With the rise of anxiety and stress-related health issues, a hot topic in recent years has been GABA - an amino acid we naturally produce that helps reduce anxiety and these low states of mood. Let’s chat about what it is, the benefits, and natural habits to boost and maintain healthy GABA levels for a happier, healthier and more peaceful life.
What is GABA?
We have neurotransmitters within our brain that create rapid communication pathways for our neurons (brain cells). Neurotransmitters bind to the receptors of neurons and signal movement, breathing, senses, emotions and help regulate the heartbeat. What vital parts of our body! GABA, short for Gamma – aminobutyric acid, a chemical within the brain that acts as a neurotransmitter is responsible for controlling all these moods and states. It’s main role is to communicate directly with the nervous system and in times of high stress, it’s our body’s natural ‘calm down’ signal. With optimal levels, it aids in better sleep, eases anxiety, decreases muscle tension and boosts mood. However, sometimes our body can’t quite keep up, and these processes malfunction, leading to abnormal GABA levels and this has been linked to mental illnesses, anxiety, depression and insomnia. A regular yoga and meditation practice can keep your levels in check.
Benefits from Yoga and Meditation
There are many emerging studies exploring the effectiveness of GABA activation. They have found that people who practice yoga and meditation (see Online Studio) frequently have an increase in GABA levels. By giving ourselves time to be mindful and detach from the rush of the outside world, we improve our attentive state and help regulate our emotions. A yoga and meditation practice helps boost these ‘feel good’ chemicals, including GABA, serotonin and dopamine, and by suppressing the body’s stress response through breathing techniques (pranayama), the parasympathetic nervous system is activated, allowing for a state of further restoration and healing. The awareness of the breath helps increase activation of the prefrontal cortex (PFC), remember year 10 biology? Well if not, no stress, the PFC is responsible for our memory, awareness and attentiveness, and it communicates directly with the thalamus, responsible for motor and sensory signals, which stimulates a GABA response, leaving you feeling relaxed and calm.
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