coming from all over the world to Bangalore to pay homage to Sri Shri Ravi Shankar. Obviously, I am not going — just couldn’t fit a trip around the world into my schedule. I am also not that hot on the guru thing.
I have not been practicing my kriya as regularly as I used to. As my frequency of yoga classes has gone up, the available time for pranayama has gone down. I still try to fit it in on the weekends as part of a restoration routine.
New Age Rage: The Art Of Breathing: “The premise of the program is to perform ‘sudarshan kriya’ every morning for 25 minutes. If that sounds like the approach of Transcendental Meditation, it’s because Shankar was a disciple and associate of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi… Sudarshan kriya, which Shankar says came to him during 10 days of silent meditation in 1982, involves rhythmic breathing to infuse the body with oxygen and help rid it of toxins and stress. India’s ancient yogis considered fresh oxygen and calmness key to physical stamina, so breathing in tune with the rhythms of nature has always been an integral part of yoga.” This Associated Press article original came out in July 2004, republished on CBS News and I chanced across it today. I thought it was a well-done piece and reflects that the AoL work in India is roughly the same as in the United States.
Niranjani focuses on two topics — Project Management and Spirituality, a kind of ecclectic selection of topics. Raj Waghray, its author, also writes about the Art of Living and meditation, as I do. He’s over in Bangalore, India and I’m here in the States. He was kind enough to contact me that he enjoyed reading my site. One of Raj’s entries points to an article by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, One people in the newinpress on Sunday [MLS: links no longer work]. This seems to be an ongoing column entitled “The Art of Self Discovery.” I will have to check it out.
Digging into online archives, I found some articles about Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and the Art of Living Foundation. They each have some unique insights into what Sri Sri has meant to his followers. Of course, there are others who think that he’s just another Hindu swami milking the world’s weakness for mysticism.
- BusinessWeek A Guru Teaches Techies How to Breathe – September 22, 2003
- Scotsman.com The smiling holy man who dreams of a world full of joy – June 24, 2004
- AsiaWeek Power Yoga February 16, 2001
- SifyNews ‘Art of Living has made a world of difference’ – November 13, 2003
I have signed up to take a Sahaj Samadhi Meditation course provided by the Art of Living Foundation. Sahaj Samadhi means “Natural Enlightenment” and is a Mantra-based meditation method. I will start on Tuesday evening and have four three-hour sessions.
I became interested after taking the AOL intro course. One evening, I just started meditating and with my increased sensitivity to my breath, it came naturally and felt sweet. My breath served as a compass to guide my concentration. I had previously done meditation exercises, but I felt as if I was just going through the motion.
That’s why I want to get some help with my meditation practice — get the foundation right and then some gentle tutoring in the initial phase.
I was thinking back to the Art of Living meeting that I went to two weeks ago, as well as some pictures that I’ve been seeing on the Internet. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is almost always flashing a mischievous smile — a beaming, joyful grin as if he already knew the punch line of the Universal Joke. His playfulness in front of the crowd, photographers or TV cameras also has another sense — he’s aware that he may appear weird or awkward (I found a picture of him with a red Santa’s elf hat) and he doesn’t care — life is just one long lark — a kind of cosmic vacation so why not enjoy every minute, no matter what’s happening.
I thought I’d mention that I have approached the Art of Living and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar with skepticism and caution. I’ve asked myself whether I was getting involved with some kind of cult. First, I found out about AOL because of solid references from several yoga instructors. I stay active because the kriya practice had done me a lot of good. I’ve been impressed with the modest requests that the AOL people have used to keep me involved. I wanted to see Sri Sri in person this week to see how far off the deep end he might be. In general, I’d say I was underwhelmed — in the sense that I have not decided to give up all my worldly belongings and run off to his ashram.
I am the son of a Protestant minister, a PK, which is short for preacher’s kid. I consider myself a Christian, but do not belong to a particular church. I’ve gone to more Catholic masses in the past 30 years than my parents’ denomination. I have a healthy distrust for messianic movements and charismatic leaders. Guru and swami are loaded words to my American English ear.
I’ve done some Google research to see if I could find any accusations of any sect-like behavior. I could not find anything concrete. At most, some Indian forum participants accused AOL of being too successful, of being a power trip for the top leaders and an ego trip for Sri Sri. The comments were laced with jealousy about being successful enough to sustain an international enterprise. In its literature, the Art of Living Foundation tries to give assurances that it’s legit and accepted by other mainstream organizations. It’s also true that its practices are getting serious inquiries to confirm their validity.