Practising yoga three times a week can help fight off depression as it boosts a chemical in the brain which promotes a state of calm, US researchers have found.
Scientists at the Boston University School of Medicine found that levels of the amino acid GABA, essential for the function of the brain and nervous system, were much higher in individuals who practise yoga on a regular basis than those who walked for exercise, the UK's Daily Telegraph reported.
A low level of GABA is associated with depression and other anxiety disorders.
In the study, researchers monitored two groups of healthy individuals for two weeks, half of whom walked for three hours each week and the other half spent the same time practising yoga.
GABA levels in the participants brains were scanned before and after the study using magnetic resonance spectroscopic (MRS) imaging and they were also asked to report on their psychological wellbeing throughout the study period.
Those who participated in yoga reported lower levels of anxiety and a greater feeling of wellbeing, which the researchers found were associated with GABA levels.
"Over time, positive changes in these reports were associated with climbing GABA levels," Professor Chris Streeter said.
Professor Streeter called for further research into using yoga to treat other forms of mental illness.
The research was published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.
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