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Yoga May Help Variety of Stress-Related Conditions

by Shirley Archer, JD, MA on Aug 23, 2012

Mind-Body-Spirit News

The emerging field of yoga therapy is gaining more support from current research efforts. In the journal Medical Hypothesis ( 2012; doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2012.01.021), investigators from leading U.S. medical schools have proposed a theory to explain why yoga practice is beneficial for diverse medical conditions. This theory can serve as a basis for including yoga-based practices as a complementary therapy in prevention and treatment programs for a number of stress-related conditions. Study authors from Boston University School of Medicine in Boston, New York Medical College in Valhalla, New York, and Columbia University in New York City, hypothesized that stress stimulates an imbalance in the autonomic nervous system (between the parasympathetic and sympathetic systems), reduces levels of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and increases the burden on the body to maintain stability or well-being. Stress is associated with increasing symptoms for many medical conditions related to psychological, neurological, cardiovascular and metabolic disorders. These disorders include heart disease, stroke, diabetes, depression, anxiety and chronic pain. Research findings have shown that yoga practice helps to restore balance to the autonomic nervous system and to increase GABA levels. The theory proposed in Medical Hypothesis suggests that the therapeutic effects of yoga for disorders impacted by stress can be understood partially through this influence of yoga on the nervous system and neurotransmitter levels. Further testing of this theory—through controlled studies, large sample sizes, brain imaging and other emerging technologies—is needed. This research might identify specific mind-body practices that would assist with treatment and prevention of a wide range of stress-related medical conditions.

Fitness Journal, Volume 9, Issue 9

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About the Author

Shirley Archer, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA IDEA Author/Presenter

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, was the 2008 IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year and is IDEA's mind-body-spirit spokesperson. She is a certified yoga and Pilates teacher and an award-winning author based in Los Angeles, California, and Zurich, Switzerland. Two of her books, The Walking Deck and The Strength and Toning Deck, are now featured as iPhone apps. Contact her at