New research suggests yoga triggers the release of the brain chemical gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA. GABA is a chemical in the brain that helps to regulate nerve activity.

GABA activity is reduced in people with mood and anxiety disorders, and drugs that increase GABA activity are commonly prescribed to improve mood and decrease anxiety.

A study, led by Dr. Chris Streeter and colleagues from Boston University School of Medicine, discovered increased GABA levels measured after a session of yoga postures were associated with improved mood and decreased anxiety.

Their findings establish a new link between yoga, higher levels of GABA in the thalamus, and improvements in mood and anxiety based on psychological assessments.

The authors suggest that the practice of yoga stimulates specific brain areas, thereby giving rise to changes in endogenous antidepressant neurotransmitters such as GABA.

The scientist report their findings in an article in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.

“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,” says Kim A. Jobst, editor-in-chief of the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.

Source: Mary Ann Liebert