The longitudinal effects of seated isometric yoga on blood biomarkers, autonomic functions, and psychological parameters of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome: a pilot study, by Takakazu Oka, Tokusei Tanahashi, Battuvshin Lkhagvasuren, & Yu Yamada in BioPsychoSocial Medicine vol 13, no: 28 (2019)
In a previous randomized controlled trial, we found that practicing seated isometric yoga regularly for 2 months improved the fatigue of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) who are resistant to conventional therapy. The aim of this pilot study was to investigate the possible mechanisms behind this finding by comparing blood biomarkers, autonomic nervous function, and psychological indices before versus after an intervention period of seated isometric yoga practice.
Fifteen patients with CFS who did not show satisfactory improvements after at least 6 months of conventional therapy practiced seated isometric yoga (biweekly 20-min sessions with a yoga instructor and daily practice at home) for 2 months. The longitudinal effects of seated isometric yoga on fatigue, blood biomarkers, autonomic function, and psychological state were investigated by comparing the following parameters before and after the intervention period: Fatigue severity was assessed by the Chalder fatigue scale (FS) score. Levels of the blood biomarkers cortisol, DHEA-S, TNF-α, IL-6, prolactin, carnitine, TGF-β1, BDNF, MHPG, HVA, and α-MSH were measured. The autonomic nervous functions assessed were heart rate (HR) and HR variability. Psychological indices included the 20-item Toronto Alexithymia Scale (TAS-20) and the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS).
Practicing seated isometric yoga for 2 months resulted in significant reductions in the Chalder FS (P = 0.002) and HADS-depression (P = 0.02) scores. No significant changes were observed in any other parameter evaluated. The change in Chalder FS score was not correlated with the change in HADS-depression score. However, this change was positively correlated with changes in the serum TNF-α levels (P = 0.048), the high frequency component of HR variability (P = 0.042), and TAS-20 scores (P = 0.001).
Regular practice of seated isometric yoga for 2 months reduced the fatigue and depressive symptom scores of patients with CFS without affecting any other parameters we investigated. This study failed to identify the markers responsible for the longitudinal fatigue-relieving effect of seated isometric yoga. However, considering that the reduced fatigue was associated with decreased serum TNF-α level and TAS-20 scores, fatigue improvement might be related to reduced inflammation and improved alexithymia in these patients.
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