Researchers have shown that a breathing-based meditation
practice called Sudarshan Kriya Yoga can be an effective treatment for
post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The hallmark of the disorder is hyperarousal and it is one
aspect of the autonomic nervous system, the system that controls the beating of
the heart and other body functions, and governs one's ability to respond to his
or her environment.
Sudarshan Kriya Yoga is a meditation practice of controlled
breathing that directly affects the autonomic nervous system. While the Yoga has proven effective in balancing the
autonomic nervous system and reducing symptoms of the stress disorder in
tsunami survivors, it has not been well studied until now.
Scientists from the Center for Investigating Healthy
Minds (CIHM) at the Waisman Center of the University of Wisconsin-Madison
were interested in Sudarshan Kriya Yoga because of its focus on manipulating
the breath, and how that in turn may have consequences for the autonomic
nervous system and especially, hyperarousal.
Scientists said that this is the first randomised,
controlled, longitudinal research to show that the practice of controlled
breathing can benefit people with PTSD. The findings of the study show that
those who received the one-week training in yogic breathing showed lower
anxiety, reduced respiration rates and fewer PTSD symptoms.
"This was a preliminary attempt to begin to gather some
information on whether this practice of yogic breathing actually reduces
symptoms of PTSD," said Richard J Davidson, founder of CIHM and one of the
authors of the study.
"Secondly, we wanted to find out whether the
reduction in symptoms was associated with biological measures that may be important
in hyperarousal," he added. The study was published in the Journal of