press release

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NGO’s trademarked ‘trauma relief and mental health’ breathwork confirmed to make PTSD symptoms worse

19 April 2022, 08.00 CET
Alleson Reyna, Science Communicator at ‘meditate not dissociate’

9 research studies published over 13 years by Clinical Psychiatrists say trademarked Sudarshan Kriya breath technique is likely to retraumatise. Research first published in 2005 say it helps relieve trauma and anxiety symptoms in many but in other people ‘precipitates and exacerbates’ anxiety, panic, flashbacks and dissociation. Hundreds of thousands of people around the world are thought to practice regularly this breathwork to self-treat their mental ill-health and trauma symptoms. In his first global tour since the COVID pandemic, Humanitarian Sri Sri Ravi Shankar celebrates 40 years teaching Sudarshan Kriya worldwide. Now some of his Charity organizers agree with the original research, acknowledging that people with PTSD are at risk from their ‘trauma relief’ breathwork program.

Humanitarian and peacemaker Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s will meet with United Nations officials and dignitaries in Geneva, 19 April 2022. He founded organizations including International Association for Human Values (IAHV), World Forum for Ethics in Business (WFEB), Art of Living Foundation and SKY Campus. They promote 70 published studies that describe health benefits of his breathwork, highlighting later studies showing decreased symptoms of Anxiety Disorders and PTSD. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar will meet United Nations officials in Geneva on 19 April 2022 then travels to Washington, USA promoting Sudarshan Kriya at ‘Resilience and Wellbeing Summit’ aimed at students and educators partnered with his organizations based in universities across 12 countries.

As a thank you for their service during the pandemic, COVID 19 Keyworkers are invited to his free ‘Stress and Trauma Relief’ program taught globally after natural disasters and armed conflicts as delivered by his peacebuilding programs. Now for the first time, some IAHV program organizers agree with the original research findings, requesting that people with a PTSD diagnosis only attend this ‘trauma relief’ breath program after consulting with their doctor. His retreat centers in Germany and Poland recently added a diagnosis of Complex PTSD to their Health Policy. It is not clear whether Ukranian refugees currently housed there who received transport, food and provisions from the charity, will now learn the Sudarshan Kriya programs.

Alleson Reyna, Science Communicator at ‘meditate not dissociate’ welcomes these recent additions to some of the Health Policies and encourages a wider discussion with program participants, their doctors and the volunteer Instructors. People diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia and Schizoaffective Disorder have long been advised to check with their medical practitioner before attending the program and a diagnosis of Seizure Disorders was later added. Alleson says that typically, doctors and medical practitioners do not have access to the cited research describing adverse effects and are unable to advise their patients.

Alleson was a volunteer with IAHV from 2005 to 2018 after having learned the breathwork as a university student. “I attended the program over a number of days with other students to help my breathlessness and anxiety symptoms. Some of the techniques I found very helpful but I also experienced profound physical discomfort, disorientation and wasn’t able to describe this unease. A few weeks later I was diagnosed with late stage Hodgekins Lymphoma. The bulky tumours in my neck, chest and abdomen had caused the breathlessness, which was then successfully treated with chemotherapy. Over the years I continued to find some of the 40 minute set sequence helpful, but the advanced pranayam were often an internal battle. Still I promoted the program to everyone and was training to become a volunteer Instructor. Eventually I recognised serious mental ill-health symptoms in some of my friends and in myself. I visited my local library to read all the Health Policy referenced studies. Some took 3 weeks to arrive as there are so few copies available in print. I paid almost £100 to access all the published research describing adverse effects, the same as what I had paid for my first discounted student program. For years I had been asking for help from doctors, neurologists, psychiatrists and in private therapy for debilitating dissociation, and it had been described in those books all that time”.

The research published by Dr Patricia Gerbarg and Dr Richard Brown describes improved mental health outcomes for many of the 200 people learning the techniques after the South East tsunmai in 2004, including improved hyperarousal PTSD and anxiety symptoms. They also described a wide range of adverse effects seen again in clinical referrals on their return to New York and observed by later researchers. Anxiety, panic, mania, flashbacks, confusion, dissociation, psychosis, seizures, respiratory symptoms and cardiovascular symptoms are described as induced in some people by the modern Sudarshan Kriya practice, also of traditional techniques Bhastrika and Kapilibhati. Their Clinical Guidance suggests that people in distress discontinue daily practices and with the support of their doctor may wish to experiment with the foundational practice Alternate Nostril breathing known as Nadi Shodan, which has no known adverse effects. In their later publications, they conclude that due to the high likelihood of retraumatisation, people with PTSD (with significant dissociative symptoms) and people with Dissociative Identity Disorder ought not to practice Sudarshan Kriya. Dr Gerbarg and Dr Brown have since developed their own successful trauma relief breathwork international program with no reported adverse effects.

Alleson says that understanding of dissociation has changed rapidly over the last few years, becoming more widely recognised as an everyday state of semi-consciousness, as well as symptoms of many mental ill-health conditions and disabilities. Polyvagal theory, the Window of Tolerance model and descriptions of ‘muscle bracing’ are helping people to identify their experiences and develop interoception, the perception of sensations inside the body. Revisiting this original Sudarshan Kriya research could play a vital role in the emerging ‘trauma-informed’ approaches to meditation, mindfulness and breathwork.

“Sharing these datasets and analyses might help us understand when ‘discomfort’ becomes ‘distress’ and then become decreased alertness. I would like to see such techniques taught without the need for any Health Policy, with all the research and best practices available for everyone“.

UNESCO recently set international standards to foster a transparent, inclusive and democratic scientific process encouraging collaborative sharing of scientific research between academics, publishers and citizen scientists. ‘Open Science’ has the potential to critically accelerate the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals as described and adopted by the 41st session of UNESCO General Conference in November 2021.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has long promoted an integrated global healthcare, advocating modern scientific approaches alongside the traditional Ayurvedic approach based on a person’s prakruti and vikruti, their constitution and current state. Revisiting all the Sudarshan Kriya research may help achieve that long held vision of integrated healthcare.

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NOTES TO EDITORS

  1. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar – 19 April 2022 at 12.30 to 13.00. Press Conference hosted by Geneva Press Club https://pressclub.ch/press-conference-with-gurudev-sri-sri-ravi-shankar/
  2. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar – 19 April 2022 at 17.30. International Seminar with guest speaker H.E. Tatiana Valovaya, Director General of United Nations Office. Venue, WIPO, Geneva. https://iahv.org/unity-and-collaboration and https://twitter.com/DarshakHathi/status/1514842765305163779/photo/1
  3. ‘International Association for Human Values’ (IAHV) in special consultative status of United Nations ECOSOC since 2002. ‘World Forum for Ethics in Business’ (WFEB) in special consultative status of United Nations ECOSOC since 2017.
  4. “Founder of the Art of Living Foundation and International Association for Human Values, Sri Sri is leading the way toward peace and tolerance through meditation and humanitarian efforts. Over 35 years, his programs and initiatives have touched the lives of over 370 million people in over 155 countries”. (IAHV India, https://www.iahv.org/in-en/about-us/ )
  5. The Health Policy at USA Art of Living Retreat Centre, https://artoflivingretreatcenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/mcf_1_en.pdf .This was updated by some programs to include Seizure Disorders (January 2019) and the programs described now include PTSD or Complex PTSD (late 2020).
  6. UNESCO is United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
  7. The World Health Organisation recently added Complex PTSD as a new disorder to the ICD-11 classification system. The American Psychiatry Association classify disorders with DSM-V which describe a number of PTSD subtypes, and Complex PTSD is not recognised as a separate disorder.
  8.  COVID 19 Keyworkers are invited to this free ‘Stress and Trauma Relief’ program (IAHV Australia). Many other IAHV branches provide the same program with varying titles (including Belgium, UK, Philippines) https://iahv-health.org/ 
  9. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar holds numerous titles and awards for Peacekeeping https://www.srisriravishankar.org/life/honors-awards
  10. “Exploring Well-being and Resilience As a Path Towards Empowerment: Global Virtual Event” April 22 to April 24 2022 https://www.eventbrite.com/e/change-begins-with-me-global-resilience-and-well-being-summit-tickets-302966118817
  11. IAHV and Art of Living organise mega in-person and virtual conferences advertising Sudarshan Kriya as a low-cost community mental health solution also promoting as accredited Continuing Professional Development qualification for healthcare professionals, featuring government officials, World Health Organisation and United Nations representatives.
    1.  ‘Changing Paradigms in a Pandemic World’ April 2021, Full agenda available here https://www.republicworld.com/world-news/global-event-news/live-stream-wfeb-hosts-global-changing-paradigms-in-a-pandemic-world-virtual-conference.html
    2.  ‘National Summit for Mental Health and Mental Fitness: Practical Solutions for Creating a Culture of Peace’ July 2019, Colarado, USA ‘https://summit.americameditates.org/

*Photo of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar receiving Honorary Doctorate for Peacekeeping, University of Milan, April 2022 – https://twitter.com/aolswitzerland/status/1515788601384226827

For more information see www.meditatenotdissociate.com sharing summaries and clinical guidance of 16 published studies describing adverse effects of meditation, mindfulness and breathwork (1976 to 2018).

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