Sudarshan Kriya yogic breathing in the treatment of stress, anxiety, and depression: part I-neurophysiologic model

J Altern Complement Med. 2005 Feb;11(1):189-201. doi: 10.1089/acm.2005.11.189.


Mind-body interventions are beneficial in stress-related mental and physical disorders. Current research is finding associations between emotional disorders and vagal tone as indicated by heart rate variability. A neurophysiologic model of yogic breathing proposes to integrate research on yoga with polyvagal theory, vagal stimulation, hyperventilation, and clinical observations. Yogic breathing is a unique method for balancing the autonomic nervous system and influencing psychologic and stress-related disorders. Many studies demonstrate effects of yogic breathing on brain function and physiologic parameters, but the mechanisms have not been clarified. Sudarshan Kriya yoga (SKY), a sequence of specific breathing techniques (ujjayi, bhastrika, and Sudarshan Kriya) can alleviate anxiety, depression, everyday stress, post-traumatic stress, and stress-related medical illnesses. Mechanisms contributing to a state of calm alertness include increased parasympathetic drive, calming of stress response systems, neuroendocrine release of hormones, and thalamic generators. This model has heuristic value, research implications, and clinical applications.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety / therapy*
  • Autonomic Nervous System / physiopathology
  • Breathing Exercises*
  • Depression / therapy*
  • Electric Stimulation Therapy
  • Humans
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / therapy
  • Stress, Psychological / therapy*
  • Vagus Nerve / physiopathology
  • Yoga*