effects of shambhavi mahamudra kriya, a multicomponent breath-based yogic practice (Pranayama), on perceived stress and general well-being.

Authors: Christine Tara Peterson, Sarah M. Bauer, Deepak Chopra, Paul J. Mills & Raj K. Maturi

Citation: Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine (2017); 22(4):788-797


Background: Mental disorders such as anxiety are widely recognized as being associated with stress, which can also worsen physical health. As the main cause of adult disability, the cost of stress-induced disorders is astounding. Stress can be viewed as a “state of disharmony” and can be either acute or chronic. Chronic stress is prolonged or repeated and causes widespread problems throughout the body. Non-pharmaceutical interventions to decrease stress are becoming increasingly popular and have the potential to benefit most people.  


Objective: This study investigated whether a yogic practice called Shambhavi Mahamudra kriya, which was primarily focused on pranayama or breath practice, would decrease stress and improve general well-being in a healthy population.


Who Was It? The study included 142 men and women (average age 43 years) who were participating in a 3-day retreat program.


What Was Done? Participants learnt Shambhavi Mahamudra kriya during the 3-day retreat, and then were instructed to practice the technique for 21 minutes each day during a 6-week period. Participants were able to practice the kriya for longer, which some did. Perceived stress and general well-being were assessed using surveys before and after the intervention.


What Happened? After completion of the 6-week intervention, subjects reported experiencing a decrease in stress and an increase in general well-being. Subjects that practiced the kriya with a greater intensity (that is, with more frequent sessions) experienced greater benefits. 


Fringe Commentary: This study (which was led by *the* famous Dr. Deepak Chopra) shows that even healthy people experience benefits from engaging in a daily yoga practice that includes a focus on breathwork. It also shows that the benefits are dose-dependent, with more frequent practice yielding greater improvements. The kriya practice was carefully taught to participants during an intensive retreat, which may have helped participants feel comfortable doing the practice on their own. Health care providers should recommend yogic breathing training to patients as a tool to manage stress and improve well-being.


Link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5871312/pdf/10.1177_2156587217730934.pdf


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