It is known that yoga helps reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety and epilepsy. Drug therapy of these disorders is often done with drugs that stimulate GABA, a key neurotransmitter braking. Past work has shown that after a yoga GABA levels in the brain increased by an average of 27 percentage points, but still it was unclear what exactly leads to the result: yoga or General physical activity.
In the new work, scientists from the school of medicine, Boston University and other institutions conducted an experiment with 34 volunteers aged 18-45 years who have never practiced yoga, at least in the last three months and had no neuropsychiatric syndromes. All subjects underwent psychological testing of current level of anxiety and mood disorders, after which they were divided into two groups. One group for 12 weeks participated in three 60-minute sessions of Iyengar yoga in a week: the first four weeks under the supervision of an instructor, then alone. The control group performed the same amount of walking with a speed of 2.5 kilometers per hour.
The levels of GABA, the authors were assessed using magnetic resonance spectroscopy (Mrs): the survey was conducted before the experiment, after 12 weeks and immediately after the extra session of yoga or Hiking. The analysis showed that after the completion of the experiment, the group that practiced yoga improved all the “positive” (level tone, the quality of interpersonal interaction, tranquility) and decreased negative (anxiety, burnout) psychological performance in comparison with the control group.
The scanning of the white and gray matter showed no significant changes in the tonic level of GABA in both groups, but in the thalamus of volunteers who practiced yoga after the sessions were recorded a sharp increase in the neurotransmitter. With the sharp rise in GABA in the thalamus correlated improved mood and decreased anxiety in the experimental group.
According to the authors, the findings suggest that yoga can be used as an adjuvant in the treatment of depressive and anxiety disorders. It is noteworthy that in the experiment involved a certain type of Hatha yoga. The focus of Iyengar yoga is on precision of body position on supports detailing and strict coherence of asanas with breath control. Scientists do not exclude that specific breathing exercise is strongly associated with a positive effect of yoga on mental health.