In my early twenties, I began developing a condition known as Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS), also known as Willis Ekbom Disease. This aggravating condition is a nervous system condition that makes you feel as though you need to move your legs, although sometimes it also affects the arms and other parts of the body. It’s usually found in more seasoned individuals, as well as those with Parkinson's disease. It’s also a genetic condition, being passed down in families. I luckily inherited this condition from my mother. Another lesser-known fact about this condition is that it can also be caused due to low iron levels, although I didn’t discover that for nearly a decade. This condition can also go into remission, becoming almost nearly forgotten about for many years. Mine went into remission until about 2016.
In 2016 I started having severe issues with RLS again. The unfortunate issue with RLS is that it affects your sleep. Just as you’re about to drift off into sleep, you get the uncontrollable urge to move your legs. Doing this a dozen times throughout the night really affects how much sleep you're getting. RLS becomes worse with the less sleep you get, and so the vicious cycle begins. You need sleep to help the symptoms of RLS, yet you can’t sleep at night because you have RLS. I was at least lucky enough to where I didn’t feel it during the day if I napped.
I was becoming desperate to find an answer. I was in my late twenties and didn’t want to be struggling with this condition, and one of my most basic needs, sleep. I knew that I didn’t want to get on drugs, so I wanted to exhaust every possible natural remedy first. For me, activity has almost always helped me, so I started a yoga practice.
I had only ever tried yoga once prior to this. It was at a 24 Hour Fitness in Fort Collins, Colorado. It was incredibly challenging and left my shoulder blades intensely sore for four days after, and the soreness didn’t totally dissipate for nearly a week. I didn’t go back to a yoga class until 2016. As I said, I was desperate. I had heard that yoga was beneficial in so many ways and that it calms the central nervous system, so I figured that I would try it for a month and see what happened.
I started going to yoga classes twice a week at a local gym. At first, I did yin yoga. I found this to be a struggle mentally more than anything else. The yoga instructors kept telling me to quiet my mind, but I had no clue how to do that. But I stuck with it. After a couple of weeks, I ventured into vinyasa classes. I found these to be quite physically challenging, but I enjoyed the intensity right away. I also liked that it wasn’t such a challenge for my mind. There wasn’t as much quiet time, so my mind wouldn’t wander. I was left to mostly only focus on the task at hand.
Over time, though, yin yoga soon became my preferred yoga style. My mind stopped wandering as much, and I enjoyed reaching an intensity in the stretches that I had never known before. Within one month of practicing at least twice a week, my RLS symptoms were almost all the way gone. Within two months, I finally realized one day that I hadn’t felt any symptoms for a couple of days. It was gradual and amazing.
I also began to notice other things changing in my life. I was calmer, less reactive, and embodied empathy and compassion for others that I had never had before. At the time I had no idea what the cause was. Maybe it was because I was working out more, getting better sleep, breathing, or the insightful messaging presented in each class. But no matter what, it impacted me and helped me form into a better human being. I now see that it was all of it combined. That’s what I believe yoga’s true purpose is - to help us become better humans.
As a Massage Therapist for 8 years at that point in time, I knew that this was going to be a great way to help other people. I began giving some of the stretches I was learning in yoga classes to my clients. And in 2019 I decided to take yoga teacher training to further help people. As I’ve read and discovered, most people tend to start a yoga practice for physical reasons. Yet, as time goes on, they continue the practice for more spiritual and humanity-related reasons.
Whether you’re seeking to start up a yoga practice (again) to work through physical issues, want to gain flexibility, grow your spiritual practice, or become a better human, those are all valid reasons. Yoga is for everyone, and I hope you’ll join me on this journey.