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Study: Yoga may help boost your mood

February 17, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
How do you boost your mood when you're feeling down? By eating ice cream or working out? Turns out a better approach might be to use a yoga mat.

Yoga instructors will tell you meditation in motion is true happiness. Now, work in the lab shows that work on the mat may be working wonders for your brain.

"We have really cutting-edge neuro-imaging that allows us to measure GABA in the brain," said Dr. Chris Streeter, MD, assistant professor of neurology at Boston University School of Medicine. "So now we can actually measure a chemical that goes up when people do a yoga practice."

GABA is a chemical in your brain released when you're happy. Brain scans snapped before and after yoga sessions show yoga stimulates the brain, boosting mood while decreasing anxiety.

A new study found those who did yoga three times per week saw a consistent increase in GABA levels. Those who simply walked for exercise saw no change at all. Another study found an hour of yoga boosted GABA levels 27 percent over relaxing with a book for an hour.

"That information gets sent up to the brain, and the brain uses that information so that the GABA levels go up," said Streeter.

So, it turns out yoga's mind-body connection really is a connection. That's good news for yoga's 30 million followers.

According to this research, yoga may also be beneficial for conditions like depression and epilepsy.