Background: Increasing rates of psychosocial disturbances give rise to increased risks and vulnerability for a wide variety of stress-related chronic pain and other illnesses. Relaxation exercises aim at reducing stress and thereby help prevent these unwanted outcomes. One of the widely used relaxation practices is yoga and yogic breathing exercises. One specific form of these exercises is Sudarshan Kriya and related practices (SK&P) which are understood to have favourable effects on the mind-body system. The goal of this pilot study was to design a protocol that can investigate whether SK&P can lead to increased feeling of wellness in healthy volunteers.
Methods: Participants were recruited in a small university city in Sweden and were instructed in a 6-day intensive program of SK&P which they practiced daily for six weeks. The control group was instructed to relax in an armchair each day during the same period. Subjects included a total of 103 adults, 55 in the intervention (SK&P) group and 48 in the control group. Various instruments were administered before and after the intervention. Hospital Anxiety Depression Scale measured the degree of anxiety and depression, Life Orientation Test measured dispositional optimism, Stress and Energy Test measured individual's energy and stress experiences. Experienced Deviation from Normal State measured the experience of altered state of consciousness.
Results: There were no safety issues. Compliance was high (only 1 dropout in the SK&P group, and 5 in the control group). Outcome measures appeared to be appropriate for assessing the differences between the groups. Subjective reports generally correlated with the findings from the instruments. The data suggest that participants in the SK&P group, but not the control group, lowered their degree of anxiety, depression and stress, and also increased their degree of optimism (ANOVA; p < 0.001). The participants in the yoga group experienced the practices as a positive event that induced beneficial effects.
Conclusion: These data indicate that the experimental protocol that is developed here is safe, compliance level is good, and a full scale trial is feasible. The data obtained suggest that adult participants may improve their wellness by learning and applying a program based on yoga and yogic breathing exercises; this can be conclusively assessed in a large-scale trial.
Trial registration: Australian Clinical Trial Registry ACTRN012607000175471.