Restless Leg Syndrome (also called Willis-Ekbom’s disease) affects 27% of pregnant women. RLS usually ceases after baby is born and is more common in the third trimester. Interruption of sleep is a concern for anyone who suffers from RLS, especially a soon-to-be mother.
Some Key Factors to Consider For Yoga to Reduce Restless Leg Syndrome:
- when symptoms begin – movement and stretching are helpful
- just 5-20 minutes of daily yoga or exercise may help to avoid any symptoms
- gentle stretching before bedtime is recommended
- pranayama (breath work) along with restorative yoga will activate the parasympathetic nervous system (therefore induce relaxation)
- legs up the wall is recommended for RLS (*please note it is also on the list of cautioned poses in prenatal yoga due to the pressure from baby on the vena cava)
- contracting the muscles on the inhale and then releasing on the exhale can be beneficial
The following “Yoga for Restless Leg Syndrome” sequence was developed with the previous key factors in mind and then was adjusted with the feedback that we received from our prenatal yoga students. Please check with your healthcare provider before you begin any new exercises. Always modify the poses if you feel pain or discomfort in any yoga sequence.
(if you have time you can certainly do the evening Sequence in the morning as well as at night)
1. Press ups (variation of Talasana/palm tree pose) – 20 x
Holding on to a chair or wall for stability, inhale as you lift up to the balls of the feet and lift the heels off the floor. On your slow exhale lower the heels down to the ground. Repeat 20 times.
2. Cat Cow (Marjaryasana and Bitilasana) – 5 x
From table pose with hands below your shoulders and knees under your hips, exhale and curl your spine (like a Halloween cat) towards the sky. On the inhale bring chest and sitting bones up, letting the belly relax towards the earth. Repeat for 5 breaths.
3. Thai Goddess Pose – hold for 2-5 breaths
Kneel with toes tucked under, (with your wight evenly distributed across to ball mounds), sitting on heels. Come out when you need to. Hold for 2-5 breaths.
4. Standing Forward Fold with Yoga Mat – hold for 5 breaths
Roll a yoga mat or towel to desired thickness, bend knees slightly as you step the balls of your feet on to the mat and allow your heels to rest on the floor. Feet are hip distance apart. Inhale arms up overhead, lengthen your spine and fold forward as you bend the knees. Allow your head to relax. You may begin to straighten the legs as your progress in this pose. [Modification – fold half way forward to a wall or chair or blocks]. Hold for 5 breaths and then slowly come up on the next inhale.
5. Neck Rolls – 5 x
Drop chin towards your chest on the exhale. On the inhale draw chin in a semi-circle towards one shoulder. Exhale chin back to centre and then inhale to the other side. If there is no pain or discomfort in the neck then you may roll increase the size of the neck movement.
6. Breath and Arm Movement – 5 x
From a comfortable sitting position with your arms resting at your sides, inhale and lift the arms up towards the sky, exhale and lower the arms down. Slow the breath and the movement and notice where the inhale changes to be the exhale.
Switch to inhale arms out to the side and up to the sky and then exhale them back down.
7. Swimming Circles – 10 breaths
Using the entire arm, shoulder and rib cage, swim one arm forward reaching in front, (as in an exaggerated swimming motion), as you inhale. Exhale swimming the opposite arm forward. Continue for 8 more breath cycles. Let the entire rib cage be involved in the movement.
8. Side Stretches – 5 x
On the inhale reach one hand up overhead, exhale and stretch to the opposite side, opening the side body with each breath. Inhale back to centre and then exhale to the other side.
9. Reclined Buddha – 3-5 x per side
Resting on your right side, prop the head with your right hand or a pillow. Stack the hips, knees and ankles. On the next exhale hug the top knee towards you. Inhale and bring this foot towards the sky, holding the leg in any location that is comfortable and bending the knee if the hamstrings are tight. Exhale and let the knee bend as you hold on to the ankle with your hand, making sure that the hip, knee and ankle are in line. Inhale and stack the knees where you began. Repeat 2-4 times on this side and then on the other side.
10. Legs Up the Wall 10 breaths
(*only if lying on your back is okay for your stage of pregnancy and has been cleared by your healthcare provider)
Sit next to a sturdy, clear wall as close as you can. Slowly roll over until your feet begin to spin up on to the wall. Your back should feel comfortable in this position. If any discomfort arises slowly come out of the pose or find a blanket or cushion to support your back. Stay here with your breath for 10 breaths or until you are ready to release out of the pose.
11. Modified Reclined Big Toe Pose – 10 breaths per side
If lying on your back is okay for your stage of pregnancy and you have the okay from your healthcare provider then you might want to do this from lying on your back, otherwise use our modification shown below.