Two recently conducted studies in Boston, Massachusetts, USA and Ontario, Canada show that yoga assists in alleviating feelings of anxiety.
Queen's University, Ontario shared the findings of a research by Adam Heenan, a Ph.D. candidate in Clinical Psychology. His study revealed that the relaxation activities involved in yoga, also known as progressive muscle relaxation, alters the way people perceive their environment.
Mr. Heenan's study utilized the university's Biomotion Lab, which displays depth-ambiguous point lights depicting a human body in motion. The point lights' ambiguity allows the observers to perceive the human image as either facing themselves or otherwise. The results of Mr. Heenan's study showed that the subjects who performed yoga exercises prior to looking at the point lights less likely perceived the figure as facing towards them, compared to those who did not perform the said exercises.
This research finding benefits people with anxiety, showing that relaxation activities can help in alleviating anxious feelings. The fifth edition of the Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders lists anxiety disorders as characterized by feelings of fear, as well as worrying about future events and reacting to current events. Threat plays a key role in how an individual perceives his or her environment.
Similar to this Queen's University study, a group of researchers led by Dr. Chris Streeter of Boston University School of Medicine discovered that a one hour session of yoga boosts gamma-aminobutyric (GABA) levels in the brain. GABA is a neurotransmitter that modulates the nervous system and has been found to be significantly low among individuals with anxiety disorders and depression, according to Dr. Streeter and her team.
ith the help of brain scans, the researchers found a significantly high increase of 27 percent in GABA levels among individuals who performed yoga, while non-practitioners did not display such an increase. Dr. Streeter pointed out that it did not matter which style of yoga was being practiced; their research subjects were practitioners from various schools of yoga, such as bikram, kripalu, and vinyasa, among others.