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.
AdvertisementSudarshan 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 Traumatic Stress.