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A Simple Yoga Treatment for Restless Legs Syndrome

Chet is a Certified Iyengar Yoga Teacher and has been practicing yoga for over 15 years. He teaches three to four yoga classes per week.

Yoga for restless legs

Yoga for restless legs

What Is Restless Legs Syndrome?

Do you sometimes feel an annoying, uncomfortable urge to start moving your legs while sitting quietly on a couch or lying in bed? There is a simple yoga pose that is particularly effective in treating the symptoms of Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS), a condition that affects as many as 10% of adults to varying degrees. This particular yoga asana—asana is another name for the pose—does not require any special flexibility or previous yoga experience.

It can be practiced in the evening, immediately or shortly before bedtime, even while watching TV. Sitting in virasana (also called hero’s pose) for 5-7 minutes is likely to significantly reduce, if not eliminate, the feeling of restless legs for the night.

The symptoms of RLS can be very mild and occasional, or frequent and almost intolerable. RLS tends to worsen at night and is particularly annoying when it interferes with or prevents sleep. Causes range from other diseases or medical conditions to the side effects of medications, alcohol use, and other hard-to-determine factors. Though medication can address symptoms, many people prefer to try natural treatments for restless legs syndrome.

Virasana - sitting on one folded blanket

Virasana - sitting on one folded blanket

How to Sit in Virasana

Spread a blanket or yoga mat on the floor when you are ready to sit in virasana. (If you have carpet, this may not be necessary). Kneel with your knees together and spread your feet apart slightly wider than your hips. Sit down between your feet. The feet should be tight up against the hips, with the heels touching the sides of the hips.

Most people cannot sit comfortably in virasana with their buttocks on the floor. Add as much height as you need to be able to sit comfortably. You can use folded blankets, yoga blocks, or books. Just don’t change the position of the legs and feet. See that the feet point straight back in line with the shins, not angled in or out.

Sit straight so that you lean neither forward nor backward. (There is a tendency to lean forward in virasana.) Don’t settle down or slouch while you are sitting. Your legs should release down as if they are connecting with the earth. Your spine and torso should lengthen upward as if they are connecting with the sky. Keep the center of your chest lifting. Your hands can rest on your thighs or press down onto the soles of your feet to help lengthen the spine.

Virasana - sitting on block for extra height

Virasana - sitting on block for extra height

How to Modify Virasana

There are a couple of modifications of the pose that may be necessary if you have knee pain or ankle pain. If you have knee pain, come up to a kneeling position and place a folded or rolled-up washcloth behind each knee, then sit down again. The knee will be more “open” than before, and, hopefully, the pain will be gone. If you have ankle pain, elevated support under the shins will lessen the extension of the top of the ankle so that it can rest in a more natural position. Place a couple of firm folded blankets on the floor to raise the height of the knees and shins; allow the feet to hang off the back edge of the blankets. If you still experience pain in the pose, consult an experienced yoga teacher who can evaluate your pose and make recommendations.

When you are ready to come out of virasana, lean forward to come onto your hands and knees. Swing your legs around to your side and sit back, then stretch your legs out in front of you. You have completed your yoga for restless legs session. Go to bed, and enjoy a good night’s sleep!

A Study on Yoga for RLS

The National Institute of Health reports on an 8-week study conducted in 2012 that used Iyengar yoga to treat women with RLS. There were "striking reductions" in symptoms related to RLS. While sitting in virasana may be helpful for most people as a way to temporarily help with RLS, it may be that a complete yoga practice would produce even better results. One more reason to make yoga part of your life!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2012 chet thomas


chet thomas (author) from Athens, GA on November 07, 2015:

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Ravi - I don't know. I only know about the yoga suggestions written here.

Ravi on November 07, 2015:

i was on serta drug for 5 years, since i stopeed the drug i am getting RLS. is that be a cause ?

chet thomas (author) from Athens, GA on January 10, 2014:

Hi Vitorfior - I'm glad to hear that it seems to be a good short term solution for you. Thanks for posting!

Vitorfior on January 10, 2014:

It definitely works for me, at least on the short term (I've just tried it lol). Thank you very much Chet!

chet thomas (author) from Athens, GA on December 16, 2013:

Give it a try - I hope it works for you. I don't have restless legs very often, but it works for me when I do.

Anna from New York, NY on December 15, 2013:

This is so interesting! I've had "restless legs" as long as I can remember and it seems it's gotten worse in recent years and docs just tell me to take pain killers but I just sucks it up. Something I find fascinating is that as a child, I used to sit "in virasana" pose constantly, and I don't know why because I don't know anyone to sit like that but I've stopped. Who knew that perhaps those days I didn't have restless legs is because of the way I sat. Gotta start sitting this way again! Thank you for the interesting and useful article!

David on June 11, 2012:

Inflammation is believed to be a key factor when it comes to Restless Legs Syndrome. A new study was published in the January 14, 2012 issue of "Sleep Medicine Review Journal" that supports this theory:

You can view the results of other related scientific studies and learn about some helpful solutions here:

A blog for RLS sufferers with helpful tips can be found here:

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