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What effect does yoga have on the brain?

By Dr. Joyce Fu, DC, HBSc

Let’s be real…we’ve all heard that yoga is good for us, but why is that?

Yoga is a physical, mental and spiritual practice rooted in ancient India. Since then, it has evolved in western society and is expressed as a great explosion of yoga studios that focus on practicing asanas (postures). Yoga is practically synonymous to a physical fitness regime and is known that it improves flexibility and strength (1).

But let’s dive deeper into how it affects our brain.

GABA is a chemical messenger in the brain. It acts to block or slow down the brain and therefore has a protective and calming effect on the brain and body. It will naturally be produced at the end of the day to promote sleepiness and allow you to rest throughout night (2).

A study was done on healthy subjects who were randomly chosen to complete a 12-week fitness protocol of 60-minutes of Iyengar yoga or 60-minutes of walking, and they were matched for the same energy output (METs). Through MR (magnetic resonance) testing, they found that the yoga group had higher levels of GABA in the brain, compared to the walking group after 12 weeks. In addition, one 60-minute practice alone of yoga postures was directly correlated to an increase in GABA levels, therefore improving mood and decreasing anxiety almost immediately (3).

Talk about a strong effect!

So the next time you step on your mat, know that you are doing it for much more than the physical body, but also to optimize your brain health!

What’s next?

If you would like to learn how you can incorporate yoga into your chiropractic treatment program, book an appointment with Dr. Joyce Fu today at one of 3 locations. Dr. Joyce offers virtual personalized exercise programs and virtual options are available!


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