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Yoga improves mood, reduces anxiety and depression

Thursday, November 07, 2013 by: Nanditha Ram
Tags: yoga, improved mood, anxiety treatment

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(NaturalNews) Modern-day yoga practice has been relegated to an exercise form for feeling good and boosting energy levels while losing weight. This simplistic approach, while offering a partial truth, negates the vast and deep implications of an ancient mind-body science on the health of the practitioner. Modern medicine is finally waking up to the fact that techniques in yoga are possible solutions to health issues in an all encompassing way, and not by separating the body and mind as two entities at odds with one another. It is also acknowledging the fact that yoga can heal what drugs may not be able to, and studies have been conducted to pinpoint the exact effects of yoga on certain illnesses.

Yoga: the perfect antidote to anxiety and mood disorders

As a form of exercise, yoga impacts mood and anxiety. It is supposedly more impactive than walking or other forms of exercise, because the brain responds to yoga by producing more of the chemical GABA, according to an article published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. GABA, or gamma-aminobutyric acid, is a chemical that regulates nerve activity. People who suffer mood and anxiety disorders may have a lower level of GABA production, and prescription drugs are meant to boost GABA levels in the blood in order to reverse anxiety or regulate mood. A study conducted by Boston University School of Medicine concluded that increased GABA production after a yoga session was the reason behind improved mood and lowered anxiety levels. This finding establishes that yoga increases GABA levels in the hypothalamus, which leads to improved mood and reduced anxiety. The study suggests that yoga practice stimulates specific areas in the brain, thereby creating the ideal inner environment for the endogenous antidepressant neurotransmitter GABA to be released.

Yet another study looked into the effects of yoga versus walking on mood and anxiety. The study followed healthy individuals in two randomized groups over 12 weeks. One group did three hours of yoga weekly, while the other group walked for the same amount of time. At the beginning of the study, participants' brains were scanned using magnetic resonance spectroscopy. At the end of the 12-week program, researchers investigated into GABA levels of both groups before and after their final one-hour session. Every member of each group was asked to assess their psychological state at various points during the study. Subjects who practiced yoga reported a marked improvement in mood and decrease in levels of anxiety, much more so than the members of the walking group. It was noted that the steady increase in GABA levels over time created a shift in the overall state of mental health and wellness with regard to mood and anxiety. It has since been suggested that yoga be used as therapy for similar mind-body disorders.

Yoga cultivates mindful awareness

One of the reasons why yoga is so effective as a mood enhancer could be due to the fact that it cultivates awareness. There is a definite meeting of mind and body during a session on the mat. It develops mindfulness and takes the practitioner close to their body-mind in unique ways. It wakes up the body and wakes the mind up to the body. It creates links, opens pathways and releases brain chemicals, relaxing emotions and muscles and setting up a powerful inner space for healing in its truest sense.





THE JOURNAL OF ALTERNATIVE AND COMPLEMENTARY MEDICINE Volume 13, Number 4, 2007, pp. 419-426 c Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. DOI: 10.1089/acm.2007.6338

About the author:
Nanditha Prasad Ram is a consumer and health journalist and a practicing holistic therapist.
Her blog is available at http://www.bindumandalayoga.blogspot.in

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