“Hard science” says yoga is an anti-depressant!

It’s great news when scientific studies confirm what we already know about yoga.  This just hot off the press, from Boston University’s School of Medicine: yoga improves your mood and decreases your level of anxiety.  Yep!

This scientists who conducted this studied repeatedly tested the levels of a brain chemical called “GABA” in two groups of people – a group that did 1 hour of yoga 3 times per week, and a group that walked for 1 hour 3 times per week.  Increased levels of GABA in the brain are “associated with increased mood and decreased anxiety.”  The yoga group reported being in a better mood when tested, and their GABA levels were higher.  The walkers reported no change in mood, and their GABA levels remained unchanged. Incidentally, anti-depressant medications also increase GABA levels…which means that, according to this study, yoga acts like an anti-depressant!  (Only, it’s a natural one, and one that is cheaper, cleaner, and has fewer side effects than Prozac.) And the other great news is that the folks in this study weren’t even experienced yogis – they were complete beginners.

But, of course, every practicing yogi could have already told you that.

It’s funny how even those of us who consider ourselves to be open-minded and receptive to non-empirical versions of truth (e.g. those that don’t require the scientific method) can still get excited when the hard cold data backs up what we feel to be real in our guts.  I haven’t doubted for a minute that yoga improves my mood since the day I committed to my asana practice.  Yet I see this article and my heart leaps.  Yes, I was right!  I can tell my skeptical students about this and they’ll have some non-groovy, impartial evidence to rely on when they assess the effectiveness of yoga for them!  Yahoo!

And that helps.  We’ll take all the support we can get.  But ultimately, it’s the personal experience that matters.  That is, in fact, one of the fundamental tenets of yoga that I most appreciate.  The experience is everything.  No one asks me to “take it on faith” or to believe in something I can’t see or feel.  I put myself into postures and listen.  And feel. And then decide.

But yes, I sure do like it when my experiences are backed up….!


~ by bridgetannlyons on February 6, 2011.

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