freelance journalist, print journalist, online journalist, copywriter, content editor, freelance editor, health and lifestyle, blogger Yoga for better mood… Not that old chestnut again? | Christine Morgan - Journalist
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It’s such a cliché, isn’t it? Recommending yoga as a mood elevator and therapy to help relieve anxiety, that is. If I had a penny for every magazine article I’d read that lists yoga as a means of destressing and fighting depression – and everything in between – I’d probably have enough cash to travel to India and study with a bone fide yogi. It’s such a tired suggestion, and I for one am bored, bored, bored of reading about how sitting in a yoga pose can make you happy.

But wait, all that puff and fluff could have something going for it. According to researchers from Boston University School of Medicine, yoga could well be the holy grail of mood boosters. Writing in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, the researchers suggest there really is a link between yoga and mood, and it’s all to do with increased GABA levels.

GABA what, you may be wondering? Gamma-aminobutyric acid – to give it its fully spelled-out name – is a brain chemical (or neurotransmitter, if you want to be more precise). If your GABA levels are too low, you may suffer from one or more symptoms including anxiety, depression and irritability.

So back to the study. The researchers compared two groups – people who did yoga three times a week, and people who went on a hour’s walk three times a week. After 12 weeks,the yoga group reported greater improvement in mood and greater decreasing in anxiety than the walking group, plus brain scans showed the yoga group also had changes in their GABA levels that correlated with the changes in their moods.

Now I can’t get to the bottom of exactly how much more elevated the yoga group’s GABA levels were compared to the walkers’ GABA levels – I have seen the published study and it doesn’t really say much about it, perhaps one of the researchers who worked on the study could enlighten me? But they do say that further studies are warranted, so I guess more could be to come on this subject.

So in future maybe I won’t be so unimpressed when a magazine suggests yoga for rising stress levels, worry about the economy, or feeling depressed about, well, pick your subject. Off into the lotus position I merrily go then…