Yoga and Your Brain

I came across this article from Angela Wilson at Kripalu on the latest research into how yoga affects our brain and mental health.

yoga changes the brain

“With the steady rise in the number of people practicing yoga in the USA —from 13 million in 2007 to more than 20 million today —researchers have begun to focus their attention on how yoga actually changes the brain. The results echo what many of us experience: Studies show that yoga increases relaxation in the brain, improves areas of the brain that help us manage pain, and protects us against age-related decline. Together, these benefits begin to reveal the scientifically validated effects of yoga practice on brain health.

Yoga Floods the Brain with Relaxation
To investigate why yoga induces feelings of calm and peacefulness, Dr. Chris Streeter and her research team from Boston University set out to discover whether practice helps our brains produce more GABA, a neurotransmitter that increases feelings of relaxation. When we don’t have enough GABA in our brains, we feel anxious or depressed; medications such as Xanax work by upping GABA levels.
To answer this question, the team had one group of subjects do yoga for 60 minutes, while a control group read for an hour. Both groups were scanned in the MRI pre- and post-intervention. Would yoga release more GABA in the brain than reading?
The results were an unequivocal yes. The yoga group had a 27 percent increase in GABA, while the readers had no increase. But to rule out the possibility that any type of physical movement can increase GABA levels, Chris ran a second study, comparing the effects of yoga with those of walking. Again, the yoga practice showed greater changes in GABA levels in the brain. Not surprisingly, the increase in GABA was correlated with self-reports of decreased anxiety.
Studies such as these suggest how yoga might be used as an adjunct treatment to mental-health conditions such as anxiety and depression, and point to how yoga positively impacts the brain.

I love how science shows that mindfulness and the practice of yoga are so good for our health and wellbeing.

38 thoughts on “Yoga and Your Brain

  1. Yoga is just the total package, a meld of mind and body. I love the science back up but even without that, I just know what feels good and yoga does. I have never once practiced and later felt any regret for the experience.

    Liked by 2 people

    • So true Karen … It’s only when we experience it for ourselves that we can appreciate all that a yoga practice offers. I’m hopeful that research will encourage more people to give it a go and explore it for themselves!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I have a yoga mat that rides around in the trunk of my car ever since the only instructor in my town had to retire. This should get me motivated to start again! Thanks, Val, for passing on the information.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The age-related aspect of Yoga jumped off the page at me as “cognitive ageing” has been apparent in this 70-year-old for about a year. Haven’t a clue as to what is entailed in learning (?) Yoga and whether it would be effective at this stage of my life?

    I shall follow the discussions with interest! 😉

    Thanks Val for posting this.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Interesting article, Val. And the results are not surprising to me. I’m practicing mindfulness, but have never tried yoga. I am so inflexible that I’d not get any of the poses right, and would need to be rescued from the floor, I’m sure.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Thanks for sharing this interesting info Val, although I’m not surprised at all to hear this. I have yet to delve into any real form of Yoga aside from the breathing part, but I do practice Qigong regularly (which I realize is quite different, but I group it in a similar family of practice) and I know what a difference it makes in my sense of well-being. 🙂


  6. Val, thank you so much for your feedback to those Yoga places in Grants Pass. I’ll give the two of them that seem preferable to you a call on Monday and see what they offer, and recommend. The power of blogging! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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