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Yoga For the Mind

Yoga is a mind-body exercise effective for reducing stress, anxiety and depression and improving brain function and mental health. Yoga is a practice of poses and breathing techniques designed to strengthen and balance the body and the mind.

Why the sudden explosion of interest in this 5,000-year-old practice? It could be because of the many proven general health benefits of yoga —improved strength and flexibility, weight loss, and management of pain and chronic illnesses. But quite possibly, the interest in yoga is due more to its mental health benefits since its meteoric rise in popularity coincides with skyrocketing rates of stress, anxiety, insomnia, depression, and other common mood disorders. Many people start a yoga practice for stress relief or physical health benefits, but they stay with yoga for emotional or spiritual reasons.

Yoga for Anxiety 

All kinds of physical exercise reduce stress, but yoga may be one of the best. Yoga modulates perceived stress and anxiety by slowing down rapid breathing and heart rates, lowering high blood pressure, and increasing heart rate variability. Exercise of all kinds increases “feel good” neurotransmitters but yoga stands out as a proven GABA booster. GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) is one of your main inhibitory neurotransmitters. It puts the brakes on brain activity, enabling you to relax. When you are low in GABA, your brain gets stuck in the “on” position — it’s like driving a car with a brick on the accelerator and no brakes. This understandably can leave you feeling anxious, overwhelmed, and overstimulated. Just a single one-hour session of yoga can increase GABA levels by 27%. Click here for more on yoga for anxiety

Yoga for Depression

Numerous studies have shown yoga to benefit those experiencing depression. Studies have found that 20 sessions of yoga led to an elevation of mood and reduction of anxiety. Other studies with young adults experiencing mild depression found that biweekly yoga classes resulted in improved mood and reduced anxiety and fatigue.  Yoga compares favourably in its effects to other mind-body techniques. When compared to visualisation and breathing exercises, those who practiced yoga felt more alert, energetic, and had a more positive mood. The increase in GABA from yoga helps ease the symptoms of depression. Yoga increases levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that acts like fertiliser for the brain, stimulating the formation of new brain cells and acts as a natural antidepressant. 

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