October 05, 2014

A journey with Sudarshan Kriya - how it influenced my thoughts and shaped my life


Many seasons ago, in my early teenage years, it struck me that I would not remain on this planet indefinitely. There would come a time when I would leave behind all my ‘prized’ possessions. The chain of questions started from what would happen to my belongings, my room and my house, without me. Over a period of time, the questions increased and it probably started the quest – the quest for something deeper, something unknown. I did not know what I was looking for – there was my intellectual mind and there was a longing.

This state continued for the years to come. The intellect helped me achieve goals like cracking IIT-JEE without any classroom coaching, securing a good rank and admission into IIT Bombay. The fun loving mind loved enjoying life and calling itself an ‘atheist’, ‘scientist’ and other cool adjectives; yet it would seek solace in reading the Vedic scriptures and deciphering the text in there.

There was a 'wait' in the 'progress' – moving ahead, but still waiting for something or someone...

My first experience with Sudarshan Kriya

Maybe it was a chance or something within that drove me to attend the Art of Living course on the IIT campus(read more here). On the second day of the course, we did the Sudarshan Kriya and it was probably the turning point in my life. It gave a new thrust to the quest in my life. The adjectives dropped and frankly I was puzzled and astonished that how something as simple as breathing
can create the experience I had. I realized that there are things beyond explanation and I may call myself a scientist – but there are limitations in human understanding.

The key take away from the course was Sudarshan Kriya and the home practice. I did not know how it worked, but it worked. It brought about a big change in my behavior, attitude, outlook and confidence. Regular practice of Sudarshan Kriya brought a discipline in my life and a great depth in understanding. The questions about life started getting some answers and new directions. The scriptures started giving me real life insights and ambitions in life became clearer.

This was the time I was preparing for CAT for admissions into IIMs. Being a scientist at heart :-), I also experimented on the state of my mind after doing the Sudarshan Kriya. The peace and quiet in the mind was like cleaning and servicing the car. To perform in an exam, I could not immediately shift into the top gear and expect to win the race. Along with my practice tests, this was an important aspect of my preparation. I was able to find an optimal time to accelerate the mind from the meditative state in Sudarshan Kriya to the top performance level for my exams.

It was fun and a discovery that you can actually have some control on the state of your mind - an important realization that shaped my journey ahead...

Learning it young

The advantage of learning anything at a young age is that it stays with you longer. The mind is fresh and open to experiment. By the time I moved to IIM Ahmedabad, daily practice of the Sudarshan Kriya and meditation was part of my daily routine. I once bumped into a very elderly couple in my hometown who needed help in walking around and could not sit down on the floor. They commented that spiritual practices are for old people and not for the younger generation. I retorted back – at that age when I may not even be able to sit comfortably on the floor for a few minutes, what practices will I do?

In the years to come, I realized that it was so true. This misconception had created such a value gap in the society. The spiritual practices are the most essential in the early formation years so that you can make this part of your life and let the knowledge guide you through the life’s challenges.
I was fortunate to have learnt Sudarshan Kriya at an early age and have had the privilege to have this knowledge as my constant guide in my life.

Meditation is the best investment

There is a usual stereotyping of management graduates – they only think of return on investments! Well, the advantage of doing something over a long period of time allows you to experiment and understand the benefits for yourself.

There have been times when I have skipped my daily meditation routine, taken short cuts for a variety of ‘justified’ reasons. Was I able to perform my tasks on that day? Yes. Was the quality of work and efficiency at the top most? No! It took me long experiments to learn that I can ‘exist’ without doing the Sudarshan Kriya – but could not call it having ‘lived my life fully’ that day.

The 30-40 minutes investment in the morning gave me almost 3-4 hours back in return throughout the day. Who would not want those kinds of return? Time was saved due to lower rework, effective communication, better ideas, faster processing speed. How does this happen? Because, the mind is where the work is and not floating around somewhere in time and space.

I have seen most workers wait for their coffee breaks, smoking breaks – my experience has been that SK practitioners need fewer breaks and are able to stretch themselves effortlessly.

Needless to say, for the last many years I have not missed my daily practice wherever in the world I am – it is as integrated into the daily routine as brushing my teeth or having a bath. If I cannot miss these, how can I miss the daily practice?

Analysis is good; Over-analysis can lead to paralysis in action

If there are so many benefits that the technique brings to you, what are the hurdles to learning and practicing it? I believe that the biggest hurdle is the mind. There are so many patterns that get built up over years and decades of our existence (exclude your previous lives for the time being). We get conditioned to think and behave in a particular manner and start believing that this is the only way to achieve the goals.

There are a lot of management books that deal with this topic – like ‘Who moved my cheese’, ‘What got you here Won't get you there’ and others. It takes a very strong mind to understand this and come out of it. This is where we fall into a Catch-22 situation of trying to free the mind using a patterned mind itself. Many times, we hire executive coaches; learn different techniques to help us break out of patterns and achieve our goals.

The underlying premise of Sudarshan Kriya is to provide a controllable breathing technique that indirectly addresses the mind. It is like hitting the branch to get the fruit – if you hit the fruit directly, it will be spoilt. There is a good video referenced here that explain this very well.



People of my age come from the pre-dotcom era. There was no internet or social networks that helped us with information when needed. We relied on the wise men, elders around us – people who had seen the world. Of course, it had its own limitations when it came to emerging trends and technologies.

The last 15-20 years have seen the emergence of internet and social networks that gives us instant access to all the information we need. One of the drawbacks, however, is that we start relying completely on this information without completely being aware of the person’s credentials providing that information. Sometimes, the amount of information that we have at our fingertips, leads to over-analysis and paralysis in action. There is so much time spent in analyzing pros and cons, which technique should I choose, what are others saying, am I on the right track, comparing with others, etc... My experience has been that it does more harm than benefit us in this matter.

The idea is to relax the mind and bring back the focus. This overdose of information can actually be counterproductive and you may end up saying – Forget it! I am OK the way I am now!!!

When it comes to the mind or health, there is a universal movement that is emerging to go natural, to go to the basics. Our Vedic scriptures hold a treasure of knowledge and a technique like Sudarshan Kriya is best suited to provide us with much needed mental peace – like a shadow in the desert sun, spring for the thirsty mind.

Why does it work?

There has been a lot of research in the recent years to identify why and how Sudarshan Kriya works. You can read one such Harvard report here.
In my early years of practice, I read many articles and doctors’ reports on benefits of SK and its effects on the brain, nervous system, etc... At some point, all the research seemed futile other than trying to convince the intellect. Nothing beats your first-hand experience.

There is so much research that gets done on food and trying to isolate the components that have different impact on the body. Most often further studies contradict it and eventually find that the mix of all components that nature has provided is the right mix to have it in.

There is a recent example that comes to my memory – a study further established the benefits of using turmeric (haldi - a common ingredient in Indian cooking). We could spend lot of effort to isolate the exact compound inside and make tablets out of it or just focus on cultivating turmeric and promote cooking with it. For advancement of science and scientific enquiry, it is good to do the research to establish the benefits. In my view, it stops there – there is no point fiddling too much with nature.

So, while it is good for the scientific enquiry to keep finding out why SK works, I would say – just loosen up, practice it and enjoy the benefits :-)

SK has helped me in many ways and continues to act as a strong catalyst in this journey of life – helping learn and transform into a better person.

Have all my questions been answered? Enough to leave me in amazement and wonder!
Have I stopped experiencing negative emotions? Aware enough to control them and let go.

Today, I wake up each day looking forward to living every moment and feeling grateful for this wonderful companion called Sudarshan Kriya! Wherever in the world I maybe, this is the link to my inner self and to the divinity in this creation.

Promising future ahead

Breathing techniques and meditation are the core practices of a spiritual path with many positive effects. Sudarshan Kriya as taught in Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living courses packs the ancient wisdom in an easy to practice technique for today’s life style.

With so many people having learnt Sudarshan Kriya in the last 30+ years and the  continued demand, I see a safe and peaceful future for all of us. I pray that all the efforts put in by the teachers and volunteers of Art of Living will make this world a better place to live.
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