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60-Second Health

How Yoga Might Relieve Stress-Linked Ailments

Yoga may increase parasympathetic nervous system activity and neurotransmitter levels, helping to decrease symptoms of some stress-related illnesses. Katherine Harmon reports

Yoga and relaxation practices have been around for thousands of years. And modern research suggests that yoga could have a very real impact on many stress-related illnesses, including anxiety, depression and heart disease.

And here's another reason to be down with downward-facing dog. Stress can make symptoms of chronic pain and depression worse. But yoga might be able to help, in part by stimulating the cranial nerve and an important neurotransmitter called GABA. The new theory is in the journal Medical Hypotheses. [C. C. Streeter et al., "Effects of yoga on the autonomic nervous system, gamma-aminobutyric-acid, and allostasis in epilepsy, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder"]

Previous research had found that people who did yoga for 12 weeks had lower anxiety and reduced chronic pain than those who went for walks or had standard medical care alone. The yoga-ers also had higher levels of GABA.

The researchers are now testing just how well yoga, combined with conventional treatments, can actually improve symptoms of real medical and psychological conditions, including epilepsy, depression and posttraumatic stress disorder. And that might generate news you can take sitting down. Preferably in a lotus pose.

—Katherine Harmon

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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