Try This Mantra: So What? So Hum.
Learning the stress-relieving Sudarshan Kriya from Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Courtesy of Art of Living
The only life-management tools you need, says happiness guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, are ‘So what?’ and ‘So Hum.’
When situations get you down, try asking yourself “So what?” If that doesn’t make things better, try “So hum” — a mantra that accompanies the breath-based meditation technique, Sudarshan Kriya.
His Holiness, and founder of Art of Living, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar discovered the Sudarshan Kriya in 1981 during an extended period of silence. This breath work aims to bring peace, happiness, and lasting relief from depression and anxiety to millions of practitioners around the world and is backed by dozens of scientific studies.
"To kick a ball skillfully you need a coach, to learn swimming you need a coach, and to move to a place where you are unshakably happy, you definitely need a coach. Tools such as Sudarshan Kriya help you let go of stress and become solid and strong from within,” says Sri Sri.
Thousands have gathered across the U.S. this summer to learn the short form of the Sudarshan Kriya and accompanied breathing practice (collectively referred to as SKY) through Art of Living’s two-day Get Happy program.
Under the guidance of Art of Living teachers, the participants and I created the sound of the ocean during a three-stage pranayama using an Ujjayi breath, and then we raised and lowered our arms for Bhasktrika (bellows breath). These breathing practices helped calm the body and nervous system, preparing each of us for the Sudarshan Kriya which would re-harmonize our internal rhythms with the natural rhythm of life.
Sri Sri said that when we’re children, this internal rhythm effortlessly maintains a balance of highs and lows (and therefore a rhythmic shift in emotion) but through the process of aging and cultural conditioning, our rhythms get out of whack.
During the Get Happy program, we followed along to Sri Sri’s voice as he instructed when to inhale and when to exhale, paired with the So Hum mantra. Varied breath speeds and patterns were used, but no fancy techniques had to be perfected, and no yoga experience was required.
After the Short Kriya was complete, everyone was asked to lie on their backs or find a comfortable relaxation position to fully experience the range of sensations and emotions that may be present in our bodies and minds. On Day 1 of the two-day program, there were many moments where the entire room burst into rich belly laughter. On Day 2, it was silent. The energy had obviously shifted as the occasional tears and sniffles replaced the sound of exploding joy from the prior evening.
Senior Art of Living teachers explained that our experience of SKY is constantly changing, fluctuating from one day to the next. Our experience with it depends on the state of our nervous system at the moment before we practice. For me personally, I felt tingling sensations through my chest and arms, spaciousness in my belly, and varied emotions like agitation and sadness to joy and giddiness.
It is Sri Sri’s mission to spread happiness and peace throughout the world, and he believes that the only way this can be done is through finding the content space of stillness within us, and then uniting people. Art of Living is now teaching the Sudarshan Kriya and other transformational practices in 155 countries.
Take the 5-day Happiness program for instruction in both the short and long-form Sudarshan Kriya, or try the shorter Get Happy program for an introduction to the process. For more information, check out Art of Living's happiness programs here.
And, the next time life gets you down, try asking ‘So what?’ and if that doesn't work, explore ‘So Hum’ and let us know how you feel.