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Are you so constantly tired that the thought of gathering up enough energy to exercise seems ludicrous, if not downright impossible? A growing amount of research is showing how physical activity in the form of yoga can be an effective chronic fatigue treatment and a great way to reduce tiredness symptoms. Although it can be extremely difficult for many chronically fatigued individuals to get motivated, being physically active is a fundamental necessity for feeling energized and overcoming fatigue. And an increasing number of studies indicate that exercise in the form of yoga is an especially successful chronic fatigue treatment and way to combat persistent tiredness symptoms.
Yoga for energy
Whether you need an effective chronic fatigue treatment or are generally healthy but could use more energy, studies show yoga can help. If you are relatively healthy but have tiredness symptoms, just one yoga class a week can improve your fatigue and boost your energy. A study of 135 generally healthy men and women aged 65–85 years were randomly assigned to six months of Hatha yoga class, walking exercise class, or a wait-list control group. Beginning Iyengar yoga poses were taught to study participants in a gentle, once weekly yoga class for 90 minutes by a certified instructor. The one-hour weekly walking exercise class consisted of walking on an outdoor 400-meter track using heart rate target of 70% of maximum or perceived exertion at a level of 6-7. Both the yoga group and the walking group participants were encouraged to practice at home. Compared to the walking group and the controls, the yoga group members experienced significant improvements in vitality/energy and fatigue.
Another study also demonstrates how even one yoga class a week can lessen tiredness symptoms and make a positive difference in energy levels. In a group of university employees, taking a lunchtime yoga class once a week for six weeks resulted in marked improvements in feelings of energy. In comparison to the wait-list control group at baseline and the end of the program, the yoga group also reported significantly improved mood and well-being. They also felt more clear-minded, composed, and confident, and reported increased life purpose and satisfaction.
The beneficial effects of yoga on fatigue seem stick over time. A study of individuals who had been taking an average of 2-3 yoga classes per week for at least two years found that compared to people not taking yoga, they had significantly less fatigue and tiredness symptoms as well as less anxiety and anger.
Yoga effectively treats fatigue related to anxiety and depression
Taking a yoga class typically results in significant improvements in energy levels and mood and for individuals needing chronic fatigue treatment for tiredness symptoms related to depression and anxiety. In one study, women who reported feeling “emotionally distressed” showed significant improvements in their fatigue and on other measures of stress after participating in three months of twice weekly 90-minute Iyengar yoga classes. Compared to the control group (women on the yoga waiting list), women who participated in the yoga-training demonstrated pronounced and significant improvements in perceived fatigue and energy. They also showed significantly improvements in stress, anxiety, well-being, and depression, as well as marked pain relief from headaches and back pain. Even their cortisol levels, as measured via saliva, decreased significantly after participation in the yoga class.
In another study on yoga’s effectiveness as a depression and chronic fatigue treatment, participants with major depression reported feeling less tiredness symptoms and more energetic after taking a one hour Iyengar yoga class. Of the 17 participants who completed the study, taking three yoga classes per week for a total of 20 classes, 11 experienced a complete remission of their depression and significant improvements in insomnia, in addition to the improvements in energy levels.
Yoga significantly lessens fibromyalgia-related fatigue
Yoga has been found to be an effective chronic fatigue treatment for fibromyalgia-related chronic fatigue in many studies, leading to significant improvements in tiredness symptoms as well as pain, depression, and general quality of life. An 8-week yoga program, called Yoga of Awareness, significantly improved fatigue and other symptoms of fibromyalgia, including pain and mood. The yoga program consisted of gentle poses, meditation, breathing exercises, yoga-based coping instructions, and group discussions. Another study found similar results: fibromyalgia patients who took eight weekly sessions of stretching, breathing, and relaxing yoga had significantly less fatigue and pain than patients in the control group.
The studies summarized above are just a sampling of the published research on yoga’s effectiveness as a chronic fatigue treatment and natural cure for persistent tiredness symptoms. Whether your fatigue is chronic or just occasional, whether it’s related to an illness or not, yoga can help. If you have never done yoga before, it is recommended that you sign up for an introductory course at a yoga studio. Avoid hot yoga and “power” yoga, making sure your class is a gentle form of yoga specifically geared toward beginners and taught by a certified instructor. Make a commitment to at least one class a week for eight weeks and see how yoga can free you from chronic fatigue.
For other ideas on how to treat fatigue using safe and natural, evidence-based therapies, see our entire section of fatigue articles. Also, read more here about how yoga can even boost your immune system.
Share your experience
Have you tried yoga for fatigue or another condition? What other strategies have you found helpful to boost your energy?