4 Hilarious Myths about Sudarshan Kriya
(By Ruchira Roy Chowdhury: The author is a student of journalism at New York University. She has written for The Economic Times for 3 years)
Long back, when I was a student living in a college hostel in Pune (India), my Sadhna( spiritual practice) used to be a great time to experience absolutely funny reactions and concerns from my fellow hostel mates about my practice. From laughing, worrying to being amused about “heavy breathing”, the reactions were myriad. But one stands out. This once, I was practicing Sudarshan Kriya early morning on the hostel terrace. This girl saw me doing my Pranayams, came running to me and knocked me on my head. When I opened my eyes and turned to her aghast, she said rather sheepishly, “I thought you were having a heart attack.”!! I was speechless. Time and again I have bumped into people who have bizarre ideas about the practice of Sudarshan Kriya and Pranayamas. Let me list a few for you.
- It is a religious practice
It is as religious as Pizza and Taj Mahal is. I am glad to have discovered Sudarshan Kriya for myself early in my life. But a lot of my non Hindu friends would not come on the course because for the longest time they thought Sudarshan Kriya was a Hindu religious practice. Um, they couldn’t have been farther from the truth! The fact is, I did my first Yes!+ program with Khurshid Batliwala who happens to be a very happy Parsi (Zoroastrian). Sudarshan Kriya is being taught in over 150 countries including atheistic countries like China, Russia, monotheistic countries like Pakistan, Iraq and other middle-eastern countries. Some people even in the Vatican have been fortunate to have learnt the technique from Gurudev (Sri Sri Ravi Shankar) himself! So guess what, let religious reason be your excuse for not learning this extremely beneficial technique only if, you think listening to John Lennon is a religious practice or drinking Irish tea is breach of faith! On the 25th anniversary of the Art of Living Foundation, over 10 million people from all over the world did the Sudarshan Kriya together. What religion do you think they belonged to?
- Where is the scientific validation?
There are people who think Sudarshan Kriya is outside of natural sciences and its effects not clinically approved. Well, for them, here it is! Dr. Janakiramaiah, psychiatrist, medical researcher, and Director of the Yoga Research Group at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (N.I.M.H.A.N.S.), India says, “Sudarshan Kriya is clinically feasible and effective.”
Yet another research carried out by Fahri Saatcioglu and his research team at the University of Oslo showed practicing Sudarshan Kriya regularly changes the genetic expression of PBMCs or peripheral blood mononuclear cells responsible for the immunity of our body. In fact, the effects of Sudarshan Kriya have been found comparable to Imipramine, an anti-depressant drug. So, you can have the benefits of an anti depressant without really having to suffer the side effects of it on the body. My experience as someone who has practiced it for the last ten years, says, the effects of Sudarshan Kriya are far beyond just good health and lowered stress and anxiety. This practice has given me an experience of solid peace and calmness of mind that is not affected by external crises situations. So when one is that calm and composed in mind unaffected by outer situations, one is able to make better well thought out decisions for the benefit of all. Not just me, it has turned hardened criminals and insurgents into people who want to give peace a chance. According to testimonies, something simply shifts in them after the very first practice.
For some more medical speak, the P300 ERP EEG and NREM brainwave pattern, which measure electrical brainwave activity and are abnormal in many depressed people, returned to the normal range by ninety days among those who practiced Sudarshan Kriya for the same period of time, study by NIMHANS showed. Levels of anti- stress hormones like Plasma prolactin increased in the body after the very first Sudarshan Kriya session. Also, the levels of superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase, and glutathione, three major defense hormones against oxidative stress, were all found to have increased significantly in Sudarshan Kriya practitioners.
That rap that people give you about how they have experienced improvement in their ability to focus after learning Sudarshan Kriya? It is TRUE! Dr. Janakiramaiyah’s research also showed, increases in beta activity in the left frontal, occipital, and mid line regions in the brain, indicating enhances mental focus and heightened awareness. “It is striking to note that Sudarshan Kriya practitioners displayed significantly greater mental alertness (beta activity) than the control group of physicians and medical researchers, whose profession requires development and daily use of these very skills,” the research paper said.
Not just psychosomatic disorders (diseases that do not have physiological roots), but anecdotal evidences of physical healing and reported reduction in blood pressure and diabetes galore. There are case studies of people who were reported HIV+ before learning the practice. After doing the practice for three months consistently with complete sincerity, when they went back for diagnosis, they were no more HIV+. This continues to baffle medical practitioners!
- It is expensive
It is also expensive to buying a home and a car. Why not take the bus instead? Surprisingly, the utility value of the Sudarshan Kriya, for those who practice it committedly, is beyond anything money can buy. How can one possibly measure the sea of equanimity, strength, deep joy and tangible feeling of gratitude and abundance brought about by these beautiful practices? If I was told, I would get $4 million to forget the Sudarshan Kriya, I will still refuse to take the money and there are thousands and thousands of us who would do the same without batting an eyelid, not because we are not rational people but simply because the gains are far more than the pay-out. However, few people have been able to put it like my teacher, Khurshid Batliwala, or Bawa as we call him, “The Art of Living courses are typically 18-40 hours in length, assuming you are paying $300 for an approximately 25 hour course, you are paying $12 per hour which is utterly exploitative …Would you even be able to get your toilet fixed for $12 an hour? Are you not willing to spend more money on getting your mind fixed, than you would on your loo?!”
- It is a cult practice
Well, if having a healthy disease free body, an inhibition free intellect, stress and trauma free memory, quiver free breath, and an undying enthusiasm are part of some cult practice, then indeed let us call it that. But unlike cults, people who have learnt and practice Sudarshan Kriya come from absolutely diverse professional, social, cultural and religious backgrounds. From scientists to researchers, students, bureaucrats, statesmen, entrepreneurs and businessmen and people with no religious leanings whatsoever, have taken these courses and if you think they are all part of some cult, then hail nomenclature! Sudarshan Kriya has been taught in parliaments, government offices, war torn regions (be it Kosovo, Iraq, or Pakistan) and cities affected by gang wars and related crimes in South America. Courses are part of extra-curricular training in some of the prestigious universities and research institutes both in India and overseas (IITs/IIMs, Yale…the list goes on). Some members of the Iraqi parliament learnt this technique last month. Almost 75 percent of the Mongolian population is well acquainted with Sudarshan Kriya. There has to be something more than cult-like for so many people and institutions to see merit in its practice, right?
In order to know what that is, sign up for the next course, now that you have been enlightened about the “myths” about Sudarshan Kriya!
(The author is a student of journalism at New York University. She has written for The Economic Times for three years)