How yoga calms your mind: It’ll help you beat stress, anxiety and depression without popping pills.

(Mail online 5/2/15)
Yoga can be a natural anti-depressant remedy and can boost mental health
Significantly higher levels of amino acid GABA are reported in yoga fans
Low amino acid GABA levels are associated with depression and anxiety
Recent scientific research also shows links between weight loss and yoga
Depression — it’s a condition that afflicts more of us than ever before.
The most common psychological disorder in the Western world, around ten times more people are diagnosed with depression now than 70 years ago.
Emotionally crippling, it can require years of expensive and time-consuming therapy and often medication to control it.
In 2012 a staggering 40 million prescriptions for anti-depressants were written in England, up 25 million in 14 years.
While counselling and medication will always be required for some, for many mild depression and low-level anxiety are the price we pay for busy lives juggling work and family in an age of constant digital bombardment.
But there is a low-cost, easy and enjoyable alternative to pills that can benefit us all mentally — a natural anti-depressant remedy that studies have shown boosts a chemical in the brain that is essential for good mental health.
And what’s the name of this wonder drug? The answer is, of course, yoga.
All this week, in a brilliant pull-out series, the Mail is focusing on yoga’s benefits for old and young, men and women, no matter your fitness levels.
While for the past three days we’ve explored many of the physical benefits of practising yoga, today we turn the spotlight on the difference yoga can make to your mood.
There’s an easy-to-follow routine of exercises to help relax and de-clutter the mind on the next page.
Many yoga devotes — myself included — will tell you how a session of yoga leaves you feeling calm and positive, with a sense of being able to cope with whatever life has to throw at you.
Science is increasingly backing up this anecdotal evidence. One recent study compared levels of the amino acid GABA in those who practise yoga regularly compared to those who do an equivalent amount of walking — considered to be a similarly strenuous form of exercise.
Scientists found they were significantly higher in those who did yoga.
This amino acid is vital for a well-functioning brain and central nervous system and helps promote feelings of calm inside the body.
Low GABA levels are associated with depression and anxiety.
As well as increased amounts of GABA, scientists found that those who did yoga also reported lower levels of anxiety and better moods than the walkers.
Meanwhile, a 2013 study by Massachusetts General Hospital found that the deep physiological state of rest induced by the three yoga elements of postures, breathing and meditation produced immediate, positive change in immune function, energy metabolism and insulin secretion.
Insulin is known not only for regulating blood sugar, but also for triggering the production of serotonin — the feel-good neurotransmitter that can be stimulated artificially by some anti-depressants, such as Prozac.
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