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Yoga can be just as good for the brain

Depressed? Anxious? Yoga might help.

Depressed? Anxious? Yoga might help.


A new study in Boston has found that yoga helps to improve mood more than walking does.


“Yoga has been shown to be helpful in a number of diseases associated with lifestyle choices, such as high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, cancer, low back pain as well as depression and anxiety,” says Dr. Chris Streeter from the division of psychiatry at Boston University school of medicine.


Streeter and his colleagues completed a study involving 34 healthy people, who were divided into two groups. Nineteen of the subjects did yoga and the other 15 walked.


The yoga group received instruction on yoga poses for four weeks and then continued practising yoga regularly at home for another eight weeks.


The walkers walked for an hour three times a week for 12 weeks.


At the end of the study, scientists measured mood and anxiety in all subjects, and found that those who had been doing yoga had bigger improvements in mood than those who walked.


Researchers also measured levels of a neurotransmitter in the brain called GABA. Low levels of GABA have been associated with depression and anxiety. In the study, yoga bumped up levels of GABA more than walking did.


Although Streeter does not recommend people on anti-depressants stop taking their meds in favour of yoga, he does think yoga is a useful add-on.


“This study is important because it provided evidence that the practice of yoga is associated with chemical changes in the brain that are consistent with the changes seen when people are treated with anti-depressants.”


He also added: “All forms of exercise can be beneficial. The key is to do it.”


The study was published in November in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.

 
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