It is not a new idea that yoga can alleviate and even eliminate tension in one’s life. People have been practicing yoga training for thousands of years. Some devote their entire lives to their practice. It is no wonder these days that people seem more stressed, and that more people are seeking out medications and other ways to feel more energized and happy. In an age of long work hours, technology leaving us hypnotized, and a culture of bad dieters, it is especially important to make sure that some time is set aside to let it all go, center ourselves, and move beyond the stress in our lives.
It has been suggested that a regular, dedicated asana practice can cause an individual’s brain to almost “rewire” itself; the mind is staying calm and focused while the body is experience stress from holding a pose, and subsequently, ones response to stress is changed. With all the new ways to study the brain and map out neurotransmitter activity during human activity, there have been many interesting studies done that are proving what we have known all along; a regular yoga practice can transform one’s life and help reduce pain and anxiety.
In one study done by researchers in 2007 at the Boston University School of Medicine Division of Psychiatry, where people were asked to complete a one-hour yoga training session and then read for the same amount of time. Magnetic resonance spectroscope imaging revealed a 27% increase in GABA levels after the yoga session. However, there was no increase in GABA levels after the reading.
This is but one revealing study done at Boston University that reveals how much the ancient method can do for GABA levels. GABA or gamma-amino butyric acid is an amino acid and an inhibitory neurotransmitter (it blocks nerve impulses), keeping things calm. People with low levels of GABA tend to be more depressed or anxious. One recent study in 2010 compared those who practiced to those who walked, getting similar results, elevated GABA levels and elevated moods.
Serotonin is another neurotransmitter, which can become depleted by chronic stress and has also been shown in many studies to increase specifically during yoga practice. Developing a routine combining some soothing Hatha yoga asanas or any other gentle stretching and movement with a pranayama practice will no doubt aid in shedding the woes of the day or in creating a strong individual to start the day.
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