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.


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.

94 thoughts on “Sudarshan Kriya

  1. sudharshana kriya leads to memmory it true.lam a student.i going to upsc coaching.every day i do sk.i read sk.leads to memmory loss.some times i feel.what i do?

    1. I have never heard that sudharshan kriya leads to memory loss. I would think that increased amounts of oxygen in the bloodstream should improve brain functions. There are many causes for faulty memory: sleep deprivation, depression, anxiety, trauma, and others.

  2. My hands become very stiff while doing sudarshan kriya. My fists close very tightly and i can not even open them during the kriya and a few minutes after the kriya. Why does this happen?

    Age- 18 years

    1. I hope you haven’t done before 18 :). Its okay to have sensation during kriya. Its not okay if you are getting it even after completion of kriya and rest. Kriya has its own intelligence, continue with local followup of long Sudarshan kriya and update.

  3. I recently look up their “Art Of Happiness” course. The fee is $400 ( 2015 November ). I feel that is a bit high for a non-profit organization teaching techniques in the “public domain” for thousands of years. It is also a bit high for people to afford. The student fee was “$300”. I don’t know many students who have that kind of money. No disrespect meant to anyone

    1. You should contact the local chapter to negotiate a price within your means. It’s worth a try. AoL has lots of other activities that are free of charge.
      I agree with the AoL policy of charging for courses because you get more buy-in to the training.

    2. I am not saying you are wrong. $400 is not universal. It differs from place to place. In my city at India, it is just 2,000 inr ($32). If you are in CA then it is justifies as commercial space are very expensive and all arrangements need to be taken care of.
      But it provide almost free lifetime followups, which make it dirt cheap. Regarding value, I would say it is worthy even if you have to spend your fortune.

  4. Hi, i am Varshana, i am going under the 3rd trimester and i have performed Sudarshan Kriya two times till now without consultation. Will it affect anything ?!?!… Im a little scared. Please respond.

    1. It is better to do the sudarsan kriya once in a day & the timing should be same for everyday either in the morning or evening with semi empty stomach.

    1. I feel menstruation is a natural cycle for a body that has nothing to do with the kriya. It might even help you to do kriya at this time.

  5. I took a cigerrate after doing this kriya. It gave me a lot of tension. My body sensation was extreme. could not hold hands. what is the scientific point? how breath gives sensation?

    1. you shouldnt smoke after doing SKY. Its a sign that your body doesnt want you to inhale it. I was a smoker too. I quit smoking after the after course

  6. I am having lower back pain and sciatica. Will it be possible for me to do Sudarshan Kriya? I heard it is similar to Kapalbhathi but I have done Kapalbhati before and the vibrations make my backpain worse.
    Can Sudarshan Kriya be done supine?

    1. My understanding is that sudarshan kriya is meant to be practiced in an upright, seated position, but you can sit on a chair or the floor. There are other pranayama practices that are done supine and may be helpful. There are many holistic approaches that deal with lower back pain and sciatica. I suggest looking for Kelly McGonigal’s book Yoga for Pain Relief. Don’t expect overnight improvements. Be patient.

      1. I suffer from on and off chronic lower back pain also. I continue to do my Sudarshan Kriya practices. The breath work isn’t very gentle. So unless sitting upright is always painful…. I sit in a very supportive ergonomic chair that supports me when I practice. I also do several specific yoga practices that were recommended to me by a physical therapist, even before I get out of bed in the morning and I also use Orthogel for pain relief, recommended to me by a chiropractor. I suspect that you do many things for yourself that help with management of your pain but if not, as an FYI, I have found this is be an ongoing process. The kriya should not disrupt your structure thus increasing your discomfort and it will over time bring many great results including greater ease, openheartedness and connection to those around you. I hope you find some good methods for yourself to handle that pain in the your lower. I know from experience that it “ain’t fun.” .

        1. NOte: I meant to say that the breath work IS VERY GENTLE. Moderator, can you get for me. or post this comment also. THank you.

  7. I am suffering from Schizoaffective Disorder for the past 9 years. I ve had 7-8 Manic/Delusional episodes in the past & hv been hospitalized due to them. I’ve also spent time in two rehabilitation centers. Now for the past 3 years, the new medicine prescribed by my psychiatrist is working for me. The only problem i am facing is lots of sedation & lethargy. I don’t get up before 1 pm in the afternoon. My doc recently also diagnosed mild Depression with the above disorder.

    Also my heart rate is 120-130 per minute. I Also feel pain in the left side of my chest sometimes . though all other cardiac tests are normal.

    I want to know will Art of living Sudarshan Kriya be helpful? Will it help me overcome lethargy? Make me feel energetic & peaceful? or make me hyper & manic?

    kindly give me the best advice.


    1. I am not a medical doctor nor am I a trained instructor of Art of Living so I could only say that with the serious conditions that you are experiencing, plus the meds, I would be extremely cautious, and approach Sudarshan Kriya and other holistic approaches under supervision of your psychiatrist, your medical doctor, and a yoga teacher or therapist who is used to working with mental conditions. I do believe that anything that could help calm your mind and regulate your system would help; certain breathing techniques are a first option. I think Sudarshan kriya would be jumping into the deep end of the pool. You have to begin with simple practices, and not expect overnight results. Things like pranayama, yoga and meditation practices can take months, even years to give their best results. Sometimes, these practices can touch deep wounds and you may have an adverse reaction. That’s why I recommend gradual practice under trained supervision.

    2. Hi JGD
      I do recomend Art of Living program basic course or now called as wave of happiness.
      There was positive changes in one of my friend to whom i often helped to do the practice. It may take some time approx 1-2 months for a appearent change in you though you will be able to feel better from day one.
      Thanks and regatds.

    3. I couldn’t resist responding! Not so severe but I too had similar concerns. My heart rate used to scare me since it would go upto 130 beats per minute. I attended the AOL classes just a week back in Trivandrum,India. I did the SKY under expert supervision since I had already mentioned the history of mild tachycardia apart from depression! They had modified the third stage breathing pattern for me though now I have reverted to the actual one. It’s a miracle! My aHeart rate has slowed down and I feel I have got more control over my mind. I wish I knew about this before! I wouldn’t have made my heart beat so fast all these days for no reason 🙂

  8. 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.

  9. 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”)”.

  10. 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).

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.


  14. 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.

  15. 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 ……


    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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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

  19. 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!

      1. WELL SAID… IT IS JUST A COMMERCIALIZED SPIRITUALITY.. I had been for the three day course for the first time, and the teachers there ask how are you feeling.. people say better, transformation, new life etcetc..such a change in such a short time, after coming to AOL???? anyhow all i understood was.. their goal is to get lots of people to AOL.. My thoughts and control and happiness lies within me.. not in the paid teachings of god men.. I am not going to that anymore.. Experience is the best teacher…

  20. 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

  21. 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?

  22. 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!

  23. 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.

  24. 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.

  25. 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. 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.

          1. Your local AoL should offer follow up courses to SK practioners. They are supposedly available every week. My local AoL director informs me that AoL policies are universal= every branch – wherever located on planet earth – is bound to offer similar programs and policies.

  26. 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.

  27. Hi there..i did AOL part 1 course few yrears 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.

  28. 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

    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.

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