Background: Sudarshan Kriya Yoga (SKY) is a procedure that involves essentially rhythmic hyperventilation at different rates of breathing. The antidepressant efficacy of SKY was demonstrated in dysthymia in a prospective, open clinical trial. This study compared the relative antidepressant efficacy of SKY in melancholia with two of the current standard treatments, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and imipramine (IMN).
Methods: Consenting, untreated melancholic depressives (n=45) were hospitalized and randomized equally into three treatment groups. They were assessed at recruitment and weekly thereafter for four weeks.
Results: Significant reductions in the total scores on Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) and Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HRSD) occurred on successive occasions in all three groups. The groups, however, did not differ. Significant interaction between the groups and occasion of assessment occurred. At week three, the SKY group had higher scores than the ECT group but was not different from the IMN group. Remission (total HRSD score of seven or less) rates at the end of the trial were 93, 73 and 67% in the ECT, IMN and SKY groups, respectively. No clinically significant side effects were observed.
Discussion: Within the limitations of the design (lack of double blind conditions), it can be concluded that, although inferior to ECT, SKY can be a potential alternative to drugs in melancholia as a first line treatment.