Effect of rhythmic breathing (Sudarshan Kriya and Pranayam) on immune functions and tobacco addiction

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2005 Nov:1056:242-52. doi: 10.1196/annals.1352.039.


Stress, a psychophysiological process, acts through the immune-neuroendocrine axis and affects cellular processes of body and immune functions, leading to disease states including cancer. Stress is also linked to the habit of tobacco consumption and substance abuse, which in turn also leads to diseases. Sudarshan Kriya (SK) and Pranayam (P), rhythmic breathing processes, are known to reduce stress and improve immune functions. Cancer patients who had completed their standard therapy were studied. SK and P increased natural killer (NK) cells significantly (P <0.001) at 12 and 24 weeks of the practice compared to baseline. Increase in NK cells at 24 weeks was significant (P <0.05) compared to controls. There was no effect on T-cell subsets after SK and P either in the study group or among controls. SK and P helped to control the tobacco habit in 21% of individuals who were followed up to 6 months of practice. We conclude that the inexpensive and easy to learn and practice breathing processes (SK and P) in this study demonstrated an increase in NK cells and a reduction in tobacco consumption. When confirmed in large and randomized studies, this result could mean that the regular practice of SK and P might reduce the incidence and progression of cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Immune System / physiology*
  • Medicine, Traditional*
  • Respiratory Mechanics*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / prevention & control
  • Tobacco Use Cessation / methods*
  • Yoga*