Yoga: How it can benefit ME/CFS
In this article, I will introduce the ancient Indian
discipline of Yoga to CFS sufferers, and look at how practising Yoga
techniques can help us to regain a better quality of
Firstly, a little about myself. I was a Yoga teacher and
practitioner for about 20 years. Our family (husband, young son and I)
lived in Malaysia for some time, and during our stay I was taught Yoga
by an Indian guru from Benares. In his lessons, he divulged many secrets
pertaining to natural healthy living. He was in his seventies, but had
the smooth clear skin and sparkling eyes of a man very much younger.
fact, he looked no more than about 40 years old.
Australia, during a particularly busy and stressful time I contracted
the Epstein-Barr Virus, which led to CFS. The first remission - after an
illness so devastating that I all but lost my life - was brought about
through the knowledge and practice of Yoga (plus a very supportive
naturopath). At first I could only manage some Pranayama (control
of breath), Yoga Nidra (deep relaxation) and a little meditation.
I also included positive affirmations. After a few months I began to
attend a Yoga class. The teacher was very understanding and supportive
and I was able to take my time. I practised regularly at home, and after
six months I was able to keep up in a two hour advanced
Eventually I reached about 98% fitness and began teaching
Yoga again. I taught for about two and a half years before I suffered a
relapse of CFS with the onset of menopause and its symptoms. Using the
same Yoga techniques, plus a strong faith, I am now on my way to
Health - Transformational Programs For Your Body, Mind and Spirit in
Alternative Medicine - Naturopathy - Permacult Project
- CFIDS Index
Natural Living Chat room - CFS
& Exercise - CFIDS Management Plan
Doctor's Resources - Medical Book
Index - Health Site Index
What is Yoga?
Yogasanas and Pranayama
there are many misconceptions, misunderstandings and 'so much rubbish'
concerning this very ancient science. Yoga originated in India.
learning (Rishis) went up into the Himalayan mountains to
discover the secret to healthy wholesome living. They did this through
the practice of meditation and observance of nature. They devised the
Yoga system, which aids physical, mental and spiritual well-being.
never was, and isn't a religion, but rather it is a healthy way of
living; promoting fitness of the body and the mind through gentle
exercise, by regulating diet, and by calming the mind and thought
processes with meditation and relaxation. Anyone, from the very young to
the elderly, can benefit from the practice of Yoga.
Yoga brings a
greater faith and a greater clarity into life. Its diet is simple and
nourishing, its ways are the ways of peace, compassion and a positive
attitude to life. There are many branches of Yoga including: Raja,
Hatha, Manthra and Kundalini Yogas. Most Australian teachers are Hatha
Yoga practices include:
Asanas or postures
These are not gymnastics or body
building exercises. They are 'states of being' in which you remain
steady, calm, quiet and comfortable with your physical body and mind.
Asanas can be used for curative or health reasons. By gently exercising
the muscles, massaging the internal organs and toning the tissues
throughout the whole body, health is wonderfully
2. Pranayama or breath
This technique can be defined as a series of
breathing exercises aimed at stimulating and increasing the vital energy
in the body and directing it to a particular area for various purposes.
Extra oxygen is introduced and toxins removed. Few people breathe
correctly, and consequently under-utilise their lung
3. Dhyana or meditation
regular practice, meditation calms the mind, relieves stress and leads
to one-pointedness and equanimity. It brings peace and harmony, which
may be enjoyed throughout the day.
4. Yoga Nidra or
Probably the most beneficial practice for
sufferers of CFS. The importance of total relaxation cannot be stressed
enough. The whole body, the mind and respiration are brought into a
state of complete relaxation. When practiced properly, one session of
Yoga Nidra is equivalent to four hours sleep.
Hatha Yoga is not the ultimate goal. Hatha Yoga makes us aware
that the body with its inestimable qualities is everything that we have
in life; for we enter this world naked and leave this world naked.
that reason we must get the best out of our body. The more we strive to
unfold the perfection's of the body, the more quickly our mental
capacities unfold: power of concentration, memory, will-power and
resolution. The blessing of Hatha Yoga is threefold; health, well-being
and long life.
In contrast to other exercise techniques
(gymnastics, aerobics, jogging etc.), Yoga asanas are performed very
slowly and with complete awareness on the parts being exercised. They
are held as long as is comfortable, with accompanied breath control.
nervous system, endocrine glands, and internal organs as well as muscles
are encouraged to function properly. There are varying degrees of
difficulty, but there are asanas for the very young through to the very
old, and also for people suffering from physical and psychological
illness. Toxin levels are reduced and the circulation
Effects of Illness
many different problems within the body:
- Muscle Deterioration. Wasting of muscle tissue during
illness has a direct relationship to bodily strength. The effects of
gravitational pull on organs is increased as the spinal column and
internal organs are not properly supported.
- Circulation. Cold extremities, varicose veins, poor
nourishment to body cells, malfunction of the endocrine system and
inadequate elimination of bodily toxins result from poor
- Digestion. Poor digestion is always connected with poor
elimination. The inner cleanliness of the body is lost. Constipation,
the primary cause of haemorrhoids, causes sluggishness and headache.
People generally eat far more than they require, thus putting a strain
on the digestive process and the heart.
- Faulty Metabolism. Conversion of food into energy by the
body (metabolism) is adversely affected.
- Recuperative Powers. The body's recuperative powers may be
affected, both physically and mentally.
General Benefits of Yogasanas
- The Endocrine System. Yoga asanas regulate and control the
secretion of hormones from all glands in the body. Even if one gland
is malfunctioning, a noticeable loss of health can be
- The Muscles, Bones, Nervous System, Respiratory, Circulatory
and Digestive Systems. All are co-ordinated with each other.
body becomes more flexible, and more able to adjust to environmental
changes. The sympathetic and para-sympathetic nervous systems are
brought into a state of balance.
- Mental. Asanas make the mind strong and able to endure pain
and unhappiness. Determination, concentration and memory are
- Spiritual. For those interested in the spiritual path, they
are a stepping stone (third) in the quest for liberation or
Yoga Nidra & Meditation
Dynamic and Static Asanas
Dynamic asanas are
designed to loosen up the body, and to remove stagnant blood. They
tighten the skin and muscles, strengthen the lungs and encourage
movement in the digestive and excretory systems. They are particularly
useful for beginners. Static asanas are performed with little or no
movement to the body, often remaining in the one position for quite a
few minutes. They gently massage the internal organs, glands and
muscles, as well as relax the nerves throughout the body. They are
specifically concerned with bringing tranquillity to the mind and
preparing the student for higher practices such as meditation (Dhyana).
Some of them induce a state of sense withdrawal. Some make the body
steady and firm. All asanas have Sanskrit names - Sanskrit being the
ancient Indian language. Nearly all bear the names of birds or
Prana is that vital force
said to pervade the whole Cosmos. It is in all things, whether animate
or inanimate. It is closely related to the air that we breathe.
more subtle than air and perhaps can be defined as the energy essence
that is in air, and in everything in the
Man's lifespan depends
much on the mode of respiration. A person with shallow, short breathing
is liable to live a shorter life than someone who breathes slowly and
deeply. The ancient Yogis noticed the difference in longevity between
animals with short rapid respiration and those who breathed more slowly.
Birds, dogs, rabbits etc. live only a few years. Snakes, elephants,
tortoise etc. have a long lifespan. People today, because of stress and
lifestyle do not normally breathe correctly. Breathing patterns change
according to the circumstances surrounding the person. Anger and
emotional disturbances increase the breath flow and make it shallow.
contented person breathes slowly and steadily. We are taught in Yoga
that one outburst of anger uses up three months supply of
Most people breathe superficially, using only a part of
their existing lung capacity. The result is that the body and brain are
sadly deprived of vital nourishment. Thinking is slow and we are
inclined to be lethargic. Stagnant air builds up in the lower lobes of
the lungs for long periods of time (yawning is a sign of oxygen
deprivation). Tight restrictive clothing further interferes with the
breathing process. Fatigue results as lactic acid builds up in the
The first lesson in Pranayama is the practice of
correct respiration, using each part of the breathing mechanism:
beginning with abdominal breathing, then middle or rib-cage breathing,
followed by upper chest breathing. All three stages are then combined,
forming the complete, full Yoga breath. The result is increased vitality
and alertness, followed by other benefits such as clearer skin, better
quality of sleep and resistance to disease.
Remember, every time the rhythm of the
breath is slowed down, breath becomes a powerful tranquilliser. The
simplest and most effective way to keep the mind in perfect balance is
breath control. The mind is like a monkey, jumping from branch to
branch, fretting over the past and fearful of the future. The peaceful
person is one who consciously watches the breath, thus bringing the mind
into a balanced, stable condition. Yogis use the slow, deep steady
breathing technique to control fear, anxiety, anger and depression.
There are many Yoga books around, but it is wiser and safer to attend a
good Yoga class.
(Valuable aids to a better quality
Yoga Nidra (deep relaxation) aims toward total deep relaxation of
both the physical body and the mind. When we are in a state of deep
relaxation, the body can begin to heal itself by bringing about harmony
and balance. Yoga teaches that peace and tranquillity can only be
attained from within, and not from anything external. There are three
types of tension: muscular or physical, mental or psychic, and
These threefold tensions cause disease,
inhibitions, complexes and anxieties of various types which can bring
about much suffering. The majority of people are tense most of the time,
even though they may not be aware of it. Observation will confirm this
by such signs as nail-biting, smoking, excessive talking, constant
irritability and other indications. Total relaxation does not mean
having a drink, going to the movies, reading or watching TV. These may
give some temporary relief from stress: but, what is the mind doing?
is turning over the same thoughts and worries day after day. Many lie
awake at night worrying and arise exhausted the next day.
Nidra is the Yogic tranquilliser. It establishes harmony and well-being
throughout the entire system. It greatly reduces the physical and mental
tensions brought about by modern life. According to Dr William Collinge
in his book, Recovering from M.E., research in the USA (plus
yogic research) suggests that deep relaxation "may be the most
fundamental healing state of which you are capable". Yoga Nidra induces
physical, emotional and mental relaxation, in that order.
- Physical relaxation is achieved by rotation of
consciousness around the various parts of the body. Next, attention is
drawn to the breathing process. The slower and deeper the respiration,
the more relaxed one becomes.
- Emotional relaxation is achieved by developing a state of
mind where various feelings are brought to the surface voluntarily,
and then thrown off. At this stage the mind ceases to process
information from the outside world or the body.
- Mental relaxation is psychic sleep in the realm of the
mind. One appears to be asleep to the outside world, but is fully
awake and aware on an internal level. All awareness of physical body
disappears, and at this stage, calming tranquil images are evoked by a
process of visualisation. Healing images and suggestions are brought
in at this stage. Here the mind is very sensitive to positive
affirmations or resolves. Remember, the mind is like a naughty child.
It does the opposite of what you want it to do. Yoga Nidra silences
the mind; it's useless chatter being slowly but surely controlled.
Meditation - An exact science, developed in India about
5000 years ago, meditation is the method of bringing a scattered,
disorganised mind into a state of peace, quiet and tranquillity. It
involves, as in Yoga Nidra, internalising the mind, controlling the
respiration and relaxing the body. A focus is used, such as a candle
flame, a Manthra or the rhythm of the natural breath. The mind will go
out again and again, but the meditator gently brings it back to the
subject of concentration. Meditation should always be practised sitting,
and not lying down. The mind always remains aware and alert.
must be straight and the head centred. There are many misconceptions
concerning meditation, and few except serious yoga practitioners ever
reach a state of true meditation. Meditation has three stages: one,
Concentration, two, Contemplation, and three,
Meditation (the state reached when the meditator is no longer
aware of meditating). For health purposes, it is enough to reach a state
where the mind is quiet and steady, the respiration calm and balanced,
and the feeling is that of deep peace. With regular practice, this may
be achieved, greatly benefiting the overall mental and emotional
Healing Affirmations and Resolves - Together with
Yoga Nidra and Meditation we may include positive healing affirmations
or resolves. These have been practised by Yogis to bring about a
reversal of negative situations such as ill health, and are mentioned as
far back as Vedanta, the ancient Indian Scriptures.
When the body
and mind are stilled, suggestions of a positive nature are made to the
sub-conscious. These suggestions are very effective, and over a period
of time, are said to come true in one's life. Negative emotions such as
fear, anger, resentment and hate are known to have an adverse effect on
our physical, mental and emotional well-being. When one practises
Meditation and Yoga Nidra seriously and regularly, these emotions are
gradually replaced with feelings of peace, harmony and universal love.
Here are some suggestions if you would like to try affirmations. Remember, practise them regularly when in a relaxed attitude.
- "By the grace of God, day by day in every way, I am getting
better and better."
- "I manifest perfect health and strength."
- "The cause of every bodily disorder is vanishing."
- "Every organ is working better and better from moment to
- "I am strong in the Lord and the power of His might."
- "My yoke is easy, my burden is light, I am strong, free and
- "I now willingly let go every thought, condition, or
relationship that in any way retards my perfect healing. I am
blessed with perfect elimination in mind, body, affairs and
Healing Secrets of the
- "I am created in the image of God.I am imbued with the
mighty power of God.The power of God is all that I am.I am
happy, I am healthy, I am at peace with all life.I am, I am, I
Sri Sathya Sai
(Ed: Nola is
understandably not teaching at present due to her CFS. She is therefore
in no position to benefit financially from this article, and instead
hopes to simply share her knowledge and experience of Yoga.).
By Society member, Nola Szczecinski
Reprinted from Emerge, June
Top of page - More Alternative Medicine
Doctor's Resources - Naturopathy
Medical Book Index - Health Site Index
The books featured here are from Amazon - they ship internationally,
however, if you'd prefer to deal with Amazon in Europe - click
I am NOT a medical professional.
I am a CFS - EBV sufferer who is relaying some of his experiences and
None of the information on these pages is to be construed as medical advice.
Please see a doctor for such advice.
Due to the nature of my illness, I am unable to work for a
regular employer in my former occupation as a journalist, and have started this Website, it's mirror
sites and others, as an information resource and business.
Principles of this site & Privacy
Marcus Webb, Webmaster
1Earth Media. All Rights Reserved. Last update 26th January 2013
PO Box 311, Wingham, N.S.W, Australia, 2429.