Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

Yoga Can Relieve Anxiety and Depression

yoga,lotus.jpgAccording to The Johns Hopkins Winter 2008 Issue of Depression and Anxiety Bulletin:

Low levels of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) have been associated with depression and particularly anxiety, and antidepressants have been shown to increase GABA levels. Now, preliminary research suggests that the regular practice of yoga may be an effective, nonpharmacological way to raise GABA levels and potentially improve anxiety and depression symptoms. 


Researchers recruited eight longtime yoga devotees who practiced twice a week for at least four months and 11 comparison participants. Both groups had a baseline brain scan done. Then the yoga participants performed a one-hour yoga session while the control group read books or magazines [or packed snacks for their kids so they wouldn’t be yelled at] for the same time, and all participants were rescanned immediately after.

The yoga volunteers showed a 27 percent increase in GABA levels compared with baseline, but there was no change among the readers [or snack-packers].

Several previous trials have demonstrated that yoga can reduce anxiety and depression symptoms, but this is the first study to identify a possible mechanism for the effects.


The investigators conclude that yoga may serve as a useful adjunct to standard treatments recommended by your doctor. This research was published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.

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  • CLeo

    I deeply wish I could join a Yoga group or an aerobics group. But the effects of being in the midst of a group of chatty women tights my stomach in a knot.
    I wish I could tune out all the chatter, the lame jokes, the showing off about dinner parties, plays, pricey restaurants, husbands, shopping, grandkids, shopping,etc. but I can’t.
    I go for long walks when is not raining, I need more than that but something stops me from getting into the car and driving to the gym, even after I’ve dressed myself for the session. Gosh how do I wish I could be just like them…but I’m not.

  • Lynne

    Cleo do you really want to be just like them? Underneath all that bling they’re really boring. I’ve worked for a number of them that we refer to as “Dressage Queens”. ( dressage is taken from a french word word that means training-of horses) These people for the most part have more money than brains and nothing else to talk about but their shallow existance. They have their problems believe me! Quite a few of them hide their painful personal struggles behind the mask of affluence. They or their offspring are in and out of AA or therapy or worse! Don’t let the calm exterior fool you or the “stuff” they seem compelled to collect in their efforts to live the american dream. You might be interested to know that some of them would trade it in a heartbeat for a simpler life. They’re financially rich but spiritually bankrupt! I’ve met a few that actually admitted it.There’s a certain pressure that goes with that lifestyle that I would’nt envy one bit. Don’t sell yourself short and keep looking until you find some “real” people to hang out with.

  • Kirsten

    CLoe- One of the main principles of Yoga is to quite the inside. I have been going to Yoga for 7 years and the most noise in a Yoga class is breathing, falling out breaths and an occasional fart. I take it @ a gym that is full of the type of people that you say that you hate to be around, yet wish you were like. That alone is very confussing to me and would depress me. Maybe you should go see what it is really like before you say what you think it is like and therefor not try. I have to also tell you that the people that take yoga are not the people you are speaking of , in fact quite the opposite. Do yourself a huge favor and stop judging and start trying. that alone will improve your mood. And you may find the a path to peace within yourself. I sure did.

  • Ashley

    Yoga has helped me immeasurably! Take your time and be gentle with yourself. If you are more comfortable at home, stay there. (I understand well: sometimes I feel anxious about leaving the house, especially to interact with a new group of people or participate in a new activity.) Start by do a few stretches on your own. Perhaps you could buy/rent a yoga video to try yoga. When (and if) you feel ready to take a class outside the home, look for a yoga studio, not a gym. Try one studio, then another, ’til you find a good fit. In my experience, the right yoga studio is a true sanctuary, filled with peace, quiet, and supportive people.
    Pity, not envy, the ‘dressage queens.’ Those who fill the world around them with noise are the most empty. Remember that no one has it easy, and that heartache, illness, and abuse are equal opportunity conditions. For several years, I lived a similar socialite life. It was grueling and painfully barren. Simplifying my life saved it. I am blessed with a few, very close friends and feel richer in every way.
    You will be in my prayers. May the Lord bless and keep you!

  • Cathy

    I have been going to yoga once or twice a week since January 2007. It’s all I can afford right now. I’m working at it but it’s tough. I now know that one of the biggest problems that Paxil left me with was a depletion of serotonin and, of course, these drugs totally destroy the dopamine. I don’t know how long it takes for the chemicals to balance out after being destroyed by these drugs, but apparently it’s a long time. I was at a very dark point yesterday and there were my suicidal thoughts again (a constant problem post-Paxil and never a problem before Paxil). I was supposed to have yoga and it was canceled yesterday. I really hope as time goes on that yoga starts to help more and more. I made the mistake of trying a GABA booster in SSRI withdrawal and boy did it make things worse.
    The yoga group I’m in is very small and that’s why I like it, and the place it’s in is very nice, a small historic building that just has a very warm feeling to it. I did try one in a regular gym on a free pass and I was a mess by the time I got out of there. More uptight than I went in. Too many people and way too much activity in the rest of the place. A CNS destroyed by anti-depressants doesn’t do well in crowded places. Small talk and chatter I can’t tolerate well. Somehow after you’ve experienced severe akathesia and have to hang onto every thread to not die it all seems so ridiculous to hear what some of these women complain about.
    Right now yoga is not just an activity for me, it’s a lifeline, as is al-anon, my morning walks and a charismatic prayer group I go to, which is quiet, calming and not crazy (as I’ve heard some of them can be). I wish you well in finding a good place to go to. I know they’re out there.

  • Colette Rogers

    I go to a Yoga class once a week and find the class relaxing and energy boosting at the same time. We have a great tutor, who observes what is going on-no chatter in class. Everyone does what they can, and no-one is pushed. Certainly there is no “competition” amongst the class. Aferwards a group of us go to the cafe within the buliding to have a coffee and chat.
    I find this very therapeutic and have a set of friends that I wouldn’t have had. Maybe becuse this is the UK we don’t get the “Dressage Queens” in class.
    Give it a go Chloe, because I think this is exactly what you need in your life. You have pre-judged, and hyped it all up in your mind as to what you are going to encounter. Go once and just see.
    Thinking of you,

  • Ella Wartel

    The exteria of a person looks can be decieving. i know 4 a fact.people think that i’m rich because of the way i dress and carry myself. my mom taught us no matter how you feel, always look your best because when u die thats the last time u will look good.I can talk about where i came from 2 where i am now 2 other people,letting them know that the cross we’re caring now,is nothing compared 2 the cross JESUS carried.I speak in seminars,thats how i make my depression help others.I let them know,stand on a red piece of construction paper thats their red carpet,they are a person of value. i am diagnost with fibromyalgia,bone degeneration,osteo-arthritis,mental disorder ect. there’s no giving up.Seldom seen,but never forgotten:Love Ella

  • Rich Presta

    I work with parents and children who are struggling with anxiety and yoga is a wonderful activity to teach, or even better, to DO WITH your kids! It not only can be instrumental in helping them release the tension that is a precursor to anxiety and panic attacks, but helps them recapture the ability to focus, slow down, and concentrate, which is helpful in school and throughout their lives. Positive and natural complements to therapy like yoga should be a part of any treatment for anxiety, especially child anxiety!
    Rich Presta

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Shane P

    Great article, Yoga works fantastic for anxiety for the calming effect it has on relaxing our minds. These days everything is so fast paced that we simply forget or don’t make time to give our body and mind a little piece from all the things we are thinking of. We need to take time to relax. Good recommendation,

    Shane P.

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