Fatigue and Yoga: simple poses to help beat fatigue

 In Yoga

As someone who has been diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (high functioning), Endometriosis, and suspected Hashimoto’s Disease, and Fibromyalgia, fatigue is a normal part of my life. There are days where the last thing I feel like doing is rolling out the yoga mat and saluting the sun! But, there are so many yoga postures that are wonderful and supporting the body to relax.

In today’s busy world, you don’t have to have autoimmune conditions to know what fatigue and exhaustion feel like. Maybe, you run around after a toddler or day. Or you work long hours in an office. Maybe, you’ve overdone it at the gym or on the wines and your body and mind are exhausted. No matter what is causing you to feel tired or fatigued, yoga has a pose that can help your mind and body to reconnect and relax. Here are a few of my favourite relaxation poses for a fatigued body and mind…

1. Child’s Pose

(Balasana)

We live in a stressful world, full of stimulation and situations that cause us to react, resulting in many people feeling fatigued and exhausted all the time. The body has two nervous systems in place to deal with daily life. The Sympathetic Nervous System (fight or flight) and the Parasympathetic Nervous System (rest and digest). When we have too much stimulation, too much stress in our lives, these two systems can become unbalanced… causing our whole body to be thrown out of whack.

By concentrating on yoga practices that stimulate the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PSNS) we can gently remind our body and its systems to re-engage our PSNS and relax, instead of constantly using energy to maintain a fight or flight mode.

Sitting on your heels with your knees together, gently fold forward over your thighs. Arms can be relaxed out past the head with the palms on the floor or alongside the legs (as pictured). Forehead rests on the mat. It is the connection of the forehead/third eye area with the floor that helps to stimulate the PSNS through the vagus nerve, which is located around the third eye area. If practising this pose on your bed (or even on the floor) try stacking your hands in front of you, either flat or in fists, and rest your forehead on your hands to help stimulate the PSNS.

Benefits and Tips

Child’s pose is calming, and relieves fatigue and stress, plus stretches hips, thighs and ankles. If you find sitting on your heels to be a challenge, place a folded up blanket/towel or a cushion between your heels and bottom for support. To create more space for the chest/abdomen in this pose, take the knees wide (pointing towards the outer edges of the mat) and then fold the body forward, stretching your arms gently out in front of your body.

For any neck tension, place a folded blanket/towel under your forehead to lessen the stretch through the neck. If you have knee injuries, try this posture on a soft surface such as your bed.

2. Deep Breathing

(Pranayama)

Deep abdominal breathing

The breath brings new life, new energy to the body. Breathing helps clear the mind and develop concentration. Deepening and slowing your breath down helps to reduce the impact of anxiety and depression. Breathing plays a vital role in our overall well-being and is key to all yogic practices. Reconnecting with the breath slowly releases fatigue from the body and replaces it with energy.

The following is a simple breathing exercise you can do either sit up in bed, on your lounge chair or on a yoga mat (use a cushion or folded towel under your bottom for support if you find sitting on the floor cross-legged difficult), or you can do the breathing exercise while lying down and without the arm movements if you find sitting up without support to be too strenuous. Start your day off with a few deep breaths to help begin to recharge your bodies energy systems.

Find a comfortable seated position. Straighten your spine and back of the neck.

  1. Exhale deeply through the nostrils and bring your palms together in front of your heart.
  2. Inhale deeply and slowly for a count of 4, raising your hands/arms up above your head as you inhale. Feel your abdomen and chest fill up as you breath.
  3. Exhale slowly for a count of 4 from your nostrils, releasing your hands and your arms circling out wide around the body.
  4. Feel the abdomen and chest relax as you exhale until the hands reach the floor.

Repeat steps 1-4 a couple of times. Increase or decrease the length of inhalation/exhalation as needed for your body, as long as both inhalation/exhalation are an equal count.

Benefits and Tips

Calms the mind and body (less stress), improves circulation and cardiovascular system, improves digestion, mood and energy levels. Practice first thing in the morning before hopping out of bed to increase your energy levels for the day and to improve your mood!

3. Legs up the wall

(Viparita Karani)

Legs up the wall

*Imagine there is a wall behind my legs

Another wonderful pose to relax the mind and body… Legs up the wall pose!

Find a wall with clear floor space. Set up your mat so that your body can lie on the mat while your legs rest against the wall. Sit beside the wall your knees tucked up to your chest. Gently lower your spine onto the mat, keeping your legs tucked into your chest. Extend the legs up the wall. Use your hands for support to gently shift the hips/bottom if needed. Rest here for a few moments or up to 15 minutes.

To come out of the pose, slide your feet down the wall, bringing your knees back to the chest. Squeeze the knees in gently to your body, before rolling on to your right side. Pause here for a few minutes. Finally, return to a seated position or go to sleep if in bed.

If practising in bed, sit on the edge of your bed that is closest to the wall. Slowly follow the steps above to bring your legs up onto the wall. 

Benefits and Tips

Gently stretches back of the legs and neck. Relieves tired and fatigued legs, aids in circulation, and calms the mind. You can also try placing a towel or blanket under your body for added support or a folded blanket/pillow under your bottom/lower back to elevate the hips and provide more of an inversion.

Do not practice if you have eye problems, such as glaucoma, or serious neck/back injuries. If your bed is against a wall, try practising this pose in bed, before going to sleep at night or at any time. However, if your feet or legs begin to cramp, slowly slide your feet down the wall allowing the knees to rest out towards your armpits and rest here for a few moments before either walking the feet back up the wall or coming out of the posture. 

4. Corpse Pose

(Savasana)

Savasana – Proper Relaxation

Find a comfortable and quiet spot to spread out your mat. Or practice on your bed. Allow your feet to relax out to the sides. Arms out to the sides of the body with the palms facing up. Eyes gently closed. Breathe gently feeling the abdomen rise with the inhale. As you exhale, allow your muscles, ligaments, bones, and every part of your body to slowly relax. Take your awareness through your body reconnecting with yourself, paying attention to how you feel.

If you get achy legs, place a pillow under the knees, this can help to alleviate the aches a little bit.

Try to stay here for 5-10 minutes. While you relax, if your mind starts to wander (you can set a gentle/soft alarm to alert you when the time is up if you would like to).

Benefits and Tips

Slows the breath, calming the mind and body. Savasana is also great for relieving anxiety or depression. Practice Savasana in bed before going to sleep at night.

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