GABA GABA Hey, do a little yoga today

Daddy reading a book02While I have personally found that yoga is a great way to be a better parent—gaining a sense of community, enhanced calmness, focus and overall well-being, there is a growing body of evidence to support the use of yoga for relief of depression, anxiety, insomnia and overall stress reduction.  In the November issue of Monitor on Psychology there is an overview by Amy Novotney of the latest research emerging to support yoga for a range of psychological issues (

GABA is a neurotransmitter, a brain chemical that acts like a brake to check over-excitement, and thus reduce or counteract anxiety.  In a 2007 study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (Vol. 13, No. 4), it turned out that after an hour of yoga there was a 27% increase in GABA levels compared with an hour of reading which had no effect on the GABA levels.

According to Sat Bir Khalsa, Ph.D., a neuroscientist, Harvard professor and 35 years yogi, yoga is likely to make people less aggressive, more content and more balanced within their psyches.  That sounds like good parenting medicine to me. 

A Stanford study (Psychological Science Vol. 20, No. 1) posits that doing poses in synchrony with others (or walking, dancing, etc.) increases cooperation and sense of the collective in the group.  This too is good for the spirit of parenting.

In a sense, parenting is a form of yoga—a potential mindfulness practice.  To the extent that we are able to cultivate compassion, non-judgment and a sense of connection with all living things we are in harmony with the spirit of yoga as well as becoming our best Selves as parents.

More than anything, yoga is about the breath.  If you might be willing, take a minute, a literal minute.  Breathe in for twenty seconds, hold it for twenty and breathe out for twenty.  If you actually do this, you have done a little yoga today. 

In yoga it is a nice idea to dedicate your practice to something, and then come back to that dedication as you finish, most likely in shivasana (or “corpse pose” which means lying down and letting everything go, many a yogi’s favorite part of yoga class). 

Let’s dedicate today to the well-being of all our collective children, starting with whatever children are most directly in our lives and in our care.  Then, take one more 20-20-20 breath and dedicate it to your intention.  Come on, do it now if you have sixty seconds… no one’s watching.

Fantastic if you did it, fine if you blew it off.  Maybe you’ll come back to it in the car, or while waiting for your kid to tie her shoes.  But if you did it, then you have already done a little yoga today, and this is helping you be happier and a better parent.  The positive effects tend to be cumulative, and the brain’s gains tend to stay with you even if you stop the yoga. 

So, if you’re a yogi, keep with it—for your own and your kids’ benefit; and if you’ve yet to try yoga, it’s cheaper than therapy and may turn out to be much more pragmatic and even a little less crunchy than you might have imagined.  Here’s to you and your children.

Namaste, Bruce


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3 Responses to “GABA GABA Hey, do a little yoga today”

  1. Laurie Says:


  2. Mwa Says:

    The breathing out was fine, but the rest is hard.

  3. privilegeofparenting Says:

    Next step: breathing in 🙂

    As for the hard part, I share a quote someone shared with me today by Rumi:

    The soul is a newly skinned hide . . .
    Work on it with manual discipline
    and the tanning acid of grief,
    and you will become lovely,
    and very strong

    … or maybe we’re already lovely. As for strong, I’m breathing out too.

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