What Is Sudarshan Kriya and How Is It Done?

Breathwork has become a popular practice in modern times for improving physical health, focusing the mind, and gaining spiritual insight.

But breathwork isn’t a current invention; breathing techniques have their roots in ancient yoga practices called pranayama. One such powerful pranayama or breathing technique is called Sudarshan Kriya.

In this article, we will give you all the information you need on the background of Sudarshan Kriya and how you can begin practicing Sudarshan Kriya in your daily life!

What is Sudarshan Kriya?

Sudarshan Kriya, or SKY breath meditation, originates in ancient yoga techniques for spiritual enlightenment and overall well-being. But Sudarshan Kriya because primarily popularized or invented through the teachings of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and the Art of Living Foundation.

Sudarshan Kriya is a breathing technique with four fundamental components, and to do the entire practice, often takes around 45 minutes, but it can be adapted for shorter practices as well.

The word Sudarshan in Sanskrit means proper vision, and it is also related to the Hindu deity Vishnu. Kriya means undertaking, rite, or activity. So, Sudarshan Kriya roughly translates to mean an activity that facilitates the proper vision and clear understanding or an activity that connects you to the Hindu deity Vishnu.

Benefits of Sudarshan Kriya

Sudarshan Kriya has been thoroughly investigated through scientific studies to explore the benefits of this powerful breathing practice. Research shows that the Sudarshan Kriya practice has many benefits for physical, mental, and spiritual health, including:

  • Reduces stress and anxiety
  • Improves immunity and immune cell strength
  • Increases overall satisfaction and contentment
  • Lowers depression and improves mood
  • Enhances focus and concentration
  • Reduces cholesterol levels
  • Regulates blood pressure and combats hypertension
  • Improves the symptoms of PTSD
  • Enhances sleep and insomnia
  • Increases natural antioxidant levels in the body
  • Promotes optimism and happiness in life

The unique quality of Sudarshan Kriya is the systematic combination of practices that target the body, mind, and soul all at the same time. With regular practice, you can begin to experience the benefits of this powerful technique in your own life.

What is the Use of Sudarshan Kriya?

Sudarshan Kriya is used for a wide range of purposes, but the most common reason for Sudarshan Kriya practice is to improve overall well-being. Sudarshan Kriya enhances physical health and balances the mind at the same time, promoting a powerful body-mind connection.

But the true purpose and use of Sudarshan Kriya are to promote spiritual awakening and to connect to a higher state of consciousness and inner clarity. Sudarshan Kriya, like all other yoga practices, is ultimately aimed at promoting enlightenment within and helping you unveil the brilliant light of your inner self and your connection to a higher power.

What Are the Side Effects of Sudarshan Kriya?

Although Sudarshan Kriya is generally a safe practice for most people, every yoga practice and breathing technique comes with a small level of risk. The effects of Sudarshan Kriya can be very powerful, particularly if you are a beginner to breathing exercises.

Some of the common side effects of improper Sudarshan Kriya practice are headaches, dizziness, increased anxiety, and muscle cramps. These are particularly common during the rapid breathing components of Sudarshan Kriya.

To reduce these side effects, the two best ways to protect yourself are to work with a qualified teacher who can safely guide you through Sudarshan Kriya and also to listen to your body. Injuries and side effects often arise when we stop listening to the sensations in our bodies and ignore the signals of discomfort or pain.

Important: If you feel discomfort during this breathing technique, then consult with a teacher for further guidance, and immediately, you can begin by slowing down your breathing rate to a stable rhythm to calm down your nervous system.

How to Practice Sudarshan Kriya Steps

Sudarshan Kriya has 4 simple components that, when combined together, create a robust physical, mental, and spiritual experience.

If you are a complete beginner, it is best to follow the guidance of an experienced Sudarshan Kriya teacher to guide you safely through this technique.

Still, you can certainly begin to explore these components on your own at home. See below for the fundamental steps on how to practice Sudarshan Kriya!

Sudarshan Kriya Step-By-Step

1. Ujjayi Pranayama

Before beginning Sudarshan Kriya, take a moment to settle into a comfortable seated position, rest your hands in your lap, and gently close your eyes. Mentally scan your entire body, allowing your mind to settle into the present moment and shift into a comfortable and upright seated position.

Then, the first step to Sudarshan Kriya is the ujjayi pranayama or the victorious breath. To practice this component, you gently lower your chin down towards your chest to elongate the back of your neck and focus your awareness at the base of your throat. Feel your breath flowing through your throat and then invite a gentle constriction into your throat space.

You will hear a soft sound like the waves of the ocean, which is why this breathing technique is also sometimes called ocean breath. Try to make your breath soft and subtle, quieting this sound as much as you can and focusing on the sensations of the breath through your throat.

You can also invite deeper regulation into this practice by lengthening your inhalation to a count of 4, holding for 4 counts, exhaling to a count of 6, and then holding for 2 counts. Repeat this practice eight times for one full round. There are also different hand positions where you breathe for 8 rounds with your hands in your lap, 8 rounds with your thumbs under your armpits, and 8 rounds with your hands back with your elbows pointing upwards.

2. Bhastrika Pranayama – Bellows Breath

Bhastrika pranayama, or bellows breath, is the second step of Sudarshan Kriya practice. This breathing technique is an intense and rapid breathing exercise. To begin bhastrika pranayama, you breathe in and out through your nose rapidly and forcefully. Try to make your inhalation twice as long as your exhalation and use your abdomen to push the flow of the breath through your body.

While doing this breathing technique, you can also add an arm position by raising your arms over your head with your hands stretched out towards the sky to fully open up your lungs. Try to practice 20 full breaths like this and then pause to allow your breath to return to normal before doing an additional round of 20 breaths two more times.

3. AUM Mantra Chanting

Before transitioning into the final phase of Sudarshan Kriya, you prepare your body and mind by chanting the mantra AUM or OM 3 times. To begin this practice, you take a deep inhale through your nose, and then with the exhalation, you chant OM out loud for three complete rounds. Feel the powerful calming effects of this practice on your body and mind as you prepare for the final phase of Sudarshan Kriya.

4. Sudarshan Kriya – Purifying Breath

The final phase of this breathing technique is the official Sudarshan Kriya practice. This phase of Sudarshan Kriya is further split into three components. The first cycle of Sudarshan Kriya is breathing in and out through your nose at a slow rhythm for 20 full breaths. Then, in the second cycle, you will breathe at a medium pace, essentially just slightly faster than the last round, for a total of 40 breaths. Finally, you will breathe at a faster rate in the previous cycle for 40 full breaths before completing this practice.

For the full Sudarshan Kriya practice, go through each of these 3 cycles of breathing lengths three additional times. After completing your final round, rest comfortably for a 5-minute meditation to feel the effects of this practice on your body and mind.

Tips for Practicing Sudarshan Kriya

Sudarshan Kriya is a powerful breathing technique, and with regular practice, you will begin to see profound changes in your body and mind, along with a deep spiritual connection within.

  • If you are a beginner to this practice, make sure to practice with a qualified teacher to guide you through this powerful technique.
  • If you feel discomfort during this practice, try to shorten the length of each cycle and return to a slow and steady breath to calm your mind.
  • Listen to your body and maintain a deep awareness of each breath. This technique is not just about engaging in different breathing techniques; it is ultimately about going deeper within and connecting to your inner self and a higher power. So, surrender to the flow of each breath and observe each moment as a beautiful gift as you engage in this powerful breathing technique.

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