Yoga, a new research study suggests, has a greater positive effect on a person's mood and anxiety level than walking and other forms of exercise. This may be attributed, the study concludes, to the higher levels of the brain chemical GABA.
GABA, gamma-aminobutyric acid, is a chemical in the brain that helps to regulate nerve activity.
GABA activity is reduced in people with mood and anxiety disorders but yoga has been shown to increase the levels of the chemical.
Observing all of these observations together, the study by Chris Streeter from Boston University School of Medicine (Massachusetts) and colleagues demonstrated that increased GABA levels measured after a session of yoga postures are associated with improved mood and decreased anxiety.
The authors suggest that the practice of yoga stimulates specific brain areas, thereby giving rise to changes in endogenous antidepressant neurotransmitters such as GABA.
"This is important work that establishes some objective bases for the effects that highly trained practitioners of yoga therapy throughout the world see on a daily basis. What is important now is that these findings are further investigated in long-term studies to establish just how sustainable such changes can be in the search for safe non-drug treatments for depression," said Kim A. Jobst, Editor-in-Chief of The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, in which the study is published.