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Yoga May Help Treat Depression and Anxiety Disorders

Posted: June 8, 2007

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In the study, the Boston researchers used high-tech magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging to gauge levels of GABA in the brains of eight long-time yoga practitioners and 11 non-practitioners. The participants were healthy, and none was diagnosed with a major psychiatric condition.

Brain scans were taken before the beginning of the experiment. Then, the yoga group was asked to engage in the meditative practice for 60 minutes, while the non-yoga group simply read. The researchers then re-scanned each participant's brain, looking specifically at GABA levels.

"We showed a 27 percent increase in the brain GABA levels of those doing yoga -- a really significant increase," Streeter said. No such change was noted in the non-practitioners who had just read.

She said the style or school of yoga practiced didn't seem to matter. "We had hatha, ashtanga, bikram, vinyasa, and kripalu" practitioners included in the yoga group, Streeter said, "and many had been trained in several different schools."

According to Streeter, "this all gives us one of the mechanisms by which yoga may be having a beneficial effect. There could be other mechanisms."