by Michael R. Mantell, Ph.D. – Fitness Psychology, The Sporting Club
Sure, a good high intensity interval cardio + weight training session can offer you valuable health and fitness benefits. But if Boston University’s School of Medicine is right, it may be a daily YOGA class at the club that is “superior to other forms of exercise in its positive effect on mood and anxiety” according to the researchers who published their research in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.
That’s correct. It’s the Hatha, Ashtanga and Vinyasa classes offered daily at TSC that will increase your brain’s gamma-aminobutyric (GABA) levels. Climbing GABA levels are associated with decreased anxiety and elevated mood, while low GABA levels bring along depression and anxiety.
The researchers compared the effects of attending one-hour yoga classes three times a week to one hour of walking three times a week. With magnetic resonance spectroscopic (MRS) imaging and self-report, they found elevated GABA and consequent mood improvement among the yoga attendees, not seen in the walkers.
Other studies have also suggested that yoga may be helpful in reducing stress, anxiety and depression. Even the US military, at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. is picking up on the demonstrated value of yoga in reducing stress, in the military’s case, a specific form of anxiety, “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder,” (PTSD). They are offering a yogic method of deep relaxation to returning combat veterans from Irag and Afghanistan.
In the words of B.K.S. Iyengar, “Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured and endure what cannot be cured.”?
Like all physical activities that can be strenuous, it’s important to select the type of yoga that’s right for you. Mobility problems? Check with your trainer, sports medicine staff member and/or yoga instructor to best determine which form is right for you and your goals.
Hatha yoga is probably the most common type of yoga practiced in the United States. If you want to get into physical poses, called asanas, learn controlled breathing and enjoy short periods of deep relaxation or meditation during your yoga, this is right for you.
Vinyasa yoga links the physical poses (asanas) with breathing in a more dynamic method. So if you enjoy unpredictability, moving and having classes a bit looser, this GABA boosting yogic form is for you. It is flowing and almost dance-like.
Ashtanga yoga generates heat using specific vigorous postures (asanas) with more enhanced breathing exercises, thus focusing more on strength and flexibility. By synchronizing your breathing and postures, you’ll find yourself producing a lot of internal heat, profusely sweating and thus detoxifying your muscles and organs.
The research says that if you want to improve your mood, reduce stress, lower your anxiety level, elevated depression, take a look at yoga classes, and I might add, especially those offered at TSC.
By focusing inward, you may be able to develop more unconditional self-acceptance, self-control, and a healthier, more positive outlook on life.
My experience with patients has demonstrated that those who want to improve concentration, attention, and memory, including children, have found significant value in many forms of yoga classes. It calms you and can help reduce anger as well.
In fact, one yoga expert, Amy Weintraub observed, “the yoga mat is a good place to turn when talk therapy and antidepressants aren’t enough.”