Yoga is a practice that involves a combination of gentle exercise, mindful breathing and meditation. It can produce a number of health benefits, including increased fitness, but it seems that yoga is also a great way to fight fatigue.
A recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, found that two 90-minute sessions of yoga each week reduced fatigue by 57% in breast cancer survivors, with the energy-boosting benefits lasting for months. In fact, the more the women in the study practiced yoga, the better their results. Participants also reported a significantly better night’s sleep than those who didn’t practice yoga.
"Yoga has many parts to it—meditation, breathing, stretching and strengthening. We think the breathing and meditation components were really important in terms of some of the changes we were seeing," said lead author, Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology at The Ohio State University. "Reducing fatigue enables women to engage in other activities over time. So yoga may have offered a variety of benefits in addition to the yoga exercises themselves."
The slow, controlled breathing associated with yoga has also been shown to have positive effects on the body, from decreasing blood pressure and pulse rate, to helping manage pain and depression. This may be because shallow breathing prevents the body from getting enough oxygen, while deep breathing forces more oxygen into cells—improving circulation and increasing energy.
Active yoga poses that get your body moving can boost feelings of vitality and help combat long periods of sitting at the office desk—stimulating blood flow and gently stretching the spine in the same way that a lunchtime walk or other form of gentle exercise does. Mindfulness meditation has also been shown to reduce fatigue in people with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), with a study published in the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology suggesting that meditation helped participants become more resilient, gain a sense of control and enjoy a greater appreciation of the positive experiences in life.
There are many different styles of yoga, but each relies on the core components of structured poses (asanas) with breath awareness and mindfulness. Hero’s pose and child’s pose are excellent asanas that you can do at any time to relax and restore your energy. If you’re not feeling the benefits with one particular form of yoga, consider trying another style until you find one that works for you.
Remember to see your doctor for a check-up to assess your fitness level before taking up a new exercise program.
Do you practice yoga regularly? How do you think it affects your energy levels?