Yoga And Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

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Is Yoga A Good Idea?

Are you asking yourself if yoga and chronic fatigue are a good combination? When you are low on energy everything can be too hard and energetic exercise is definitely off the agenda for now.

Even mustering the strength to do fun things is too much effort. But will yoga make your symptoms worse?

You may feel overwhelming tiredness from overworking and the stress of everyday life. Or, you may be low in energy due to chronic fatigue syndrome.

yoga and chronic fatigueNot all types of yoga are about twisting yourself into a pretzel or standing on your head.

Depending on the stage of your chronic fatigue, yoga in one of its more gentle forms can be beneficial.

It helps keep your lymph and circulation systems moving.  And the gentle stretching can help ease tight and painful muscles, common in sufferers of chronic fatigue syndrome. 

These gentle types of yoga restore energy rather than use it. The last thing you need is to use your precious energy to practice the more energetic forms of yoga. They will only deplete your energy even more.



Isometric Yoga Study

In 2014, researchers studied isometric yoga to see if it would benefit people with chronic fatigue syndrome. They wanted to find out if it could help them where conventional methods failed.

Yoga is a well-known natural therapy that can generally help people with fatigue and chronic illness. But people with chronic fatigue syndrome cannot do all types of yoga, particularly the more strenuous forms.

Due to your limited energy reserves, any form of exercise might place too much strain on your fatigued system.

Isometrics are exercises that strengthen specific muscles or joints. And isometric yoga combines isometric exercises with yoga. It works by contracting muscles while not moving the rest of your body. So, isometric yoga uses static positions and the study mentioned, using a stool for its participants.

The finding of the study is that isometric yoga is a good add-on therapy for people suffering CFS. Additionally, it was found to relieve participants’ pain and fatigue.


Different From Other Forms Of Yoga

Some forms of yoga can be difficult and sap energy even more if you have chronic fatigue syndrome.

yoga and chronic fatigueIsometric yoga differences include:
  • These yoga positions use muscle contractions without shortening the muscles. This form of muscle contraction allows patients to change the levels of resistance without physical movement.
  • This can help them avoid increasing their level of fatigue. Isometric yoga does not need much physical exertion when flexing muscles. No strong stretching exercises are needed either.
  • In this way you are not overstretching muscles which prevents damage and increase to  existing pain.
  • There is no need to do isometric yoga in a standing position. This can be beneficial if you experience palpitations and dizziness.

You can perform isometric yoga positions in a slow, controlled way. Focusing on breathing while carrying out the exercise makes you more aware of your body. In this way, it is just like traditional yoga.


Poses Used In The Isometric Study

After wide consultation, researchers devised a 20-minute isometric program. This consisted of the following three parts:

  1. Patients spent one minute focusing on their natural breathing.
  2. They then completed four to six repetitions of six isometric positions.
  3. Patients practiced each position slowly using about half of their total strength. They did this while focusing on their natural breathing inhaling and exhaling. After completing each set, they returned to the basic position. All the while decreasing the strength exerted during exhalation.

The Six Positions Used

  1. Stretching both arms behind them
  2. Placing their palms together and pushing them against each other
  3. Linking hands together and pulling them apart while still linked
  4. Pushing the feet together
  5. Pushing the knees together with the hands on either side of the knees
  6. Twisting the body with one arm up touching the head and the other arm positioned crossing over the body while twisting the body.

Each session finished with abdominal or deep breathing from the diaphragm for one minute. As you can see from this list, the exercises are very simple.

Isometric Yoga Benefits

Further, those who  had fibromyalgia as well as chronic fatigue syndrome found the yoga session relieved their pain. This shows that practicing isometric yoga has significant benefits.

For people suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia, isometric yoga can help. It serves as an add on therapy to other treatments.

There needs to be further study on how yoga can help those with chronic fatigue syndrome. However, you can try a few simple isometric yoga poses for yourself. Pace yourself to make sure you do not push past your energy envelope. You should not feel further fatigue after completion of the yoga. The point of doing this type of yoga is to ‘restore’ energy, not ‘deplete’ it.


Restorative Yoga For Chronic Fatigue

yoga and chronic fatigueRestorative yoga is another form of yoga that is good for people with low energy. It lowers anxiety levels leaving you calm and relaxed.

Focusing on the yoga positions quiets your mind. You focus inward instead of on daily stresses and worries.

This is useful if you have an adrenal fatigue component to your chronic fatigue pattern. Reducing stress signals your adrenal glands to let them know you are safe.


To people with chronic fatigue syndrome standing for any length of time can be exhausting. They do not have the energy to hold standing yoga positions and can exacerbate the condition.

For this reason, restorative yoga poses are practiced in lying or sitting positions. It uses props such as blankets and bolsters to support you in each session if you need them. This allows you to use little physical effort.

Your mind and body can still get the benefits without draining energy. The great thing about doing restorative yoga is you don’t have to go to a class to do it.  You can make it as simple as you want. No fancy clothing or equipment is needed either.

Precious energy reserves aren’t being used up getting to a class. Additionally, the yoga poses can be fitted into you daily routine at home easily.

Benefits Of Restorative Yoga

Restorative yoga is unique from more high energy forms of the practice.

Its benefits include:

  • Increasing your body’s capacity to heal and become balanced improving overall physical flexibility.
  • Helping quiet your mind.
  • Promoting deep physical relaxation.
  • Giving your immune system a boost.
  • Relaxes tight and aching muscles.
  • Balances your nervous system.
  • Enhances flexibility.
  • Helping to stabilize your moods.
  • Gives you a deeper understanding of self and of others.
  • Using props means you can hold the pose longer.
  • Releases the tension your body habitually holds onto.

History Of Restorative Yoga

yoga and chronic fatigueYogacharya B.K.S. Iyengar of Pune in India developed restorative yoga. In his early days of teaching yoga, he saw students struggling. Their pain and injuries prevented them practicing traditional yoga poses.

He developed a system using props to modify positions. In this way, his students could practice yoga without straining themselves.


He also had a deep interest in how modified yoga positions could assist people when recovering from injuries and illnesses.

B.K.S. Iyengar practiced yoga for more than 60 years. A chance meeting with the famous violinist, Yehudi Menuhin in 1952, introduced the western world to his yoga practices.

Iyengar wrote several books including the ‘Light on Yoga’ and ‘Relax and Renew’. When he died at the age of 95 in 2014, he left behind the legacy of restorative yoga practiced across the world.

Restorative Yoga Poses To Relieve Fatigue

The restorative poses that follow will help relieve stress and fatigue. They are easy to do and can be beneficial for people with chronic fatigue syndrome.

However, please take into consideration your current level of fatigue. Change the time you hold each position if you feel it is too much for you. Remember to stay within your energy envelope. For more information on working within your energy envelope click here


When Doing Restorative Yoga – You Might Need Some Props

yoga and chronic fatigue props

  • Yoga mat – A yoga mat gives you a non-slip surface. You can substitute this using a large towel or blanket, or use a floor with carpet. But a yoga mat is a good investment, it makes you feel more secure as you work into each pose.
  • Towels and blankets – You can use any towels, blankets or throw rugs you already have at home. They can be rolled up to the size you need to help you feel supported and comfortable in each position. 
  • Long pillow or bolster – A long pillow or bolster about 26 inches long and 7 inches wide is ideal. If you do not have one, you can use cushions, or a blanket or towel rolled into this shape.
  • Blocks – Yoga blocks are usually made from a hard foam and are 9 inches long x 4 inches thick x 6 inches wide. You can make your own using books tied together to keep them secure. Block gives your stretch support.
  • Chair – A chair can be used to provide support in some poses, simply lean on it as you need to.

Below are some easy restorative poses. The photos show each pose without using props, but feel free to use the props as suggested in each case. It’s important to use the props as you need to in order to feel supported without placing strain on your body. A slight stretch is OK, but straining in the pose is not. 

Depending on your current fatigue level, it might be an idea to choose a couple of the poses and try them for a few minutes only. If your fatigue does not worsen, add another pose into the next session. 

Proceed gently and slowly to make sure you don’t worsen your fatigue. 


Supported Child’s Pose

The supported child’s pose helps you to feel safe and secure and will give you a sense of deep satisfaction.

yoga and chronic fatigue childs pose

To do the supported child’s pose:

Kneel on your yoga mat with your knees spread wide apart. With the big toes on both feet touching, sit down on the heels of your feet. Put your long pillow in a vertical position between your thighs. Bend over the pillow so your chest rests on the pillow. Rest your hands on either side of the pillow with elbows resting on the floor.

Put one cheek onto the pillow and close your eyes. Hold the position for 5 minutes. At the 2½ minute mark move your head so the other cheek rests on the pillow.


Cross Legged Pose With Support

The supported cross-legged position relaxes the tension in your hips.

yoga and chronic fatigue syndrome cross legged pose

To do the supported cross-legged pose:

Put a chair on your mat. Sit in front of the chair facing the seat and cross your legs. Put your arms on the chair and rest your forehead on them. With closed eyes hold the position for 2 minutes.

After this time, switch your position so the other leg is in front. Hold the pose for another 2 minutes.


Legs Up The Wall Pose

The legs up the wall position lets the blood flow out of the legs in the opposite direction. It helps to energize the circulatory system.

yoga and chronic fatigue legs up the wall pose

To do this pose:

Sit in front of a wall and slide your legs up it by slowly lying down on to your yoga mat. Lift your hips from the floor to slide a yoga block under them to rest on while in this position.

Spread your arms wide on either side of your body with the palms of your hands facing towards the ceiling. Close your eyes and breathe naturally and let your facial muscles relax. Hold the pose for 5 minutes.


Supported Bridge Pose

The supported bridge helps to re balance your body. It can provide a good stretch for your upper back and neck which is often tight in chronic fatigue syndrome.

yoga and chronic fatigue bridge pose

To do this pose:

Lie on your yoga mat with feet flat on the floor and knees bent. Lift up your hips and slip your bolster or long pillow under and lower your hips to rest on it. Stretch your legs so they are straight but spread apart. Rest your arms to the side and have the palms facing the ceiling. Close your eyes and hold this position for 5 minutes.


Basic Pose To Relax

This basic position helps to reduce tiredness and stress so you completely relax.

yoga and chronic fatigue corpse pose

To do this pose:

Fold a blanket into a rectangle and roll it up from one end about ¾ of its length. Put it at the top of the mat with the rolled-up part positioned so you can rest your neck on it. Have either two yoga blocks or a bolster ready to support your knees. Lie down so your neck rests on the rolled-up part of the blanket.

Stretch your legs straight and spread them apart. The back of your knees are resting on the bolster or yoga blocks to support them. Rest your arms out wide beside you with palms facing the ceiling. Close your eyes and relax in this position for 5 minutes.


Practicing Yoga And Meditating At The Same Time

yoga and chronic fatigueThere are many benefits of practicing yoga and meditating at the same time.

And, since yoga evolved to support meditation, it makes sense to combine them together.

Yoga is about the physical. It cleanses your body while calming the nervous system and balancing hormones.


While meditation opens the heart and mind at the same time, promotes inner balance. When you practice them together it strengthens your connection with mind, body and soul as well as improving fitness.

By practicing the restorative poses regularly your will start to calm your mind. Over time you will be able to reach a place of stillness and content.

Putting It All Together

Many types of yoga combine meditation through controlled breathing while practicing yoga poses. Now you have a basic understanding of how these simple forms of yoga can improve your life.

Try these simple poses and find out how they can help you increase your quality of life with chronic fatigue syndrome. Go slowly and gently making sure not to overdo it which might increase your fatigue symptoms. Stay within your energy envelope at all times to prevent a crash.

Gentle yoga can improve your circulation, keep your lymphatic system running smoothly and stretch tight and painful muscles. You should feel restored at the completion of this simple yoga session. Your symptoms of fatigue should not increase and your tight and aching muscles should feel relief.

Please Leave A Comment Below.

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  1. Chronic Fatigue is something I dealt with during college, long hours of working/class/studying can really be overwhelming. I’ve tried different forms of yoga before and as a large, inflexible man, I can tell you it isn’t as easy as people make it look. The methods you’ve listed are simple, effective, and low-impact, which makes a great combination for someone with little to no energy or for someone who is older and may not be capable of advanced yoga techniques in their current state.

    • Hi there

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. As you say, the chosen yoga type is important for those with chronic fatigue syndrome. In a depleted energy state it’s important not to tax the body further.

  2. Great post. I found the section on isometric yoga particularly interesting. The positions themselves and the level of energy required do not seem taxing, and can be varied according to the individual’s strength and current level of energy. I don’t suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome, but I am sure I will benefit from getting started with the simpler, less demanding poses of isometric yoga, consistently work it for 6 months, and then see where I’m at at that time. I could then proceed to more  advanced forms. 

    Thanks for sharing!

  3. It’s a hot topic, everyone suffers

    Chronic Fatigue Syndrome means a medical condition of unknown cause, with fever, aching, and prolonged tiredness and depression due to overworking and the stress of everyday life.

    Amazing it’s the first time i hear about isometric and Restorative Yoga, those two therapies are simple, effective, an excellent combination that is within everyone’s reach.

  4. Hi Ann, it´s good to know that Isometric Yoga can benefit with chronically fatigue and fibromyalgie, a lot of people are suffering from the chronic fatigue syndrome. Thank you for the descriptions about how the poses are for Restorative Yoga and Isometric Yoga. I am a visual set type and it would have been handy if there where some images for the different poses. I, for me, can’t imagine what you mean by the supportive bridge, and how to exactly I have to stretch my legs. I can Google this but it would be nicer to see it right away on page. I do meditate, but I haven’t tried this in combination with Yoga yet. Looks to me these 2 are a good collaboration.


    • Hi Loes thanks for your comments. I have visuals on one of my other yoga posts for these poses, but you make a good point. I’ll add them thank you.


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