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Yoga Shown to Improve Happiness

Yoga is such a great activity. It is relaxing, improves your flexibility, improves your mind-body connection and certain yoga poses can even improve your strength. Overall, yoga is a fantastic compliment to your other fitness activities, but researchers have found a new benefit to regular yoga sessions: happiness!

That’s right, the regular practice of yoga has been shown to actually improve mood better than walking. We’ve already reported that exercise may be as effective as anti-depressants, but this new research published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine actually shows an association between yoga postures, increased mood and decreased anxiety. Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) compared the neurotransmitter brain gamma-aminobutyric (GABA) levels of those doing yoga with those of participants who spent time walking. Low GABA levels are associated with depression and other anxiety disorders.

The study looked at two randomized groups of healthy individuals over the course of 12 weeks: a yoga group and a walking group. The yoga group practiced yoga three times a week for one hour, while the other group walked for the same amount of time. Researchers scanned both groups’ brains with magnetic resonance spectroscopic (MRS) imaging to see how the two different exercises affected GABA levels. All participants also rated their mood and psychological state throughout the program.

At the end of the study, researchers compared the GABA levels of both groups before and after their final yoga or walking session. Researchers found that, over time, the yoga group’s GABA levels increased. The yoga group also self reported a more significant decrease in anxiety and greater improvements in mood than those who walked, according to the study. Researchers say that more study is needed, but that yoga could possibly be given as a treatment for certain mental disorders.

Do you love yoga? Afraid to try it? Check out our yoga beginner’s tips to get started!

October 7th, 2010

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