Bipolar Disorder, Brain Chemistry and Yoga

A study published in May 2008 documented how Yoga can have a positive influence on a brain chemical that affects mood 1

In the study, several subjects did yoga for an hour while another group read. At the end of the hour, measurements were taken of GABA (gamma amino butyric acid) levels in the participants’ brains. The Yoga group experienced a 27% increase in GABA, while the readers had no change.

GABA is an amino acid, important in regulating brain functions including mood. Lack of GABA can lead to over-stimulation of the brain and poor impulse control. 2

Underproduction of GABA is one of the culprits behind bipolar disorder and is caused by a transcription malfunction located in the 15q11-q13 chromosome region. 3 That’s just a fancy way of saying bipolar genes don’t allow proper production of GABA.

Incidentally, Vitamin B6 is necessary for the production of GABA, and coffee can inhibit its release. 4

So take your vitamins and go easy on the coffee already. And do your Yoga.


1. Chris C. Streeter, J. Eric Jensen, Ruth M. Perlmutter, Howard J. Cabral, Hua Tian, Devin B. Terhune, Domenic A. Ciraulo, Perry F. Renshaw. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2007, 13(4): 419-426. doi:10.1089/acm.2007.6338.
3. Otani K, Ujike H, Tanaka Y, Morita Y, Katsu T, Nomura A, Uchida N, Hamamura T, Fujiwara Y, Kuroda S. Neurosci Lett. 2005 Jun 10-17;381(1-2):108-13. Epub 2005 Feb 25.


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