Richard G. Petty, MD

Yoga and the Brain

Depression and anxiety are increasingly common throughout the world, and although each may be a consequence of psychological and environmental stresses, there is also a genetic predisposition and an increasing number of reproducible disturbances in the brain.

In recent years, there has been increasing interest in the role of brain gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) levels, which is the brain’s primary inhibitory neurotransmitter, in both depression and anxiety, following the finding that each may be associated with low levels of GABA in different regions of the brain.

There have also been reports that yoga may help stress and anxiety as well as depression.

Now colleagues from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) and McLean Hospital have found that practicing hatha yoga may elevate brain GABA levels.

This new research is published in last month’s issue of Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.

The researchers used magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging to compare the GABA levels of eight subjects before and after one hour of yoga. The control group consisted of 11 people who read a book or magazine instead of doing yoga. They found a twenty-seven percent increase in GABA levels in the yoga practitioner group after their session, but no change in the comparison subject group after an hour spent reading.

It is too early to start recommending yoga for the treatment of depression or anxiety, but it is fascinating that it will produce changes in brain chemistry that are very similar to those that we hope to achieve with other forms of therapy.

About Richard G. Petty, MD
Dr. Richard G. Petty, MD is a world-renowned authority on the brain, and his revolutionary work on human energy systems has been acclaimed around the globe. He is also an accredited specialist in internal and metabolic medicine, endocrinology, psychiatry, acupuncture and homeopathy. He has been an innovator and leader of the human potential movement for over thirty years and is also an active researcher, teacher, writer, professional speaker and broadcaster. He is the author of five books, including the groundbreaking and best selling CD series Healing, Meaning and Purpose. He has taught in over 45 countries and 48 states in the last ten years, but spends as much time as possible on his horse farm in Georgia.

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