Essential Steps and Benefits of Sudarshan Kriya for Beginners
Breathing is the most obvious and direct manifestation of human life. The first gasp of breath by a newborn is considered the moment of birth and beginning of life. Rate of respiration is one of the four vital signs that indicates how well the body is functioning. Yet, in the rush to meet our life goals amidst the daily hustle-bustle, we tend to ignore the importance of mindful deep breathing. The synchronized act of inhalation of oxygen and exhalation of carbon dioxide is called breathing, oxygen being essential for the cellular functions of the body. The normal rate of respiration in adults is 12 to 20 breaths per minute. Breathing is a somatic function, which means that unlike eating food and drinking water, under normal circumstances we do not need to consciously make an effort to breathe. Ancient Vedic texts provide insight into the importance of attaining meditative awareness by focusing the mind on regulated breathing. In recent years medical research, too, has gathered conclusive evidence that practicing mindful or conscious breathing techniques has positive effects on the physical and mental well being of an individual. What is Sudarshan Kriya? Sudarshan Kriya is a combination of pranayam and breathing techniques beginning with slow inhalation and exhalation and gradually progressing to a series of rapid breathing techniques. The word “sudarshan” means positive appearance or outlook and “kriya” is an act of purification. The whole process of Sudarshan Kriya is based on controlling the mind by focusing on regulated breathing and thereby improving overall wellness. Sudarshan Kriya was popularised by Bangalore-based The Art of Living Foundation and the practice is initiated in a controlled environment where teachers trained in conducting sessions guide participants through the progressive steps. Elements of Sudarshan Kriya
- The posture – Sudarshan Kriya is practiced by sitting in the Vajrasana or Thunderstorm posture, keeping the spine erect, and body relaxed. The individual must keep his or her eyes closed during the entire period and focus on the instructions of the teacher and the breathing process. One group session of Sudarshan Kriya lasts for 20 to 30 minutes and is followed by meditation and relaxation.
- Ujjayi – Also known as ocean breath, this involves slow and controlled deep inhalation by contraction of the diaphragm so that the inhaled air expands the lungs and the belly, and is followed by slow exhalation. When practiced correctly the movement of air is felt in the throat and the rushing sound of breath, similar to that of an ocean, is emitted by the glottis.
- Kanishtha, Madhyama and Jyestha pranayam – Human lungs are divided into lobes. The right lung has three lobes, superior, middle and inferior, and the left lung has two lobes – superior and inferior. This pranayam flushes out the toxins from all lobes through changes of placement of hands and focused breathing.
- Bhastrika pranayam – Also known as bellow breath, Bhastrika pranayam is the forceful inhalation and exhalation of breath through the nostrils by the rapid contraction and dilation of the diaphragm. One set of inhalation and exhalation constitutes one round of Bhastrika pranayam.
- Chanting “Om” – Om is the sacred syllable. Incantation of this powerful sound three times with prolonged expiration is said to result in the convergence of the soul with the cosmic energy.
- Sudarshan Kriya – This step involves three paces of breathing in succession – multiple counts of slow paced breathing, medium paced breathing and rapid paced breathing.
- Meditation and relaxation – The final steps of the kriya are mediation and relaxation. Meditation channelizes the energy by harmonizing the senses with the exultation experienced by the practitioner after Sudarshan Kriya. Relaxation is as important in yogic practice as in any other form of exercise. The organs and functions that are stimulated by the kriya need some time to absorb the impact and realign themselves for improved functioning.
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