Taking up yoga may boost your mood and ease your anxiety, a new study from The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine shows. In tests on 34 healthy adults, researchers found that those who practiced yoga for 12 weeks had greater improvements in mood and anxiety than those who took part in a walking program for the same time period.
According to study findings, yoga-practicing participants also experienced greater increases in gamma-aminobutyric acid (or GABA, a brain chemical known to regulate nerve activity). In previous research, increased GABA levels have been linked to a lower likelihood of mood and anxiety disorders. The study’s authors suggest that yoga may stimulate certain brain regions and–in turn–promote the release of GABA.
A number of other studies have focused on yoga and anxiety; in a 2009 report published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, for instance, researchers found that attending a twice-weekly 90-minute yoga class for two months led to a significant decrease in anxiety among 34 with symptoms of anxiety and depression.