Can Yoga Help Restless Legs Syndrome Symptoms?

It probably comes as no surprise that people with restless leg syndrome (RLS) would find relief from yoga, a mind-body exercise that focuses on deep stretching and uses meditation and breathing exercise to help muscles relax.1

Studies show that yoga has a wide range of health benefits, such as improving mood, lowering blood pressure, and helping people get better sleep. But how can it help people manage RLS symptoms?1

We already know that exercise has a bunch of benefits for people with RLS, from reducing symptoms to helping you get a better night’s sleep. However, more studies need to be done to learn how and why yoga can help people with RLS.2

Twist away the twitch

A series of studies have been done to compare the effects of an 8- to 12-week yoga practice on people with RLS. A trial of postmenopausal women with RLS found that a 90-minute gentle yoga class taken twice a week reduced insomnia, improved sleep quality, and increased the amount of time that people slept by nearly 2 hours. These women also reported feeling stronger, more energetic, more flexible, and less anxious.3

Another similar study specifically measured the effects of a yoga program on RLS symptoms. It found that, in addition to the quality of life benefits mentioned above, women with RLS who practiced yoga had fewer RLS symptoms. Of those who had symptoms, the symptoms were less severe.1

A more recent study included women and men aged 24 to 73 who completed a 12-week yoga program. Following the program, they showed significant improvements in RLS symptoms and the severity of those symptoms. These people also experienced less stress, better mood, and enhanced quality of life.4

It is even more notable that all of these studies found that RLS symptoms improved the more time people spent practicing yoga.1,3,4

An RLS therapy with no side effects

Some treatments for RLS can cause troublesome or even serious side effects. These side effects can be worse in older people. That is often why so many people with RLS are willing to try lifestyle changes or home remedies to relieve their symptoms.3

Unlike prescription RLS treatments, yoga has no side effects, other than maybe feeling a little silly the first time you attempt some of the poses. You may feel a bit sore after the first few times moving your body into unfamiliar shapes, the same way you may feel sore after attempting any exercise for the first time. If you experience any pain during a yoga class, stop and let the instructor know.1-4

Another benefit of gentle yoga is that it does not overstimulate the nervous system, which makes it a good choice for movement before bedtime.1

Yoga is also a good choice if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. If this describes you, be sure to find a prenatal yoga class. These are designed to be safe for pregnancy.5

Why does yoga help with RLS?

It is not yet understood why yoga helps to relieve RLS symptoms. Researchers believe that it could work for a number of reasons, including calming the nervous system and improving the body’s metabolism. Yoga also may work in the parts of the brain that affect mood, sleep, and the sensation of pain.1

Yoga can be a daily opportunity to clear your mind and stretch your body, making it a self-care tool that can be adapted to help relieve a range of symptoms. If you try an in-person yoga class, be sure to let your instructor know that you have RLS. They may offer you some tips for poses that you can try at home to soothe your legs and relax the body before bedtime.

Interested in reading more about lifestyle changes for symptom relief? Explore our featured collection on lifestyle changes and alternative treatments for RLS.

Has anyone tried yoga for RLS symptoms? What was your experience like? Share in the comments below!

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