Anxiety can be a debilitating condition that can wreak havoc on your life. But there’s an ancient way of reducing anxiety attacks that has been shown to work wonders.
That amazing ancient practice of yoga certainly goes straight to the mind. A brand new study has figured out just how it improves a person’s mood and anxiety — which it does, to a much greater extent than walking or other forms of exercise, the researchers say.
It may have to do with the brain chemical gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). Yoga has been shown to increase the level of GABA, which is a chemical that helps 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.
Well, yoga could do so naturally, it seems, without drug intervention. The results are published in the new issue of “The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.”
Tying all of these observations together, Boston University researchers showed that higher GABA levels measured after a session of yoga postures are linked directly with improved mood and decreased anxiety.
This helps establish a new link between yoga, higher levels of GABA in the “thalamus” region of the brain, and improvements in mood and anxiety based on psychological assessments. They believe that yoga stimulates specific brain areas, thereby changing antidepressant neurotransmitters such as GABA.
It’s a result that medical science is slowly coming around to understanding. But it is a result that highly trained practitioners of yoga therapy throughout the world see each and every day. There is a reason that yoga is as popular as it is now — people in modern society feel better about themselves after a yoga session, much as they must have thousands of years ago in India, where yoga was born.
Yoga has many incarnations in society now, such as the “hot” and “power” varieties, but its overall purpose is to lift the mind to a higher state. It is exercise that does work muscle groups, but it is principally meant to be closer to meditation. It’s an avenue for peace in what is for many people a hectic everyday life.
While the results of this study require longer-term studies to further investigate the findings, there is no harm in trying yoga to the best of one’s abilities. It may take a while, but at some point you’re likely to experience an “a-ha” moment where you feel its mood-lifting abilities.