Sudarshan Kriya Yoga (SKY) is a form of controlled breathing with roots in traditional yoga. The nonprofit Art of Living Foundation offers a course in SKY’s cyclical breathing patterns, which range from deep and calming to quick and stimulating. For example, Victorious Breath’s slow two to four breaths per minute promote calmness and alertness. On the other hand, Bellows Breath’s quick, forceful exhalations cause excitement followed by peace. “SKY’s effects on mood, attention, mental focus, and stress tolerance offer a buffer against the stressors of the holiday season,” says Andrew Keaveney, Art of Living teacher. “Additionally, the increased clarity, focus, and stamina enable you to become more mindful in establishing goals for the new year.”
Origin of Sky Breath Meditation
The Art of Living Foundation has trained over six million people in 152 countries worldwide in SKY Breath Meditation. In 1982, Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar introduced this form of cyclical breathing. As the spiritual teacher instructed hundreds worldwide, he noticed people felt calm while practicing yoga and meditation, but their feelings of well-being faded as they reentered their busy lives. Gurudev developed SKY Breath Meditation to bridge the gap between inner silence and an active life
Using these practices to maintain the peacefulness of meditation during everyday life, Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar helps individuals replace stress and trauma with calm. His techniques have impacted at-risk youth, war veterans, prisoners, and disaster survivors.
For international peace-making efforts in war-torn areas like Colombia and Iraq, he has received 18 honorary doctorates and 38 governmental awards. In the United States, he has received the International Humanitarian Award from the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the award for Inspiring Humanity from the Foundation for California. He has spoken at institutions like the United Nations, the European Parliament, the World Economic Forum, and the Israeli Presidential Conference, as well as top universities like Stanford University, The Wharton School, and the University of Southern California. He has been featured on CNN and The New York Times, has written over 40 books, and contributes to The Huffington Post.
Science is taking note of Sky Breath Meditation
There is mounting evidence behind using breath to induce a state of calm and well-being naturally. More and more studies suggest SKY can be a beneficial, low-risk, low-cost treatment of stress, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and depression.
When people are stressed, they take quick and shallow breaths, but when they are calm, they breathe deeply. By learning to shift breathing patterns, a person can change their body’s emotional response. “Slowing breathing bypasses your sympathetic nervous system, also called fight or flight, and taps into your parasympathetic system, known as rest and digest.” Explains Keaveney. “Simple, rhythmic breathing harmonizes your body, mind, and emotions.”
Sky Breath Meditation decreases anxiety, stress, and depression and leaves people happier and more optimistic. According to scientific research, this form of meditation effectively stimulates the vagus nerve, activates a person’s relaxation response, and allows the nervous system to slide into rest and digest mode. Studies show Sky Breath Meditation reduces the production of stress hormone serum cortisol by 56%. It is also known to increase immune cell count by 33%. Heart rate and stress levels decrease naturally Within two weeks of daily practice. From reducing stress to getting better rest, SKY has demonstrated a measurable impact on quality of life.
In a recent study from Yale, SKY Breath significantly outperformed other wellness programs in a controlled trial. The study, published in Frontiers in Psychiatry, measured the effectiveness of three well-being programs across the domains of stress, depression, social connection, mental health, mindfulness, and positive emotion. Over a semester, 135 undergraduate students at Yale University were randomly divided to participate in the following three programs:
- Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction
- emotional intelligence
- SKY Campus Happiness
SKY Campus Happiness, developed by Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, incorporates SKY Breath Meditation, yoga, social connection, and service activities. The study found this program to be the only one successfully impacting all measured domains. Dr. Emma Seppälä, the study’s lead author, believes Sky Breath Meditation is a key to the success of Sky Campus Happiness.
The SKY Breath Meditation course
In addition to learning breath control, participants in the Art of Living Foundation’s Sky Breath Meditation course discuss ways to use these techniques during everyday challenges. “As part of this interactive workshop, participants glean simple but powerful wisdom to apply in their daily lives,” says Keaveney. “Students are taught to practice SKY Breath Meditation independently outside of the classroom.”
This complete mind-body workshop includes gentle stretching, guided meditations, and foundational breathing exercises that build resilience and elevate lung capacity. After the class, participants have access to a self-paced meditation journey via a mobile app. They also have the option of weekly online follow-up sessions to practice SKY Breath Meditation with a community of like-minded individuals.
“Often, people feel meditation is hard,” says Keaveney. “The minute you close your eyes, thoughts take over. SKY Breath Meditation turns this aspect of effort on its head and uses your breath to go past the active mind. This is a refreshing form of active meditation where one doesn’t have to depend on the mind to control the mind. SKY Breath is an evidence-based breathing technique that quickly reduces stress and makes meditation not only possible but enjoyable.”