Can Yoga Heal Chronic Fatigue? This blog post looks at what yoga can and can't do. Find My Energy

Can Yoga Heal Chronic Fatigue?

Some people say, “yes”, others say, “no”. So, what is the reality here?

Can yoga heal chronic fatigue? That is an interesting question that one of my friends raised as we were chatting one day. And it got me to thinking about my own experience.

Personally, I am a big fan of yoga. Looking back over my twenty years living with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), yoga has woven in and out of the fabric of my journey. So, I am going to share what I have learned. We’ll explore how yoga can help you, and how it can’t. And, by the end of this blog, I hope you will have a sense of whether or not yoga would be useful for you to try.

Early experiences of yoga

My first yoga classes were private lessons with a friend. I can’t honestly say that they did much to heal my fatigue. But they also did nothing to make it worse, and I enjoyed the movement.

Coming from a background growing up doing a LOT of ballet, one of the things I missed most when I got really ill, was moving my body. So, I think those early experiences of yoga, in 2005-6, gave me back something of that movement and enjoyment. And, anything that brings joy can help with any health condition.

For various reasons, I stopped going to those classes and had a few years without yoga. During this time, I did manage to get back to doing a few ballet classes. Then, I crashed again…big-time…in 2016.

A Pivotal Moment

That crash marked the beginning of me actively researching and seeking answers. Prior to that, I had drifted back to a place of better energy simply by creating a more supportive environment for my body. But that is another part of the story, for another blog post. (If you want to find out more about what constitutes a supportive environment, click here and check out this blog).

Early on in my 2016 research, I found my way to a private doctor who specialised in CFS and thyroid treatment. I have him to thank as the first person to actually carry out a blood test that revealed all was not as it should be in my body. Again, that is another story, for another day!

Alongside the treatment he set up, in response to the blood test results, he gave me a rather strange “prescription”.

He told me to get on the internet and find a website called Yoga with Adriene. And to make sure I followed it, no matter what.

Did Yoga Heal Chronic Fatigue for me?

The short answer is, “no”. But let me continue with my story because this part brought me some really important nuggets of understanding about my body and CFS.

I dutifully followed the doctor’s advice. This part of the story took place in January 2017. If any of you have come across Adriene Mishler and her Yoga With Adriene YouTube channel, you may know that January is her annual “30 days of yoga event”.

This is basically a thirty-day journey in which Adriene releases a brand-new yoga video every day. She creates the series with the intention of taking the viewer on a journey through their practice. It is a very beautiful, meaningful experience, and one that I highly recommend…

…but maybe not when you are in the crash phase of CFS and your mitochondria are severely depleted so your body has no energy to spare!

What did I learn from this experience?

I learned the following things:

Adriene’s teaching style is full of love, wisdom and compassion. So, even though I quickly realised that my body could not cope with a daily yoga class (even if it was only 20 minutes long!), I found myself continuing to follow Adriene anyway.

I recognised a pattern in myself: the desire – and ability – to over-ride my body’s own needs. This experience brought up the conflict between wanting to follow the doctor’s advice because I wanted to get better. Plus, my innate desire to “achieve” by meeting the challenge of completing the thirty-day journey. Yet not having the capacity to push my body to complete the daily exercise.

I had to start learning compassion for myself. Learning to respect my body and its needs. Without that lesson, I stood no chance of getting better.

Rather than pushing myself to take up the challenge of completing the thirty sessions in thirty days, I learned to accept where my body was. I still completed all thirty sessions, but over the course of a few months, so I could give myself rest days in between.

Most of all, I learned to become curious about yoga. I learned to understand that I could view yoga as a “tool”. Like any tool, it has the ability to help, or hinder, depending on how and where it is used.

So, that is the idea we will move on to explore. And by doing that, we’ll arrive at an answer to the question, can yoga heal chronic fatigue?

Can Yoga Heal Chronic Fatigue?

The next part of this exploration involves considering the two parts of this question. First, what is yoga? Second, what is chronic fatigue?

What is Yoga?

Let me start to answer that question by giving you a quote to contemplate:

Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self.

The Bhagavad Gita

Yoga has undoubtedly become part of the fabric of Western society. You don’t have to look far to find a yoga class close to home. YouTube is full of channels that offer yoga classes you can do at your own convenience, in your own home.

Dig a little deeper, and you soon discover that there are different branches of yoga. “Hot Yoga” involves sweating it out in a heated studio as you practice the yoga poses. You can find yoga classes for pregnancy, yoga focused more on relaxation, or more on movement.

So, yoga is not one thing.

In the West, you might argue, it has moved away from its original spiritual practice and more towards being “just” another form of exercise.

What Yoga can do

I don’t intend to get into an in-depth discussion about the origins and meanings of yoga. Plenty of people with more knowledge than me have written great books on that subject.

The point I want to make here is that “yoga” is not one thing any more. It has strayed from its original roots as a system of supporting body, mind and soul.

I am not trying to say that is either a “good” or a “bad” thing. It is simply relevant to be aware of this if you want to answer the question, “can yoga heal chronic fatigue?”

In my view, yoga can do the following things:

  • Bring relaxation by working with the body, and focusing the mind into the present moment
  • Provide movement
  • Open our awareness

I am not saying these are the only things it does. But I want to draw your attention to these things as we think about how yoga might be helpful – or not – for chronic fatigue.

What is Chronic Fatigue?

Let’s turn now to consider the second portion of this, what is chronic fatigue?

As with the discussion around yoga, that is a huge question with many answers. It’s what we’re exploring across the Find My Energy website.

But for today, I just want to focus you towards three critical areas within chronic fatigue.


The first is the idea that the ongoing nature of this illness is really a reflection of how your body adapts to the environment in which it lives. So, if your environment is set up to give your body more energy, the fatigue lessens. If your environment is set up to take more energy than is available, the fatigue increases. (You can explore this idea a little more by clicking here and reading this blog post).

Mitochondrial Function

The second idea is understanding how your Mitochondria function. I have a much more detailed blog about this, which you can read at this link. The thing you need to understand is, your Mitochondria are the parts of your cells that produce the energy each cell requires to function.

If you are trying to make your cells use more energy than the Mitochondria can produce, your body is quickly going to break down.

But if you learn to work with, rather than against, your Mitochondria, you can support your body and promote healing.

Trauma and the Stress Response

The third idea relates to the role of stress and trauma in chronic fatigue. Again, this is a huge topic, which I explore more fully in other blog posts.

The point to hold onto here is that accumulated stress and early life or ongoing trauma can end up impacting your cells. Literally, your body begins to feel like it is living in a world that is too dangerous to survive, and it will find ways to shut down in order to protect itself.

Bringing it all together

So, let’s bring those two sets of ideas together. Support or challenge?

First, we said, chronic fatigue arises when your body is trying to survive in an unsupportive environment. So, is there a way in which yoga can combat that?

Your body requires movement (click here and read this blog to learn more about that). We all know that we need to exercise because it keeps our muscles in shape. Exercise – or movement – also promotes a healthy heart (your heart is a muscle, remember!), good circulation, and it helps clear toxins from your body by keeping your lymphatic system flowing.

So, yoga can help as a form of movement. In this respect, yes, yoga can help with providing the support your body needs to heal.


Here’s the difficulty: chronic fatigue comes from asking your body to perform tasks for which it has too little energy. So, if you were to try a really full-on yoga class, yes it would boost your lymphatic system and your heart rate. But it would also ask your muscle cells to use more energy than they have available.

If you have ever tried this, you will know all about the muscle pain, and the Post Exertional Malaise, or the delayed fatigue response. Those symptoms all arise from asking your muscles to use more energy than they have available.

So, in this respect, yoga could bring challenges…particularly if you are trying to push your body through a class that requires more energy than you have available.

Yoga Therapy

We also said that a critical element of chronic fatigue is the underlying trauma, which causes your central nervous system to default to the fight/flight response, or the freeze response. Neither of these states are supportive to healing.

One critical benefit of yoga is its ability to bring you into the present moment, and into your body, rather than your mind. Practicing this on a regular basis can most definitely help you to retrain your central nervous system back to a “safe” place. That is the point from which your body can begin to heal.

In fact, I mentioned that many different styles of yoga are now available to us. Well, one of these is specifically “yoga therapy”. That is the conscious use of poses, breathwork and movement to help heal trauma.

So, that style of yoga can be extremely beneficial to the body.

Revealing more about yourself

The experiences you have during a yoga class, can also bring you greater awareness. What do I mean by that?

Where do your thoughts start to go if you are asked to do a pose that is challenging? Do you grit your teeth and push through the pain? Or do you give up without trying? Do you even notice this, or is your mind still focusing on what you plan to eat for dinner?

The practice of yoga encourages you to start tuning in to your default patterns of behaviour. You may begin to recognise which patterns support you, and which may be getting in your way.

Simply noticing these things on the yoga mat can allow you to start noticing them in other areas of your life. And awareness of an issue is the first step to changing it.

Whether we are talking about the supportive environment, or about healing trauma, one thing you want to consciously explore is how your relationship to yourself and your body may or may not be helping you. And yoga is an excellent tool for doing this.

What does all this mean for you? Can yoga heal chronic fatigue for you?

As with so many other tools, or treatments, or protocols, or therapies, yoga’s power to heal (or not) comes from understanding how best to work with it.

So, it is critical for you to understand what your body needs right now. Could you be carrying unhealed trauma? If that is the case, then it may be a good idea to specifically look for a yoga teacher who is trained in yoga therapy and knows how to help with healing trauma.

I can personally recommend a wonderful lady called Doris Puerhinger. I worked with her myself, and you can find her website and online classes at this link:

Does your body simply need a little more movement to strengthen it and support processes like detoxification and circulation?

If that is the case, then it is important to build up gradually. Start with gentle exercises and remember to use proper pacing to support your body. (If you don’t know what I mean by “pacing”, then follow this link to find out).

You might also like to explore the work of Fiona Agombar. Her book, Beat Fatigue with Yoga is set up to explain how yoga poses can support your recovery and gives you exercises to follow. You can find out more (including online classes) on her website:

A Free Resource for You

To bring this back to where I left my story… I have continued to follow Yoga With Adriene since my first introduction to her work. Now, I look forward to her 30-day challenge every January. It is a beautiful reminder of how far my body has come.

But what kept me following her work wasn’t the yoga poses, or the sense of moving my body again. It was really the way in which she presents her yoga. I firmly believe that, even if you don’t move a muscle, her videos are worth watching and absorbing from start to finish just for the joy and compassion in her words.

So, I haven’t simply learned how to breathe, or how to (attempt to) put my body into strange shapes. I have learned how to listen to my body, and respect its wishes. Remembering to back off, or alter a pose if my body needs it. I have learned to treat myself with more kindness, care and compassion.

And all of that, as Adriene would say, “feeds off the mat and out into daily life.” So, I gradually found myself being kinder and gentler with my internal dialogue in all sorts of situations.

Yoga, at its most helpful, is not simply about movement. It is about tuning into yourself, and learning to work with your body in a kind, loving way. Those are lessons that you will end up applying in your daily life, and attempts at healing, whatever treatments you choose.

Download your free yoga pack now

So, I have put together a free resource that you can use to get started with some yoga. It offers you some basic tips and a curated list of some of my favourite Yoga With Adriene practices, that are ideally suited to anyone experiencing fatigue. Download your copy using the link below.


Start a supportive practice and begin recovering your energy today