Article

Effects of yoga on the autonomic nervous system, gamma-aminobutyric-acid, and allostasis in epilepsy, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder

Department of Psychiatry, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, MA 02118, USA.
Medical Hypotheses (Impact Factor: 1.07). 02/2012; 78(5):571-9. DOI: 10.1016/j.mehy.2012.01.021
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT

A theory is proposed to explain the benefits of yoga practices in diverse, frequently comorbid medical conditions based on the concept that yoga practices reduce allostatic load in stress response systems such that optimal homeostasis is restored. It is hypothesized that stress induces (1) imbalance of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) with decreased parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) and increased sympathetic nervous system (SNS) activity, (2) underactivity of the gamma amino-butyric acid (GABA) system, the primary inhibitory neurotransmitter system, and (3) increased allostatic load. It is further hypothesized that yoga-based practices (4) correct underactivity of the PNS and GABA systems in part through stimulation of the vagus nerves, the main peripheral pathway of the PNS, and (5) reduce allostatic load. Depression, epilepsy, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and chronic pain exemplify medical conditions that are exacerbated by stress, have low heart rate variability (HRV) and low GABAergic activity, respond to pharmacologic agents that increase activity of the GABA system, and show symptom improvement in response to yoga-based interventions. The observation that treatment resistant cases of epilepsy and depression respond to vagal nerve stimulation corroborates the need to correct PNS underactivity as part of a successful treatment plan in some cases. According to the proposed theory, the decreased PNS and GABAergic activity that underlies stress-related disorders can be corrected by yoga practices resulting in amelioration of disease symptoms. This has far-reaching implications for the integration of yoga-based practices in the treatment of a broad array of disorders exacerbated by stress.

Download full-text

Full-text

Available from: Patricia L Gerbarg, Feb 27, 2014
  • Source
    • "Yoga has been shown to improve headaches, anxiety, depression , chronic fatigue, and fibromyalgia [16] [17] [18] [19] [20]. In a report of IBS and current treatment options, Ducrotte had suggested that Yoga postures targeting the lower abdomen would help in relieving the symptoms of IBS by enhancing energy circulation in and around the intestines [21]. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Introduction: Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is very common disorder, with various associated symptoms and affects quality of life. Alternatives to Western medication are often sought. Previous research has suggested that Yoga practice could have a positive impact on alleviating these symptoms. The aim was to evaluate a comprehensive Remedial Yoga Module (RYM) for use as an intervention for IBS. Methods: IBS patients (diagnosed according to Rome III criteria) were randomized into 3 groups: Yoga + limited conventional treatment, Combination (Yoga + conventional treatment) and Wait-list Control groups. Yoga and Combination groups received RYM sessions, three times a week, for 12 weeks, and the Wait-list Control group maintained their current lifestyle. Primary endpoints were IBS-Symptom Severity Scales (IBS-SSS) and IBS Quality of Life (IBS-QOL). Secondary endpoints were Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS), Autonomic Symptom Score (ASS), IBS Global Assessment of Improvement (IBS-GAI), Medicine and Supplement Use, physical flexibility, and autonomic functions. Results: 97 patients were randomized and 78 patients completed the study with high adherence (90%) to RYM sessions. There were significant improvements in IBS-SSS and IBS-QOL scores in Yoga (n = 25; p <. 0.001) and Combination groups (n = 26; p <. 0.001) when compared to Wait-list Control group (n = 27). Also, HADS, ASS, IBS-GAI, physical flexibility, and autonomic functions were significantly improved which correlated with a reduction in the amount of Medicine and Supplement Use in the Yoga and Combination groups. Conclusion: A 12-week RYM intervention could be a feasible stand-alone treatment or an integrative option within conventional treatment for IBS patients with addressing IBS and associated conditions.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2015 · European Journal of Integrative Medicine
  • Source
    • "Mindbody practices may enhance the ability of a person with PTSD to tolerate unpleasant feelings and reduce stress [10] [11] [12] [13]. Streeter et al. [13] suggest that yoga reduces stress-induced allostatic load in three stress reactive systems: the autonomic nervous system (ANS), the hypothalamic-pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis, and the GABAergic system. These findings are critical as they address the physiology associated with PTSD. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Yoga may be effective in the reduction of PTSD symptomology. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the impact of a Kundalini Yoga (KY) treatment on PTSD symptoms and overall wellbeing. To supplement the current field of inquiry, a pilot randomized control trial (RCT) was conducted comparing an 8-session KY intervention with a waitlist control group. 80 individuals with current PTSD symptoms participated. Both groups demonstrated changes in PTSD symptomology but yoga participants showed greater changes in measures of sleep, positive affect, perceived stress, anxiety, stress, and resilience. Between-groups effect sizes were small to moderate (0.09-0.25). KY may be an adjunctive or alternative intervention for PTSD. Findings indicate the need for further yoga research to better understand the mechanism of yoga in relation to mental and physical health, gender and ethnic comparisons, and short- and long-term yoga practice for psychiatric conditions.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2015 · Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
  • Source
    • "Also associated with decreased PNS activity would be low levels of gamma amino-butyric acid (GABA). GABA is the primary inhibitory neurotransmitter that helps to lower anxiety (Streeter et al., 2012). Streeter et al. hypothesized that yoga could activate the PNS and increase levels of GABA by stimulating the vagus nerve, which is the primary pathway of the PNS. "
    [Show description] [Hide description]
    DESCRIPTION: Research studies have evidenced the efficacy of prayer to promote patient well-being. Those same studies evidenced an absence of consensus on the definition of prayer. The studies defined prayer as a religious practice, a spiritual practice and a cultural practice. That difficulty to commonly define prayer is also associated with an absence of consensus among health care researchers on the definitions of spirituality and religion. Also absent among health care researchers are hypothetical biological mechanisms to explain how prayer promotes patient well-being. Possible biological mechanisms may include that prayer elicits the relaxation response, thus promoting psychological and physiological benefits, and that prayer may activate the parasympathetic nervous system and increase levels of the neurotransmitter gamma amino-butyric acid (GABA), both of which reduce anxiety. Keywords: prayer, spirituality, religion, well-being
    Full-text · Research · Aug 2015
Show more