Yoga And The Brain: A Possible Explanation For Yoga's Stress-Busting Effects

This Is Your Brain On Yoga

The health benefits of yoga are far-reaching, with studies demonstrating its effects on easing chronic back pain, aiding sleep and relieving menopausal symptoms, as well as its intriguing role in helping the mind, by bettering mood and taming stress.

A new look at the research, published in the journal Medical Hypotheses, sheds light on just how yoga might have such benefits for the brain.

"Western and Eastern medicine complement one another. Yoga is known to improve stress-related nervous system imbalances," study researcher Dr. Chris Streeter, M.D., associate professor of psychiatry at BUSM and Boston Medical Center, said in a statement. "This paper provides a theory, based on neurophysiology and neuroanatomy, to understand how yoga helps patients feel better by relieving symptoms in many common disorders."

Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine, New York Medical College and the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons hypothesized that there are certain imbalances in the brain when a person has depression or stress-related conditions. Such imbalances include low activity of something called gamma amino-butyric acid (GABA); low activity of GABA is linked with epilepsy, chronic pain, depression, anxiety and PTSD, researchers said.

The researchers hypothesized that yoga works to increase the activity of GABA, "resulting in amelioration of disease symptoms," they wrote.

"This has far-reaching implications for the integration of yoga-based practices in the treatment of a broad array of disorders exacerbated by stress," the researchers wrote in the study.

Earlier this year, a study published in The Journal of Behavioral Health Services and Research showed that yoga seemed protective/preventive for secondary school students when it came to controlling anger and feeling fatigue.

The researchers of that study wrote that the finding showed yoga has "the potential of playing a protective or preventive role in maintaining mental health."

Want to try yoga, but not sure where to start? Here's what to expect at your first yoga class:

Pre-Class Etiquette

What To Expect At Your First Yoga Class

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Before You Go


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