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Volume 16, Number 11, 2010, p. 1145–1152

(excerpt, translated by Aleks Papin)  




γ-Aminobutyric acid, often abbreviated as GABA, is the primary inhibitory neurotransmitter in the human central nervous system . It plays an important role in adults by preventing prolonged excitation of neurons . It also has a neurotrophic role, that is to say, it promotes the growth of neurons.

The GABA molecule cannot cross the blood-brain barrier , so the neurotransmitter role can only be accomplished by GABA present in neurons; and not by the GABA brought by the food.




Objectives: Yoga and physical exercise have beneficial effects on mood and anxiety. The level of γ-aminobutyric acid in the blood decreases in cases of reduced activity and in anxiety and mood disorders. Practicing yoga postures is associated with increased brain levels of GABA. This study investigates whether changes in mood, anxiety, and GABA levels are specific to yoga or related to physical activity in general.


Methods: healthy subjects without significant medical/psychiatric disorders were selected and randomly divided into 2 groups: yoga group and  walking; the exercises lasted for 60 minutes 3 times a week for 12 weeks. 

Mood and anxiety levels were assessed at weeks 0, 4, 8, 12, by a questionnaire, and also measured by magnetic resonance examinations.  




Yoga has been used to reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, and epilepsy. Reduced levels of GABA have been seen in people with: mood disorders, eating disorders and anxiety disorders.

In another study, comparing a yoga group to a reading group, it was found that the yoga group demonstrated a significant increase (27%) in GABA levels after a 60-minute session of yoga postures, compared to to no change in GABA levels in the other group (reading).


The question : These results raise the question of whether the increase in GABA levels is specific to Yoga or is it related to physical activity in general.


Current study verifies correlations between mood swings, anxiety, and 

GABA levels, to determine if such changes are

specific to a yoga postures practice or if they occur

also while walking. 

We assume that a positive correlation  means: 

increase in GABA levels with improving mood levels 

And a negative correlation:  increase in GABA levels with decreasing levels of anxiety.



Materials and methods

Eligible subjects were chosen and divided into subgroups of 4 people for a 12-week intervention, and had the choice of either practicing Iyengar yoga, or walking for three 60-minute sessions per week, with a maximum of 36 sessions.


The reasons for refusing participation in the test were the following:
- any yoga practice in the previous 3 months
- or a suite of 1 yoga session / week for 4 weeks
- current involvement in psychotherapy
- prayer in the group / or other disciplines related to the body-mind
- a neurological disorder, or a medical condition that could compromise the purpose, safety or data of the study
- any treatment in the previous 3 months with medicines that could affect the GABA system
- use of tobacco products (known to affect GABA levels), alcohol, consumption of > 4 alc drinks. / day
- contraindication to magnetic resonance


The walking intervention was designed to be similar to the yoga intervention, with weekly group sessions in which subjects walked around the perimeter of the gymnasium at 4 km/h for 60 minutes.




Final study participation: Thirty-four (34) subjects participated and completed the study: 19 in the yoga group and 15 in the walking group.  


In the final analysis, the yoga group showed a positive increase in EIFI (Positive Engagement, Revitalization, and Tranquility) of all three levels, while the walking group showed an increase only in Revitalization.  


The yoga group showed a decrease in STAI-State level, indicating a decrease in anxiety.

Inter-group analysis showed that the yoga group had greater increases in all positive scales and greater decreases

in all negative scales compared to the walking group, indicating improved mood, decreased anxiety and decreased fatigue.


Spectral data showing an increase in acid surface area  γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the yoga group.



Results : Subjects in the yoga group reported greater improvement in mood and greater decrease in anxiety than members of the walking group. 

There was a positive correlation between improved mood/decreased anxiety AND thalamic GABA levels.


Conclusions : 12 weeks of yoga practice was associated with greater improvement in mood and anxiety compared to walking exercises. 

This study is the first to demonstrate that the increase in

GABA levels are associated with improved mood and decreased anxiety.  



It is also the first time that an intervention (namely, yoga postures) has been associated with a positive correlation between increased thalamic GABA levels AND improved mood and mood levels. anxiety.  


In this study, Yoga intervention is associated with greater improvement in mood and decrease in anxiety  compared to the results of the walking group, suggesting that the effect of yoga on mood and anxiety is due not only to the metabolic demands incurred by physical activity.  


Although subjects can be trained in the practice of yoga in a relatively short time with measurable effect, the effect of associated change in GABA levels may increase with experience.  

The original article (ENG):

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