HRV, Yoga and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Measuring heart rate variability (HRV) continues to be our best quantitative method of measuring the physiological effects of yoga. And HRV is one of our best tools in determining yoga’s beneficial impact on most forms of dis-ease. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), also referred to as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), has particular biomarkers that are well defined within the components of heart rate variability.

Tracking heart rate variability – before, during and after yoga – provides valuable insight to actual changes in the autonomic nervous system (ANS). People with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome exhibit dysfunctions of the ANS and the central nervous system (CNS). Changes to these areas of dysfunction can be observed when practicing yoga with HRV tracking equipment. Heart rate variability can quantify low vagal tone and sympathetic overactivity, as well as the higher baseline heart rate that is present in people with CFS. The components of time domain HRV measuring techniques graphically demonstrate and statistically measure the physical changes of the ANS during yoga practice.

Wikipedia Commons Image by Shanghai killer whale

The focus of this article centers around how yoga, coupled with tracking heart rate variability can provide biofeedback to help decrease sympathetic nervous system (SNS) activity, and increase of the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) activity. Vagal tone is the reward for balancing these two areas of the nervous system. Vagal tone is when the vagus nerve, that wandering, wiring harness of the body, accurately communicates the correct response within the body. For example, it is not reasonable for the body to respond as if it is being chased by a tiger for the 8-12 hours while a person is at work! Yoga can help counteract such as overactive stress response.

Research has shown that several other systems may be improved through yoga practice. These include reducing cortisol overactivity (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical, or HPA axis), reducing inflammation, improving immune function, and reducing fatigue and energy levels. These are all important in managing the symptoms and the root issues of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

The regular “person on the street” has access to powerful, sophisticated heart rate variability tracking tools. With a smart phone and an app, tracking heart rate variability is available to anyone wanting to see the effects of lifestyle, stress, exercise, or diet on heart health. Coupled with real-time HRV feedback, yoga practices have a powerful effect on all dis-eases. A regular yoga practice and daily tracking can prove the effects using the evidence-based method of HRV tracking. And Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is one condition for which self-regulation of the autonomic nervous system, using yogic techniques has an immediate and positive impact.

Other Reading:

Changes in fatigue, autonomic functions, and blood biomarkers due to sitting isometric yoga in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome
Takakazu OkaTokusei TanahashiNobuyuki SudoBattuvshin Lkhagvasuren & Yu Yamada 
BioPsychoSocial Medicine Volume 12, Article number: 3 (2018)

Isometric yoga improves the fatigue and pain of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome who are resistant to conventional therapy: a randomized, controlled trial.
Oka T1Tanahashi T1Chijiwa T1Lkhagvasuren B1Sudo N1Oka K2.

Yoga for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome – What Research Tells Us