Over the last few decades, the art of yoga has undeniably come into its own. Everyone from toddlers to middle-aged parents, to grandparents have taken up the practice. There are even groups that offer doga—yoga with your dog—or if you choose, you can do yoga with goats. It would seem that nothing is out of bounds when it comes to the practice of yoga.
In all this growing enthusiasm for the practice, it is almost assured that few have stopped to think about its benefits, and how yoga may affect the overall chemistry of your brain. Much like other middle-east practices, the use of yoga for exercise and meditation can work towards a more natural treatment of health issues—such as those of anxiety and pain modulation.
Let Loose The GABA!
Yoga, by its very nature, in recent years, has proven itself a more natural remedy for anxiety. The reason is that it impacts the levels of GABA contained within our brains. GABA is short for gamma-aminobutyric acid—referred to by many as the neurotransmitter in your body that allows you to relax and “chill out naturally.”
With its abilities at suppressing neural activity, the resulting effect is that of calm relaxation, much like when we drink alcohol. Unlike alcohol, which, when it wears off, allows anxieties to resurface, GABA effects are much less temporary and more effective.
Although some claim you can achieve the same effects with walking and the triggering of your body’s endorphins, also a natural form of painkillers and relaxers, the practice of yoga unleashes more GABA into the thalamus of the brain than any amount of walking could ever accomplish. Because yoga combines the actions of breathing, movement, and meditation, it could very well be one of the best choices of exercise when combating anxiety and fighting pain.
Builds Up Brain Gray Matter
Gray matter, located in the cerebral cortex as well as subcortical areas of the brain, if it becomes decreased, can result in the impairment of memory, emotional issues, decreased pain tolerance and decreased functioning on a cognitive level.
Studies have shown that through the regular practice of yoga and meditation, individuals have a robust increase in those areas of the gray matter that modulate pain. Yoga is believed to not only provide a remedy for various forms of depression but can also be an effective natural painkiller.
For those women who are pregnant and practice yoga, it has been shown to be a highly effective and natural antidepressant. A study in 2012 showed that when meditative yoga was used by pregnant women, it significantly reduced the symptoms of depression in those individuals at the most risk.
There are many forms of the art of yoga, and with that said, it is advised that beginners start slow and gradually work their way up. Medical studies have shown that yoga can not only be beneficial for your body, but for your brain as well. Everything from anxiety to pain is no match for the ancient exercise.