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.

Luminous Connections of the Koshas – A Pathway to Health & Wellness

Yoga invites us to pay attention to the many luminous connections that exist within the five dimensions of our being; body, breath, mind, spirit and bliss.  These five dimensions are known in yoga as the Five Koshas or sheath bodies; Annamaya Kosha, Pranamaya Kosha, Manomaya Kosha, Vijnanamaya Kosha and the Anandamaya Kosha.   It’s through this exploration of Koshas, that we experience the true holistic power of yoga and healing.   

From the moment we step onto the mat, we given an opportunity to notice the luminous connections of our self to the space and others around us.  Our journey begins with Annamaya Kosha, the physical body.  The Annamaya Kosha is comprised of all our physical systems; skeletal, circulatory, nervous, respiratory, endocrine, digestive, etc. and incorporates the Ayurvedic constitutions of our body.  It is also the “seen” body and gives us our physical qualities.  In the west,  it is our most familiar sheath, the one that initially encouraged each of us to step into yoga.  But yoga is beyond just the physical fitness aspect that many of us first explore.  It’s a pathway toward wellness and wholeness.   

Take a moment now to sense the space below you, the foundation that supports you and then bring awareness to the space above you.  Find yourself rooted and anchored in the center of these two planes.  Notice how the body is suspended or held in this space.  Then, begin to pay attention to the beautiful connection between the base of the spine and the top of your skull, the perineum and the heart, the heart and the throat, the throat and the forehead and the forehead and crown of the head .  Allow each of these centers to offer you an opportunity to drop into body awareness, to sense and feel from within the relationship of these connections.  This inner awareness invites us to explore our body and become more in-tune with each sensation and feeling.   Notice if you sense yourself floating towards the space above you, or sinking into the space below you.  Can you sense if your body has a beginning point, or perhaps and end point, or do no points exist at all?  Begin to sense if the body feels heavy and weighted or light and airy, strong or weak, flexible or stiff, comfortable in the space it occupies or seeking relief and movement into another position.

Body awareness is one method to explore your Annamaya/physical body.  Other strategies include yoga asana, postures, healthy diet, somatic movement, rest, and relaxation.    Through this awareness we awaken the physical body in preparation to receive the other dimensions of our being.  Ultimately we seek to bring all Five Koshas into balance.  To learn more about integration of your Five Koshas to achieve optimal wellness, consider private yoga therapy, where you will Discover Yoga as a Healing Art, not just fitness.  Move, Breathe, Think, Seek and Enjoy a better space in your life.

NamasteWorks Yoga and Wellness is located in a private in-home studio, in Highlands Ranch, CO 80129. 303.725.1434.  We are not a walk-in studio, rather a private space – A Place to Discover Yoga as a Healing Art.  Visit us at www.namasteworksyoga.com.  Nancy Levenson is a 1000 HR Integrative Yoga Therapy Therapist, and certified Ayuryoga and Restorative Yoga Instructor. 

Blooming Through Yoga Therapy

And then the day came
when the risk to remain
tight in a bud was
more painful than the
risk to bloom. -Anais Nin

Blooming Through Yoga Therapy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Open to your own fears today, take a risk and peel back one petal at a time, before you know it, the fear will turn into strength.  At NamasteWorks Yoga + Wellness we work with you to peel back one petal at a time.  We offer private sessions and workshops on the innerself.  Our therapeutic yoga focuses on your overall well being and places equal emphasis on your physical, energetic, emotional and spiritual dimensions – using our foundational model, known as the 5 Kosha System.  This system is enhanced with many other tools and models including the 5 Elements, 5 Pranavayus, 8 Limbs, 5 Kleshas, 7 Chakras, Joint Freeing, Ayruyoga, and the functioning of the Systems of the Body all in an effort to help you peel back what is holding you tight in a bud.

In addition to working privately with us, we offer some amazing workshops this fall including; The Circle of Self – an exploration of inner self using yoga and art, The Joyful Warrior – Moving   from Depression to Joy, or stepping onto the mat for our Restorative Yoga – Relax, Renew and Rejuvenate with a gentle yoga for your entire being.

NamasteWorks Yoga + Wellness, 5860 S. Curtice St., Littleton, CO 80120. We are not a walk-in studio, and offer private group classes, individual sessions and workshops for our clients. Also offering 200HR Integrative Yoga Therapy Teacher Training and Free Yoga in the Park – Highlands Ranch.  All classes require a RSVP. www.namasteworksyoga.com – A Place to Discover Yoga as a Healing Art.