Yoga may be superior to other forms of exercise in its positive effect on mood and anxiety, according to a new Boston University School of Medicine study.
Chris Streeter, M.D., an associate professor of psychiatry and neurology and colleagues set out to contrast the brain gamma-aminobutyric (GABA) levels of yoga practitioners with those who spent time walking. Low GABA levels are associated with anxiety disorders and depression.
The findings, which appear online in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, are the first to demonstrate an association between yoga postures, increased GABA levels and decreased anxiety.
The researchers followed two groups of healthy individuals over a 12-week period. One group practiced yoga three times a week for one hour, while the other group walked for the same period of time. Using MRS imaging, the participants’ brains were scanned before the study began and again at week 12 to compare the GABA levels of both groups.
Those who practiced yoga reported a significant decrease in anxiety and greater improvements in mood compared to those who walked. “Over time, positive changes in these reports were associated with climbing GABA levels,” says Streeter.
The study findings suggest that the practice of yoga could be considered as a potential therapy for certain mental disorders. Health benefits of yoga include:
• Improved posture.
• Reduced blood pressure.
• Better muscle tone.
• Greater flexibility.
In addition to lowering levels of anxiety and depression, regular yoga practice can reduce stress and aid in weight management. Yoga exercises are effective in increasing energy and revitalizing the mind and body.
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