BURLINGTON — For most of his life, Scott Howe believed health meant running, lifting weights, wrestling and the type of intense physical training he did while serving five years in the Marine Corps.
Then in 1999, he was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks the joints. He said the condition caused such pain he was unable to walk.
“I curled up in a ball and couldn’t move,” Howe said. “The weight of a sheet was too much for me.”
He said he tried drugs and other medical treatments, but nothing worked. After his daughter gave him a “get well” card, he said it hit him that he needed to try a different route.
He turned to natural treatments such as acupuncture, yoga and a nutritious diet. The first time time he took a hot yoga class — yoga practiced in a hot and humid room — he said he tumbled over. But he came back to try again.
The 52-year-old said yoga has helped him regain his strength and mobility, and has reduced his mental stress.
In 2009, he opened Quantum Health & Yoga Lounge in Burlington as a way to be able to move, work and stay independent.
“To me it was life or death,” he said.
In April, Howe was named Veteran-Owned Small Business of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Administration Seattle District.
His studio offers about 50 yoga classes a week, as well as massage, acupuncture, essential oil treatment and an organic juice and smoothie bar, Howe said. A few classes are offered each week in Conway.
Howe said yoga can be gentler on the body than other kinds of exercise.
“If you want to last a long time, hang your hat in a yoga studio,” he said.
During a hot power yoga class June 4, Howe guided about a dozen students through poses as sweat poured down faces and bodies in the 102-degree room.
“I would say (hot yoga) is probably the hardest hour (of exercise),” said Howe’s longtime friend David Lynn.
Lynn said he was introduced to yoga when he helped Howe start his business.
Kim Turner of Conway recently started taking hot yoga classes with Howe after looking for new ways to exercise that wouldn’t impact a degenerative disk.
“Yoga never really spoke to me because I’m more of a hardcore group fitness person who likes the pounding music and a fast pace, but this class has been great,” she said.
Howe said when he experiences stress, his health starts declining. He said yoga can help bring the body and mind back to a peaceful, relaxed state.
“Most people walk out of here feeling good,” he said.
He said he is working to develop a program that combines yoga and meditation, with an emphasis on helping those with post-traumatic stress disorder and autoimmune diseases.
After abandoning traditional medical treatments, Howe said his philosophy on health has changed.
“It’s more important what you’re not putting in (your body),” he said.
Kinsey Youngquist, Howe’s niece and a yoga teacher, acupuncturist and massage therapist at the studio, said watching her uncle’s health improve sparked her interests in natural medicine.
“He’s been an inspiration to a lot of people,” she said. “It’s nice to work in an environment that supports not only physical health, but mental health.”
Lynn said he admires the way his friend took his health into his own hands.
“I just admire the way he approached it and took ownership and control of it on his own,” he said.