The Vagus Nerve and the Healing Promise of The Sudarshan Kriya


SK&P Promotes Changes at the Molecular Level

Probably the most exciting scientific findings regarding the benefits of Sudarshan Kriya come from Dr. Fahri Saatcioglu PhD. of Oslo, Norway. In his most recently published findings, Dr. Saatcioglu has provided evidence for how SK&P actually enhances gene expression and alteration which leads to a plausible explanation for how practicing Sudarshan Kriya regularly promotes anti-aging in the body by encouraging DNA strands to repair themselves. According to Dr. Saatcioglu, “during Sudarshan Kriya, yoga and related practices, changes in the way our immune cells use the genetic information in their DNA are increased. This may then result in processes in these cells which may contribute to their function and may also affect the functioning of tissues and organs which then can affect the whole physiology “, adds Saatcioglu, “these data suggest that previously reported therapeutic effects of yoga practices have an integral physiological component at the molecular level”.

Effect on Depression

SK&P has been shown to have a 68%–73% success rate in the treatment of depression, regardless of severity. Relief from depression, determined by psychiatric evaluation and standard psychiatric measures (Beck Depression Inventory, Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression, and others), was experienced within three weeks. At the three-month follow-ups, patients remained stable and in remission. Published studies further suggest that SK&P normalizes patients’ brain-wave patterns, increases serum prolactin (a “well-being” hormone), and has been proven to be as effective as standard anti-depressant drug regimens.

Dr Stephen Larsen, Ph.D., has researched the neurophysiological responses before, during and after SK&P. He conducted experiments measuring EEG (recorded at 19 cortical sites), EKG, heart rate, galvanic skin response, hand skin temperature, pulse plethysmography and blood pressure. He found that SK&P produced significant changes in every physiological measurement. Significant increases in beta activity were observed in the left frontal, occipital, and midline regions of the brain in the SK&P practitioners, as compared to controls (p<0.05). These results are interpreted by neurologists as indicative of increased mental focus/heightened awareness in SK&P practitioners. It is striking to note that SK&P practitioners displayed significantly greater mental alertness (beta activity) than the control group of physicians and medical researchers, whose profession requires development and daily use of these very skills.

Blood lactate is another biochemical measure of stress. Participants in police training constitute a highly stressed group. They undergo intense physical and emotional training daily. Blood lactate was measured in 10 such individuals, both before learning SK&P and after the first session. There was a significant fall in lactate levels after SK&P, suggesting that it induces a state of relaxation. Dr. Larsen’s results indicate that over a period of time, the practitioner’s health becomes more robust, flexible and able to deal with the challenges of stress. This research further reinforces the theory that through the Vagal Nerve stimulation that the Sudarshan Kriya provides, the many conditions associated with impaired Vagal activity can all be addressed.

Antioxidant Response to SK&P

The body is constantly exposed to environmental toxins, and its cells continuously produce normal metabolic by-products. Both of these factors can result in the formation of free radicals. These react with oxygen and cause oxidant damage, contributing to many diseases, including cancer and such cardiovascular diseases as heart disease and stroke. To counteract these free radicals, the human body has a defense system in the form of antioxidant enzymes. A study was conducted to assess the effect of SK&P on antioxidant enzymes. Levels of three major antioxidant enzymes—superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase, and glutathione—were all found to be significantly higher in SK&P practitioners than in the matched control group. These data suggest that people who practice SK&P have an improved antioxidant status and an enhanced defense against oxidative stress on the body.

Effect on Cortisol, the “Stress Hormone”

Several studies have demonstrated SK&P leads to a significant reduction in cortisol levels. In one study, blood cortisol, known as the“stress hormone,” was measured in 21 individuals, 35–50 years of age. Regular SK&P practitioners (Group 1) were compared with beginning practitioners (Group 2) during their SK&P sessions. The beginning practitioners were also measured before learning SK&P, while listening to classical music (Group 3). Among beginners, the fall in cortisol levels was significantly greater during SK&P than when listening to classical music, suggesting that SK&P produces a better relaxation response. Regular SK&P practitioners had significantly lower blood cortisol levels at baseline than beginning practitioners, indicating that they experienced less physiological stress under the demands of daily living. The significant further fall in serum cortisol levels, during and following SK&P, among beginning and regular practitioners, suggests that regular practice of SK&P progressively develops greater levels of both relaxation and resilience to stress.

The Mind Body Relationship

The interaction of the conscious and subconscious mind requires a congruent interaction between the corresponding systems of nerves, our Autonomic Nervous Systems and our Cerebrospinal Nervous Systems. Again, the interface between our two nervous systems is made by the vagus nerve, which passes out of the cerebral region as a portion of the voluntary system to the thorax, networking out to our hearts and lungs, and ultimately passing through the diaphragm it loses its outer coating and becomes merged with the nerves of the Solar Plexus, thus establishing a binding connection between the two and making humans the self aware beings that we are.

Having an understanding of the dual nervous systems, the relationship between unhealthy vagal activity and a myriad of diseases, the knowledge of how the health of our nervous systems directly corresponds do our mental health, it makes sense that healing the Vagus Nerve can provide profound benefits.

Practicing Sudarshan Kriya, in conjunction with a comprehensive set of yogic postures and pranayamas, assists in fine tuning the nervous systems and healing this most vital organ. While it seems obvious that the action of SK&P works through Vagus Nerve Stimulation, this is probably a gross over simplification of the overall beneficial biophysiological effects of the practice and scientists continue to analyze other ways SK&P functions on the nervous systems as well.

Sports Performance Enhancement

Although no specific empirical data has been scientifically gathered yet on enhancing athletic and sports performance through SK&P, it only stands to reason that a technique with the proven benefits of improved intuition, increased clarity of mind, quicker reaction times, greater composure and significantly more stamina and endurance would aid any competitor in any sport increase performance levels.

Self Defeating Mental Habits

In conclusion, there is one more vital piece to this puzzle to ponder over. If you think about the automatic habit forming mechanism in place and how thought patterns (such as the act of tying a shoe) go from the conscious mind to the subconscious mind, it is important to understand that this same transference also happens in the case of mental habits as well. So many of us have self-defeating mental habits such as guilt, blame, victimness, complaining, the sense of lack, defensiveness, etc. and what’s important to keep in mind is that many of these thought patterns have been committed to our subconscious thoughts. They’ve become as automatic as so many other habits and unless we actively bring these mental habits back up into our conscious awareness, they will continue to persist and bring misery and sorrow into our lives.

It is important to remember that once an impaired Vagus Nerve has been returned back to health, the harmful negative habits that have been accumulated over years of impaired Vagal Activity don’t automatically disappear. It is vital therefore, to be mindful of these common mental patterns and bring them to your awareness, back into your conscious mind, so they can be disarmed and removed.

*While the Enteric Nervous System (which includes the Solar Plexus) has also been called the second brain over the past few decades, the Solar Plexus has been called the second brain in the east for thousands of years.

**Some portions reprinted with permission from the original author(s)

By: Frank Huguenard | Waking Times