Scientists Confirm Yoga Can Reduce Stress, Medical And Psychological Conditions
March 7, 2012

Scientists Confirm Yoga Can Reduce Stress, Medical And Psychological Conditions

A new study provides a theory for how stress-related and psychological conditions may be reduced with yoga.

Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM), Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons (CCPS), and the New York Medical College (NYMC) posted their theory and findings in the journal Medical Hypothesis.

The researchers believe that yoga, in conjunction with standard medical practices, can provide aid and relief for many medical and psychological conditions, such as anxiety, depression, and even cardiac disease.

With this evidence, researchers hope to develop a specific mind-body, stress reducing regimen to be used with common medical practices.

It is believed that stress causes an imbalance in the autonomic nervous system (parasympathetic under-activity and sympathetic over-activity) as well as under-activity of the inhibitory neurotransmitter, gamma amino-butyric acid (GABA).

This low GABA activity is found in psychological conditions, such as anxiety disorders, epilepsy, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Low GABA activity is also found in patients who suffer from chronic pain. The hypothesis in this paper also helps to explain why vagal nerve stimulation, or VNS, works to decrease symptoms of depression and seizures.

VNS is a brain-stimulation technique that sends electrical pulses into the brain via the vagal nerve. This nerve runs on each side of the body from the brainstem to the chest and abdomen. Patients undergoing VNS have a device called a “pulse generator” surgically implanted in their chest. A wire threaded under the skin runs from the pulse generator to the vagus nerve in the neck. The signals sent during VNS help to affect the mood centers of the brain and have shown to improve symptoms of depression.

The hypothesis in this paper suggests that such invasive procedures aren´t necessary and that similar results can be achieved by simply adding yoga to a workout regimen.

In a recent press release, the study´s lead author, Chris Streeter, M.D. said ““Western and Eastern medicine complement one another. Yoga is known to improve stress-related nervous system imbalances.” Streeter believes “This paper provides a theory, based on neurophysiology and neuroanatomy, to understand how yoga helps patients feel better by relieving symptoms in many common disorders.”

There may be a secret key to yoga as opposed to other stress reducing exercises, however

In an earlier study conducted by the BUSM, researchers compared a yoga group and a walking group. After 12 weeks, these researchers found no increase in GABA levels in the walking group. The yoga group, however, showed increased GABA levels and decreased anxiety.

Those with chronic back pain also benefit more from yoga than standard medical practices alone. Another BUSM study showed increased GABA levels in individuals who responded to yoga therapy compared to a group who received standard medical care alone.

The researchers are now putting these findings into action. By incorporating mind-body therapies like yoga in their studies, researchers hope to alleviate and improve upon a wide range of psychological and stress-related conditions.


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