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Yoga possible treatment for depression

Yoga elevates brain neurotransmitter levels and may help treat depression and anxiety, research suggests.

Scientists have shown that practicing yoga elevates gamma-aminobutyric (GABA) levels in the brain that are commonly low in people with depression.

Currently, anxiety and depression are treated with pharmaceutical agents designed to increase GABA levels.

To test the effects of yoga, scientists compared the GABA levels of eight people taken before and after one hour of yoga, with those of 11 people who did not practise yoga but instead read for an hour.

GABA levels increased by 27% after participants practiced yoga but did not change after reading.

"Our findings clearly demonstrate that in experienced yoga practitioners, brain GABA levels increase after a session of yoga," said study author Chris Streeter (Boston University School of Medicine, USA).

"The study contributes to the understanding of how the GABA system is affected by both pharmacologic and behavioural interventions and will help to guide the development of new treatments for low GABA states."

Lead author Perry Renshaw adds that yoga could offer an inexpensive intervention that has a "clear public health advantage."

Boston University