Improve a Bad Mood with Yoga Exercises

Medically reviewed in January 2022

If life's got you feeling frazzled or blue, adjust your bad mood for the better by striking a few yoga poses.

According to a small study, this popular joint-loosening, muscle-toning exercise cranks up brain levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter that helps take the edge off anxiety and helps bust up blue moods.

It's a Real Stretch
Why do yoga exercises boost a bad mood? It may have something to do with your nerves. In particular, a thing called your vagus nerve. This long nerve helps turn on your parasympathetic nervous system -- the part of your central nervous system that's responsible for boosting GABA and making you feel happy and relaxed. And, as it turns out, yoga does a mighty fine job of activating the vagus nerve, enabling that whole chain of feel-good events in your body to happen. 

Keep On Truckin'
In fact, in the study, yoga exercises even bested walking when it came to improving a bad mood. Folks who practiced an hour of Iyengar yoga three times a week experienced greater jumps in GABA levels and felt happier, more tranquil, and more energized than a control group that engaged in 3 hours of equally intense walking each week. So although all forms of exercise do a great job of increasing feel-swell brain chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins, it's probably not a bad idea to mix in a yoga session or two each week for extra-happy measure.

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