Inspiration Special Focus WTF

WTF Is Sudarshan Kriya (And Will It Make Me a Better Yogi)?

You know how when you’re really pissed and someone tells you to just breathe? If you’re anything like me it makes you see red. I mean, seriously, that’s not helpful.

Their timing may be off (as in, way off), but there’s a reason why people instinctually remind you to breathe in those situations. It’ll calm you down.

(Personally, I’ve found a glass of organic Shiraz works wonders, too. But I guess that won’t go down too well in your Monday morning staff meeting.)

I digress. Breathing —aside from keeping us alive— brings with it numerous health benefits. Interestingly, we humans are not very good at it. We tend to spend our waking hours taking in short, shallow breaths, usually through the mouth.

As this article from Harvard Health attests, shallow breathing limits the diaphragm’s range of motion. In order to enjoy the full benefit of the oxygen we’re inhaling, we need to do so deeply and through the nose.

Breathing like this —with intent and to the very bottom of the lungs— relaxes one, quelling those errant stress responses that invariably arise when you’re late for the staff meeting. Again.

What is Sudarshan Kriya?

Sudarshan Kriya is pretty much breathing on steroids. Taught as part of The Art of Living Happiness Program, the powerful breathing technique brings with it more juicy goodness than you could possibly imagine.

Whether you’re prone to anxiety, are easily stressed or suffer from a medical-related ailment, such as diabetes, it will help. If, like me, your demeanor tends to be more Eeyore than, say, Tigger or Pooh, Sudarshan Kriya can change that.

I kid you not. I used to be that droopy-eared donkey for the longest time. I tried everything from antidepressants and and self-medicating (let’s not go there) to hypnotherapy.

Medication (prescribed or otherwise) can only take you so far, and while the weekly hypnotherapy sessions definitely helped, my budget didn’t see it as a long term solution.

The Happiness Program That Turned Me into a Happy Yogi

Things have a way of pitching up exactly when you need them. I learned about The Art of Living Happiness Program from an ex-colleague. Seeing how upbeat and chilled with life she was looking, I knew I had to sign up.

Run over four evenings and a weekend, the program offers a sneaky, yet remarkably attainable, approach to this business of being happy. At the heart of it is the Sudarshan Kriya, a powerful breathing technique that activates the vagus nerve.

If you’ve never heard of the vagus nerve, don’t feel bad. Most people haven’t. Known as the wandering nerve, this little known organ is responsible for our gut feelings and the sense of inner peace we feel (or, wish we’d feel more).

Okay, but will Sudarshan Kriya make you a better yogi? Yes, without a doubt. Plus, it will also make you happier, healthier and more relaxed. Just saying.

Where Can You Learn Sudarshan Kriya?

You’re onboard, now what? First, the bad news. Sudarshan Kriya is probably the only thing left that you can’t learn by asking Google. Sorry, not sorry.

The good news is that although its headquarters are based in Bangalore, India, the Art of Living has more than 10,000 centers in 155 countries, so there’s a good chance you’ll find one close to you.

From Learning to Doing: Making Sudarshan Kriya a Daily Practice

Here’s the caveat you were waiting for. You can’t just do the Happiness Program and be done with it. You need to make Sudarshan Kriya a part of your morning routine.

Ideally, it’s the first thing you do upon rising. Because it ends in a meditation, doing it on an empty stomach straight after waking up will allow you to get the full benefit of the practice.

It takes roughly half an hour to complete, which can seem a little time extravagant in today’s go, go, go world. But honestly, it’s the best thirty minutes you’ll spend all day.

Don’t be tempted to skip it because you’re in a hurry, either. Like a lot of things, it’s only in their absence that you truly appreciate the benefits of Sudarshan Kriya.

Once a week, the centers host follow-up sessions. This longer, guided version of Sudarshan Kriya serves as a very necessary top-up to your daily practice. Think of it as plugging into source for an extra boost of power.

There you have it. That’s WTF Sudarshan Kriya is.


What questions do you have about Sudashan Kriya? Have we piqued your interest? Have you tried this practice? Let us know in the comments! 

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  1. Avatar

    Anida Messner

    August 23, 2018 at 6:38 pm

    I’m a certified Kundalini instructor & there’s a meditation called Sodarshan Chakra Kriya which is a pranayama (a form of breath control) as well. I am wondering if this is the same thing you are speaking about. Would love to hear more.

  2. Avatar

    Angela Horn

    August 25, 2018 at 8:32 am

    Hi Anida

    The Sudarshan Kriya I’m referring to came to the Art of Living’s founder, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, during meditation. You can only learn it through the Art of Living foundation.

    I found this article on their website, perhaps it will help explain the practice more clearly:

    I hope that helps!
    Ang 🙂

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      April 14, 2020 at 8:02 pm

      Amin: Same same here in Toronto. $$$
      Just did a free online intro. It’s gentle.
      Alternate nostril breathing. Not clear on what may be different relative to other yoga styles I’ve practiced.
      I suppose you find out in the course.
      The course here is now half price:$190 Cndn. Still expensive for many. Especially so since it’s online & during global shut-in whereby many have lost income.

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        April 15, 2020 at 4:51 am

        They’re offering online Happiness Program here in SA, too. Much cheaper than usual rate and with the added bonus that you can join an IRL program once lockdown is lifted for only a small additional fee. I think it’s definitely worth it if you can afford it. If you can’t, Gurudev is doing two live meditations daily that are super powerful and deep. They’re at 12 noon and 7:30pm IST. You can find the link on his YouTube channel. Just search for World Meditates.

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    September 2, 2018 at 12:17 pm

    I’m member of Art of Living and i will tell you about kriya as much is i can because it is uniqe experince to definitely helps you to be better yogi but only if you practice Ujjai breath positive energy in bad energy out.if you are doing vinyasa flow yoga it’s very good to have mind focused inside of body.

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    Amin seth

    April 12, 2019 at 3:59 pm

    It feels great to do Sudarshan Kriya, when I did course follow ups were free. Now they are charging $12 per session (Kriya or any other meetup).
    I assume its used towards running expense of the center. But earlier Kriya used to host at teacher’s place or anyone having enough space. It feels like only people who can afford Eqinox or LA Fitness can attend long Sudarshan Kriya.

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    April 13, 2019 at 6:31 am

    That’s such a pity Amin. I’m in Cape Town, South Africa and here Kriya is still donation only.

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    June 9, 2020 at 7:35 pm

    I apologize if I offend anyone with this post. But I have concerns about this course and the organization itself – so daring and sharing them.
    Why do they call Art of living a not for profit if they charge $190 per person (virtual session) and $375 (in person session) for it. I have not been to one and I was told that their virtual sessions in June 2020 will have 150-200 people attending in Canada. These sessions can’t cost $200,000; So why are consumers paying such a high premium. I asked this question to an art of living instructor and I was told that the premium is used to pay for other charity that art of living hosts.
    Fair reason, but at the same time, art of living asks for donations (and gets a lot of them) for these charities as well. At the end I would like to say it seems like premiums that consumers pay for each of the hosted programs cumulatively exceed the expenses done by the organization.
    This is the reason I am not sure that it is a true not for profit organization. And of course Not for Profit organizations are not required to show their balance sheets and income statements and can dupe consumers a lot. A bit unfair I think. Would appreciate if anyone can give me a clarify my doubts

    1. Avatar

      Angela Horn

      June 10, 2020 at 3:45 am

      Hi Jade
      That’s a fair question. First, I’d urge you to take a look at this video that depicts the work being done all over the world by The Art Living:
      It’s truly remarkable how much Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has achieved.
      I have been a member of Art of Living for some years now, and I also visited their headquarters in Bangalore, India last year, and I can honestly say without a doubt, that the organisation is 100% above board and uses all its funds for running the centre and the many charities and initiatives it supports.
      The centres around the world are run by volunteers. They don’t get paid for what they do, but they do often have to pay for the venue where they host their courses and follow-up meetings. Any course fees go directly to The Art of Living Foundation.
      I can’t speak for all centres (I’ve heard some of them charge for follow up meetings to cover rent, etc.), however, the Centre I belong to (Cape Town City Bowl) only asks for donations. The teachers actually foot the rent bill themselves if they don’t receive enough donations. As far as I know, the revenue generated from the online courses will follow the same protocol.
      I really hope this answers your question and quells any doubts you have. I highly recommend AOL and the courses they offer. People sometimes think it’s a cult, but it’s anything but. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is one of the most down to earth and irreverent people I’ve ever come across. He’s also the first to say, that you should try this path for six months or so, give it your 1oo%, and if you find it’s not for you, try something else.
      You could also trying contacting their headquarters directly if you have any other questions. You could also try contacting my centre and talk to Mukesh or Gerlinde. They’re both senior AOL teachers and will definitely be able to answer your questions. (Hint: If you join their course you pay in ZAR!)
      Ang 🙂

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      September 10, 2020 at 11:37 am


      I did a virtual session in the Greater Toronto Area in May 2020, and we had about 15 participants, and besides the breath work exercises there were some mini group activities too, so they were able to break us into small virtual groups. The instructors keep a small group so they can observe your movements/stance, or answer follow up questions, and it’ll be really hard to do that if there were 150 participants and only 2 instructors. You could take one more person to your workshop to split the cost, confirm this with your area’s volunteers, I believe some people did that. It was a worthwhile experiment for me, and I’ve been pretty regular I’d say, 6 times/week, over the last few months. The weekly(optional) sessions which follow after the 3-day workshop(as Angela mentioned) would probably have hundreds/thousands of participants, I haven’t attended any of those yet.

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    November 21, 2020 at 1:59 pm

    There is a reason why Ravi Shankar’s net worth is 350 million USD. He has harnessed depressed people into minions. Similar to what drug companies do. The issue I have is that these folks seem to only want to be with Art of Living and is no different than a drug addiction.

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