Richard G. Petty, MD

Using Yoga: Some Measurable Effects in People with Alcohol Dependence

I was very interested to see a quite well designed pilot study which seems to show some clear antidepressant and hormonal effects (reduction in cortisol and increase in prolactin levels) in alcohol dependent individuals who could be persuaded to practice something called Sudarshana Kriya Yoga (SKY). This technique involves rhythmic hyperventilation at different rates.

Studies like this are difficult to perform, and this one was not perfect. It only involved males, and the study will inevitably be skewed by the kinds of people participating. The study involved quite a bit of time, and so the subjects had to be motivated. Some people still dropped out of the study, and their data should have been included in the analysis. They also had more than just the breathing exercises: they got a whole treatment package. It will be interesting to see how long the effects last. We’re always interested to see how many people remain abstinent at one year.

One of the odd things was that the investigators measured the hormone prolactin. It is so named because its primary role is to promote lactation. It has at least 300 hundred other functions in the human body, and has at least ten major control systems. It is a little surprising that it should rise, since it normally goes up when people are stressed. However, I might have an explanation. As far as I can see, the techniques used in the study are pretty straightforward yogic pranayama. Hyperventilation slightly alkalinizes the blood. That would change the rate of firing in the reticular activating system of the brain stem, and could of itself be responsible for the elevated prolactin levels. Had I been designing the study, I would have measured arterial pH: it would have helped answer several questions.

Though not perfect, this study is a good piece of pilot data, and should stimulate further research into the use of these techniques for helping a very difficult problem.

I was interested to find out more about the technique. SKY was devised by a spiritual guru – Sri Sri Ravi Shankar – of the Art of Living Foundation in Bangalore, India. He has established a Foundation that seems to be engaged in a number of charitable activities. I have known a great many spiritual teachers; each has been criticized and controversial, and Shankar is no exception. I’m not in a position to judge whether or not it is justified.

All that I can say for now is that he has devised a technique rooted in the Indian classics, that seems to help some selected patients with an otherwise tough problem. And that is a good start.

About Richard G. Petty, MD
Dr. Richard G. Petty, MD is a world-renowned authority on the brain, and his revolutionary work on human energy systems has been acclaimed around the globe. He is also an accredited specialist in internal and metabolic medicine, endocrinology, psychiatry, acupuncture and homeopathy. He has been an innovator and leader of the human potential movement for over thirty years and is also an active researcher, teacher, writer, professional speaker and broadcaster. He is the author of five books, including the groundbreaking and best selling CD series Healing, Meaning and Purpose. He has taught in over 45 countries and 48 states in the last ten years, but spends as much time as possible on his horse farm in Georgia.

Speak Your Mind

Tell us what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!

logo logo logo logo logo logo