I’ve been researching breathing techniques for prevention of, and recovery from, burnout. Hypoxic breathing is very trendy, so I’m trying it; my first experiment was 60 days of the Wim Hof method [WHM]. Another well-known and widely available breathing technique is Sudarshin Kriya, also known as “SKY Breathing” or “SKY Breath meditation.” How does doing Sudarshin Kriya [SKY] compare to doing Wim Hof Breathing [WHM]? I took a class and did SKY for 60+ days to find out.
Almost the first thing I found out was that some of my colleagues had been doing SKY breathing for years – but had never mentioned it!
Learning SKY Breathing
Because of COVID, the folks who teach SKY – The Art of Living – are doing lots of their classes online, so it was very easy to learn. The class was very step by step, well taught by an all-volunteer staff of three. It was a couple of hours each day for a Friday, a Saturday, and a Sunday. The class explains everything clearly, the practice is very clearly structured. There is an impressive, content rich app which includes a sequence of guided daily sessions for your first 100 days. Each guided session includes either a small slice of content [ ~3 minutes ] or an optional guided meditation, followed by the SKY practice. I sit down every morning on a cushion, click on the app, and follow the instructions. Very easy. The SKY practice consists of five separate steps, each easy, the entire daily process takes me about 38 minutes.
After completing the class there is an optional private Facebook group for recent graduates. I joined. The Facebook group includes mentors – many with graduate degrees in STEM – who actively participated in discussions and provide clear, helpful answers to questions. The Facebook group seems designed to support you in doing the practice daily, especially through your first 40 days.
Comparing with Wim Hof Breathing
I would say that compared to the Wim Hof breathing the SKY process seems gentler. The three days of class phases you into breathwork, and then there is no particular emphasis on effort or pushing or accomplishing, whereas the WHM is very much about ‘overcoming’ and ‘succeeding.’ There is basically one breathing technique with WHM, with SKY there are four. I can imagine that the SKY breathing is gently putting the body through a wider range of pulmonary “exercises” than the WMH.
My initial experience of SKY was euphoric. It made me HIGH for about 10-20 minutes after breathing. I only got that euphoric after-effect for a couple of days, after that I just felt ‘good’ after practice. It was easy to snap out of the high really easily, but I wouldn’t have wanted to immediately operate heavy machinery.
WHM was very calming. I felt really “flat” during and after breathing, really present. My energy was mostly in the lower part of my body. Afterwards I felt very focused. I could, at any moment in the process, shift from doing the breathing to doing push-ups, or yoga, or answer the phone, maybe even go from breathing to safely climbing a ladder or carrying a tray of dishes.
I find SKY seems to produce a more euphoric state, sometimes I get lost in the guided process. It seems to energize the entire body, so at the end of the process I would center myself before getting up.
You might want to know …
The SKY practices are presented within the framework of Vedic / Hindu / Sanskrit spiritual tradition. They talk about yoga, and meditation. Those are not the main focus, there doesn’t seem to be anything you need to believe or not believe. The materials talk about stress, happiness, calmness. It is clear that the SKY practice is one part of a larger whole. If you are interested in going further and in more spiritual pursuits, they have classes and techniques. There is a very gentle current of up-sell – there are further opportunities, but they are all ‘opt in’, there is nothing you need ever say ‘no’ to.
The Art of Living people have been doing this for over 40 years. They say they have taught this method to over 40 million people. Their website includes summaries of several research papers and 100+ peer reviewed published studies. Charts and graphs showing measured effects on depression and anxiety, measured increases in lymphocytes, measured decreases in cortisol. Research done at Yale, and something published in the Harvard Business Review.
My plans for SKY Breathing
As with the WHM, this seems one of those practices that slowly builds health in the body. Some people I know find the practice very energizing, unfortunately I don’t – at least not yet. I’m going to keep on doing some form of hypoxic breathing daily for the foreseeable future.