Is Yoga the magical mood elixir?
Sure, yoga is a great way to tone your body, but it can do wonders for your mind too. A regular yoga practice can help you feel more grounded, boost your mood, and ease symptoms of anxiety and depression too.
A yoga practice can change our cognitive response to stimuli and help us to retrain our brains and change what we choose to pay attention to.
In fact, a yoga practice including mindfulness and focused intention in a non-competitive and non-judgemental atmosphere can change our cognitive response to stimuli. In other words, we have the capacity to retrain our brains and change what we choose to pay attention to. Yoga teaches us to be in the present moment and to accept ourselves and our experiences, just as they are. Meditation teaches us to become the internal observer of our thoughts and to learn to identify negative or irrational thoughts. Through these practices, we can, over time, adjust our frame of thinking.
Yoga has been shown to increase the level of gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA, a chemical in the brain that helps to regulate nerve activity. GABA activity is reduced in people with mood and anxiety disorders, and drugs that increase GABA activity are commonly prescribed to improve mood and decrease anxiety.
The beautiful thing is that you don’t need to be a well-seasoned yoga practitioner to reap in the mood-enhancing benefits of yoga. Even those newer to the practice show positive mood responses to this practice. If you struggle with depressive symptoms, it’s worth some investigation of your local yoga studios to find an environment that suits you.
Research suggests that knowledgeable and well-trained yoga teachers who promote positive “non-judgement zones” provide individualized attention, teach mindfulness and breathing, and provide guidance for translating studio class elements into a home practice are most effective for decreasing depression symptoms.