Hove StressBusters - The Science of Yoga
   Wednesday, 26th October 2011
@ Cornerstone Community Centre, Hove

Popular science talk by Dr Jelena Nesic (INNERNATION / University College London Hospital),
Chair yoga session with
Penelope Zikic (Maitri Yoga)

Finally on our home turf in Hove, we had another great stress-busting evening.

The evening started off with a science talk about stress, yoga and the brain. Using simple words and examples understandable to everyone without neglecting the scientific accuracy and complexity of the explanations, Jelena described the neurobiological mechanisms of the stress response. She went on to summarize a number of significant physiological effects and health benefits of yoga, and finished off by presenting the results of a groundbreaking brain imaging study which showed that regular yoga practice improved mood and reduced anxiety by increasing the levels of brain's own anti-anxiety compound, the neurotransmitter called GABA. 

After the break, we all had a chance to experience the stress-reducing properties of yoga ourselves. Penelope expanded on Jelena's talk by explaining the main principles of yoga and running a 50 minute session which demonstrated that: 1) yoga really can be done by anyone, regardless of their level of physical ability, 2) it really is possible to do it using a chair, and 3) it can be fun! For most people this was their very first encounter with yoga and at the end of the session they bombarded Penelope with questions about yoga and her classes. 

The event attracted a very interesting mix of people: scientists, practitioners, business and IT people, and everyone learned something new and had lots of fun in the process. In what is already becoming a Hove StressBusters tradition, this meeting also had a twist. Everyone took part in a mini scientific study evaluating the mood effects of yoga. While we could not see what was happening to GABA in our brains, the results of our study showed that even this brief yoga session with Penelope produced a significant increase in self-reported positive engagement and the feelings of revitalization and tranquility.