Gene expression profiling in practitioners of Sudarshan Kriya

Gene expression profiling in practitioners of Sudarshan Kriya

Author links open overlay panelHimaniSharmaaNeetaSingha
Show more
Get rights and content

The rapid pace of life, eating habits, and environmental pollution have increased stress levels and its related disorders. The complex molecular response to stress is mediated by stress genes and a variety of regulatory pathways. Oxidative stress is internal damage caused by reactive oxygen species. Increasing evidence suggests that chronic psychosocial stress may increase oxidative stress, which in turn may contribute to aging, and etiology of coronary diseases, cancer, arthritis, etc. Psychophysiological concomitants of meditation have been extensively researched, but there are very little data available on biochemical activity leading to relieving stress by causing a relaxation response by Sudarshan Kriya (SK). SK is a breathing technique that involves breathing in three different rhythms. It is preceded by Ujjayi Pranayam (long and deep breaths with constriction at the base of throat) and Bhastrika (fast and forceful breaths through nose along with arm movements).

Forty-two SK practitioners and 42 normal healthy controls were recruited for our study. The practitioners had practiced SK for at least 1 year. Selected normal healthy controls did not perform any conventional physical exercise or any formal stress management technique. Whole blood was used for glutathione peroxidase estimation and red blood cell lysate was used for superoxide dismutase activity assay and for glutathione estimation. White blood cells were isolated from fresh blood and assayed for gene expression using reverse transcriptase–polymerase chain reaction. The parameters studied are antioxidant enzymes, genes involved in oxidative stress, DNA damage, cell cycle control, aging, and apoptosis.

A better antioxidant status both at the enzyme activity and RNA level was seen in SK practitioners. This was accompanied by better stress regulation and better immune status due to prolonged life span of lymphocytes by up-regulation of antiapoptotic genes and prosurvival genes in these subjects.

Our pilot study provides the first evidence suggesting that SK practice may exert effects on immunity, aging, cell death, and stress regulation through transcriptional regulation.


Environmental pollution, change in lifestyle, eating habits, and rapid pace of life have increased the stress levels in individuals making them prone to various stress-related disorders. The human body is constantly under various kinds of stress and attack by reactive oxygen species (ROS) either generated by external agents or during normal metabolic process. ROS can damage cellular functions by damaging lipids, proteins, and DNA in the cell [1], [2]. Although the body is equipped with antioxidant defense in the form of glutathione, antioxidant enzymes such as superoxide dismutase, catalase, and glutathione peroxidase, the problem arises when the level of ROS increases so much that the antioxidant system of the body is not able to counteract the ROS [3]. Increasing evidence suggests that chronic psychosocial stress may increase oxidative stress, which in turn may contribute to the pathophysiology of atherosclerosis, coronary heart disease, cancer, and other chronic diseases [4], [5].

Cells can transduce stress into biochemical signals. Numerous cellular functions can be influenced by the presence of stress. Several genes and pathways of stress signaling molecules are found to be activated under conditions of stress. Some of them being heat shock proteins (HSPs), mitogen-activated protein kinases, stress-activated protein kinases, and molecules involved in the oxidative stress pathway [6]. Increased levels of stress leads to various stress-related disorders. Meditation, SK, and other techniques have been known to relieve stress by causing a relaxation response, a complex compensatory mechanism. SK is a breathing technique involving breathing in three different rhythms [7]. We have shown earlier [7] that SK helps lower blood lactate levels and provides better antioxidant defense. However, the biochemical effects and the signal transduction pathways of stress removal have not been studied. In this study, an attempt has been made to study the effect of SK on antioxidant enzymes, genes involved in oxidative stress, DNA damage, cell cycle control, aging, apoptosis, and several pathways of stress signaling molecules. The objective of this study was to gather insights into the effect of SK at the transcription and protein level, especially of those genes that affect aging, apoptosis, and stress-related signaling/metabolic pathways.

From the studies described here, it is clear that SK affects multiple signal transduction pathways, including inhibition of reactive oxygen intermediates; up-regulation of heat shock protein 70 (HSP-70), glutathione S-transferase-P1 (GST-P1), and cyclooxygenase-2 (Cox-2); and higher glutathione levels.

Section snippets

Study group

Blood samples were collected from 42 practitioners of Sudarshan Kriya (SK) and from 42 age- and sex-matched controls, not practicing any kind of stress management technique. The practitioners included subjects in the age range of 22–64 years, and comprised of 20 males and 22 females. The SK practitioners had been practicing SK daily for 1 h for at least 1 year. The controls and practitioners included in the study had the same socioeconomic status, had comparable body mass index, were

Effect of SK on glutathione levels, glutathione peroxidase, and SOD activity

The glutathione levels in SK practitioners were significantly higher (P<.05) as compared to those in controls. The mean±S.E.M. level of glutathione was found to be 76.7±4.06 nmol/ml in case of controls, whereas in case of practitioners, it was found to be 96.5±4.41 (n=23).

GSH-Px activity was also significantly higher in practitioners as compared to that in the practitioners. The mean±S.E.M. level of GSH-Px was found to be 5516±415 U/l in case of controls, whereas in practitioners it was found


The health of an individual depends on stress. Stress can be social, psychological, or physical. Increasing evidence suggests that stress, especially oxidative stress, induces DNA damage and contributes to the pathophysiology of several diseases [1]. There are several pathways of stress signaling molecules; of these, the most important examples are HSPs and molecules involved in the oxidative stress pathways. Every individual is exposed to oxidative stress, and there is interindividual

This study was inspired by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. This work was carried out in collaboration with Ved Vigyan Mahavidyapeeth. We acknowledge them for their support and the active participation of Delhi chapter of Art of Living. Financial support was provided by Indian Systems of Medicine and Homeopathy, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India. Ms Himani Sharma is grateful to the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, Government of India, for Senior Research Fellowship.

References (14)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: