Art of Living Course helps many Sri Lankans beat stress through
simple yet effective breathing techniques
A breath of life
By Esther Williams
Ever since Tara Cooray completed
the Art of Living Course she has been waking up a little earlier
each day. In the quiet of the morning, she spends about 45 minutes
practising breathing techniques after some light stretching exercises.
"It calms me and makes my system feel lighter," says Tara
who feels more focused and better able to cope with the pressures
of work each day.
breathing techniques she practises follow a certain pattern that
oxygenates the entire body, part by part. The exercises can even
be done sitting on the floor or on a chair. "We are taught
to live for the moment. There is no point worrying about the past
that is gone but we have the future which can be planned without
being anxious," says Tara, explaining the philosophy behind
Officer Darshana Hettiarachchi encounters many stressful situations
in his work. Having enjoyed the course tremendously he now makes
time each day to practise the breathing exercises.
have learnt techniques that you can practise on your own to achieve
good health," says he. Besides, they were taught sound human
values - to be kind and helpful to others which he feels was an
Art of Living Course evolved by Sri Sri Ravishankar (founder of
the Art of Living Foundation in Bangalore) has been taught in Colombo
several times over the past two years with a teacher coming down
from India for this purpose. Encouraged by the positive response,
they have now opened an office in Colombo.
believe that unless and until stress is removed from the mind and
body an individual cannot truly be happy," says Sri Lanka's
coordinator Suraj Nair, explaining their aim of bringing peace,
joy and happiness into the lives of people. Only if an individual
is happy, content and confident will society become peaceful, he
main component of the Art of Living course is the unique breathing
technique called the Sudarshan Kriya, (SK) meaning 'to create a
good vision of ourselves and the universe at large'. Suraj claims
that it helps one be mentally calm, emotionally stable and physically
strong. To date, several million people in over 140 countries have
learnt this ancient Indian yogic breathing technique, he says.
senior teacher Padmini Unni, "Among all creatures, man is the
only one who is unhappy. This is because he has a mind which is
the source of all problems. Our joys, sorrows, wellbeing and illness
comes from our mind. When the mind is calm, there are no major problems
as the mind can tackle any problem it comes across."
you cannot control the mind you can control the breath," Suraj
continues using the following analogy to emphasize his point. "Our
mind is like a kite drifting about. The kite string is our breath.
We can control the kite by pulling on the string."
Kriya is based on the mind - body - breath complex," reiterates
Ms. Unni. Simply said, negative emotions affect our breathing and
our breathing affects the body.
mind and body are linked through the breath. When we go through
any emotion it has a corresponding effect on the rhythm of our breathing.
When we are angry or afraid, our breathing is short and fast. The
emotions we feel trigger chemical reactions in the body that release
breath, Suraj says is the fourth source of energy along with proper
nutrition, the right amount of sleep, and a meditative state of
mind. Inhaling breath energises the body and exhaling purifies the
mind is in conflict when it wanders into the past and the future,
thereby depleting itself of energy. Hence, when breathing is short
owing to negative emotions, much less energy is supplied to the
body and fewer toxins are eliminated.
Kriya can help bring our mind to the present moment. Unfortunately
an average human being uses only one-third of his/her lung capacity,
says Ms. Unni. This brings us to another technique called the Pranayama
which regulates the life forces of energy through breathing so that
we use our lung capacity to the maximum. "By doing this, toxins
from every cell get flushed out and the body gets healed of all
diseases, the mind becomes calm and you feel uplifted."
our bodies go through various biological rhythms, asks Ms. Unni.
We get accustomed to certain patterns with regard to sleeping, digestion,
food intake, etc. Elements in nature also work according to a certain
rhythm and never change. But because of his lifestyle man maintains
a chaotic rhythm, often breaking out of set patterns. His emotions
change his breathing pattern contributing to disharmony.
there is disharmony between a person's cosmic rhythm and his biological
rhythm, depression and health problems occur. Sudarshan Kriya thus
helps restore harmony between individual and nature. Ms. Unni stresses
that their Foundation is not a cult neither is it associated with
any particular religion. It merely enhances one's existing practices,
and relief from common colds, bronchitis, asthma, diabetes, high
blood pressure, cholesterol, heart disease and cancer is possible
through the Sudarshan Kriya technique. Stress apparently creates
cortizol (a stress hormone) and cortizol creates stress. Sudarshan
Kriya exercises decrease the level of cortizol. Further, one’s
body has its own natural killer cells which strengthen the immune
system. While lifestyle, bad diet and pollution kill these cells,
Sudarshan Kriya helps builds them up.
practical programme of knowledge and awareness allows you to live
life fully, says Ms Unni. "Life becomes sacred and you appreciate
its beauty, making each moment a celebration.”
The Art of Living basic course comprises of the Sudarshan
Kriya technique, Pranayama, an awareness programme giving knowledge
of the mind - its nature and patterns, mild toning for the body,
an interactive session to enhance inter-personal relations and meditation.
The course, conducted as a six-day workshop is open to people from
all walks of life from 18 to 80.
details could be obtained by contacting the Art of Living Foundation
headquarters, 27/1, Kinross Avenue, Colombo 4, tel: 2507876, 0777
794102 or 0777 701226
The Art Of Living Foundation last month conducted a programme
in the Juvenile Offenders Correction Centre at Dalupotha, Negombo
in which 250 out of 450 prisoners, aged between 16-24 took part.
prisons and hospitals are full, it is not a sign of a healthy society.
Our motto is to empty the prisons and hospitals," says Ms.
Unni. "Prisoners are also human beings. Stress has made them
commit mistakes. We want to bring about an 'inner change' or self
realisation." In India over 100,000 prisoners have benefited
from the programme.
we will not be able to change over to a vegetarian diet that the
Art of Living philosophy promotes we shall certainly encourage the
breathing techniques," says Superintendent of the Correction
Centre for Youthful Offenders Dalupotha, Mr. S.J.D.S. Weerasinghe.
He could see some effect on the youth soon after the course. "If
they follow the programme regularly, all their anger and bad emotions
will disappear,” he says.