Written by Ritu Aneja, Ph.D.

In October, the UAB School of Health Professions brought the Sudarshan Kriya Yoga (SKY) Campus Happiness meditation program to the university for two three-day sessions with Shyam Gannavaram, Ph.D.,, a certified SKY instructor. These sessions taught more than 90 participants meditation and breathing techniques that can be used to de-stress anytime, anywhere—an increasingly important skill in a stressful, sometimes frightening world. As Ritu Aneja, Ph.D., associate dean in the SHP Office of Research and Innovation, explained, “It seemed as if stress and anxiety have been our baseline feeling lately, and we wanted to change that.”

Participants’ feedback on the nine-hour program was overwhelmingly positive. They felt that the techniques they learned would help them deal with the challenges of school and work, saying that the program as a whole would be a valuable resource for the UAB community and should be continued. As one person said, “I would recommend doing it. I also appreciate that the UAB valued this enough to offer it at no cost.”

When asked, “What was your experience of the SKY Retreat?” participants said, “Amazing! The instructor was knowledgeable, patient and kind. The course flows really smoothly, and by the end you will feel empowered to continue the practice on your own.” “Wonderful; I found a new sense of calm and good emotion that I have not felt in a long time.” “Very helpful and useful! I plan on using the skills and practices I learned daily and believe it will help me improve my sleep, reduce my stress, as well as improve my overall mental and physical health.”

When asked “What would you say to someone considering attending the SKY Retreat?” participants said: “SKY is a gift you give yourself and one that you can continue to give yourself every day. The benefits of a calm mind are innumerable.” “I feel that I am leaving a 9 hour commitment of time with a lifetime commitment to being more present, healthy, non-judgmental, and happy.” “You will feel like a different person, clearer and more focused.”

Briefer breathing and meditation breaks were offered by Gannavaram during the Wellness Week. Members of the National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD), Disability Support Services (DSS) and UAB Arts in Medicine (AIM) attended a one-hour SKY breath and meditation program offered on Zoom and in person at the Lakeshore Foundation. He also led an hour-long Breakfast, Breath and Meditation session during Wellness Week, open to students, faculty and staff, at the Hill Student Center. The breakfast was sponsored by the UAB Department of Family & Community Medicine, Disability Support Services, Graduate School, Honors College, INTO UAB, International Student and Scholar Services, School of Health Professions, School of Public Health, Student Counseling Services, Student Multicultural & Diversity Programs and UAB Visual and Performing Arts.

This evidence-based program, whose positive effects have been documented by more than 100 research studies, was so well received by participants that the School of Health Professions plans to bring it back to campus for students, faculty, and staff in the spring of 2023. A team of SHP researchers is also actively planning a SKY research study in the Summer/Fall of 2023. If you are interested in participating in future SKY programming, please email Nicole DeShazo. Any interested researchers should contact Aneja at raneja@uab.edu.