We've known for a while that exercise is a great way to combat stress and increase endorphins levels, but a new study says that the effects of yoga are even more profound when it comes to mental health. In a small study, practicing yoga produced higher levels of "mood improvement" in participants than other types of exercise. Researchers say it's because yoga seems to increase levels of GABA, a brain chemical that helps reduce depression.
Participants either practiced Iyengar yoga or went on walks, three times a week for an hour each time, totaling three months. Prior to starting the study all participants filled out mood questionnaires and underwent brain scans. At the end of the study, they did the same. Researchers found that participants who did yoga scored better on the mood questionnaires and had higher GABA levels. Though doctors say it is too early to replace drug therapy with yoga, these preliminary findings provide hope for alternative, in not complementary, therapy.