Effects of Yoga Versus Walking on Mood, Anxiety, and Brain GABA Levels

by:  Nancy Levenson

Just as yoga has many faces; Integrative Yoga Therapy, Birkram, Iyengar, Ashtanga, etc., depression too has many faces; minor, clinical, severe, seasonal and, episodic.  In a study published in 2010 in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, researchers set out to determine if the effects of yoga could increase GABA (gamma-amino butyric acid) levels of the brain, enhance mood and reduce anxiety of the participants.

GABA is a major neurotransmitter and regulator of our nervous system. The nervous system governs the activities of our body and is responsible for the voluntary conscious and automatic non-conscious activity.  GABA’s role is in the nervous system is to work as an antagonist, firing neurons that block chemicals and induce calming effect.  GABA can be said to support the nervous systems – parasympathetic system, that system of the body responsible for inducing relaxation.

During this research study of a yoga and control group,  the team measured  GABA levels before and after practicing yoga and found that GABA levels had risen by an average 27%.  Mood levels were improved and anxiety lessened in the participants. This led to their conclusion that yoga was an ideal protocol for treating anxiety and depression.  Read the entire research study here.

In my yoga therapy practice, I offer clients one-on-one movement based on their initial health and wellness.  Not every client experiences depression or anxiety in the same way.  In some cases, a client experiencing hyper related symptoms will be guided through a Langhana practice to support their healing, while a client with hypo conditions may undertake a more Brahmana practice.  In both cases, clients participate in a holistic approach to their healing that includes movement, breathing exercises, energy movement, emotional healing, meditation, and lifestyle awareness and tools.  Supporting your healing with the right type of yoga is as important as choosing the right medication and dosage.

Joyful Warrior - NamasteWorksWe also offer an annual program, The Joyful Warrior – bringing more joy into your life through yoga.  This program is offered in a small group setting for a six week period to help clients lift their mood, create movement and share with one another.

NamasteWorks Yoga + Wellness is The Place to Discover Yoga as a Healing Art.  We offer specialized private yoga therapy programs, classes, trainings, workshops and retreats – with healing at the focus.  We serve clients suffering with anxiety, depression, stress, structural issues and respiratory and digestive diseases that seek wellness.  We custom tailor each client’s wellness program based on a vision of health as a unity of body, mind and spirit.

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