India is the land of yogis and the origin of yoga. Data suggests that it is dated to the Indus Valley Civilization (3300-1900BCE) and pre-Vedic India. Yoga has earned global ratification as a pioneering tool to health and wellness since the end of the19th century. Postural yoga, asanas, and pranayama have been recommended by medical professionals to alleviate medical conditions. Thyroid related problems have shown improvement upon performing certain yogasanas. We attempt to provide insights into the health benefits of certain asanas that help relieve thyroid problems.
How Can Yoga Help to Improve Thyroid Function?
Thyroid disorder has become very common over the last decade. It is an endocrine disorder that either manifest as hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism which is excess or under-production of the thyroid hormone. These hormones adversely affect metabolism in our bodies when not produced in precise quantities. Some symptoms include fatigue, weight gain or loss, change in heart rate, and swelling of the neck. A stressful lifestyle is a foundation for all diseases, and there is a known connection between thyroid aggravation and stress. Yoga is known to improve thyroid function by reducing stress. The twisting, compression, and stretching that is required for yoga asanas aids in massaging the butterfly-shaped thyroid gland to regulate the releasing of hormones.
Best Yoga Poses for Thyroid
While yoga for thyroid cure is wonderful complementary therapy, you should respect the limitations of your body and begin with easy poses and adjust the poses to suit your requirements. Below is a list of yoga asanas that have been known to help in dealing with thyroid problems.
This asana involves being upside down with support from the shoulder. The inversion performed in this asana helps direct blood flow to the throat. This is beneficial yoga for hypothyroid problems.
How to Do
- Begin by lying flat on your back.
- Place a folded towel below your shoulders for support and bring your shoulders to the precipice of the towel when your head is resting on the mat.
- Place both arms on either side of your shoulder with the palms facing down.
- Press your arms and back firmly into the floor. Lift your legs while breathing in. Take it to a right angle from the ground.
- Now lift your legs upward while pushing on the shoulders and breathing out.
- Press your hands into your lower back to extend support to the hips.
- Make sure to have a strong core by pulling the stomach inside.
- Keep the legs and body in a straight line with chin tucked into your chest.
- Breathe in and out deeply for three counts before lowering your legs back down.
- Keep your core tight throughout.
Note: Sarvangasana can harm the neck if it is not performed correctly. People afflicted by Graves’ disease should avoid it. Those suffering from hyperthyroidism may also want to steer clear of this asana as it can increase thyroid function.
2. Viparita Karani
This is another type of inverted pose. Viparita Karani helps alleviate hypothyroidism by improving blood flow to the glands. It also works on the symptoms of hypothyroidism when it revitalises the mind, reduces fatigue and helps cure insomnia.
How to Do
- Lie flat on your back and keep your elbows firmly on the ground.
- Support your hips with your hands and slowly lift the legs upward.
- Pull in your shoulder blades toward one other.
- Stretch your neck and maintain a straight line to the ground with the neck,
- Rest your leg against a wall if you wish for support and stay in the position for 5 minutes.
Note: This pose is not beneficial for hyperthyroidism and should be avoided by people who have excess thyroid hormone release.
Halasana is known as the plough pose. It helps to activate the butterfly gland while strengthening the back muscles, toning abdominal glands, and relaxing the nervous system.
How to Do
- Lie down on a mat while keeping your head, legs, palms, and elbows firmly to the floor.
- Raise your legs till they are perpendicular to the floor.
- Push your legs toward the floor behind your head until they touch the floor.
- Hold this asana for a minute while breathing deeply.
- You can add support to your waist by pressing your hands against them while lifting your body with your elbows.
Note: Those affected by the autoimmune disease called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis should not perform Halasana.
Matsyasana or the fish pose helps to arch the back such that it supports increased blood circulation to the thyroid glands. It helps to regulate hypothyroidism by stretching the throat and neck. It also improves spinal health.
How to Do
- Sit in a cross-legged position on the floor, meaning padmasana.
- Arch your upper body backwards while you hold padmasana.
- Support your body’s weight using your elbows. Keep your hands flat against the ground.
- Hold this asana for as long as you can while breathing evenly.
Note: Matsyasana should be performed immediately after Sarvangasana for maximum benefit. Avoid Matsyasana if you have high blood pressure, spondylitis or suffer from a migraine.
The bow pose known as Dhanurasana helps by massaging the thyroid gland. It is helpful to treat hypothyroidism by stimulating hormone production. This asana also helps in relieving menstrual pain, strengthening the back, and reducing stress.
How to Do
- Lie down flat on your stomach.
- Lift your legs and bend them moving toward your buttocks.
- Stretch your hands backwards till you get hold of your feet.
- Lift your upper body while using your legs to support you.
- You should resemble a strung bow at this point.
- Stay in this pose for 5 minutes.
Note: This asana is not advised for people with a hernia. Pregnant women are also advised not to practice Dhanurasana.
This asana stretches the neck and improves blood circulation. It is excellent for people who have asthma. Ustrasana is good for relieving issues of the spine as well.
How to Do
- Kneel and place your heels facing the ceiling. Your ankles should be touching the ground.
- Hold your upper body very straight.
- Now arch backwards moving toward your toes. Make your chest parallel to the floor and your legs.
- Bend backwards while holding your heels with your hands.
- Stretch your throat and neck while holding the pose for 5 minutes.
Note: Remember that Ustrasana is not suggested for people with ulcers or a hernia. Pregnant women, people with arthritis and vertigo should also avoid the camel pose.
7. Sethu Bandhasana
This asana, known as the bridge pose, is a great way to regulate thyroid hormones. The Sethubandhasana increases blood flow to the brain and helps to relax it. This indirectly helps to control hyperthyroidism. Therefore, it is a great yoga pose for hyperthyroid issues.
How to Do
- Lie down flat on your back
- Bend the legs at the knees slowly. Stretch out your arms now to touch your heels.
- Rest your arms and head against the ground. Lift the upper body so that the buttocks remain off the ground.
- The top part of your body will now resemble a bridge.
- Stay for 5 minutes while breathing consistently.
Note: Pregnant women should not perform Sethu Bandhasana. People with ulcers and hernia must avoid this asana too.
8. Ujjayi Pranayama
Pranayama is an effective way to stimulate the reflex pathways of the throat. This then regulates hormone production in the thyroid glands. It helps for hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism. Ujjayi pranayama opens up access to your pranic systems which are the underlying structure to metabolic activity.
How to Do
- Pick a comfortable meditative pose such as Padmasana.
- Using both nostrils, take a deep breath.
- Exhale while making a sound that resembles “HHAAA” from your throat.
- Repeat this around ten times in one sitting.
- Start by practising these three times each day and go on to 10.
Note: Pranayama can be practised by all regardless of any other condition that they have.
The Cobra pose or Bhujangasana helps to stretch the neck and throat. It increases the production of hormones and helps people with hypothyroidism. Bhujangasana also helps relieve chronic back pain.
How to Do
- Lie on your stomach and rest your palm on the ground.
- Now lift your upper body into a snake-like stance.
- Bend your head completely backwards.
- Stay in this position for a few minutes.
Note: This asana should not be performed if you have had abdominal surgery, have a hernia or ulcers.
The Navasana or the boat pose helps to stimulate the thyroid region and is beneficial for people who suffer from hypothyroidism. It is a great way to strengthen one’s core and improve spinal strength too.
How to Do
- Sit with your legs out before you on the floor.
- Place your hands on a mat with palms down on either side of your legs.
- Lean back while tightening your core. Let your chin be tucked in and your back straight.
- Lift your feet off the floor by bending your knees.
- If you can, now extend your legs to point both feet to make a ‘V’ shape.
- Raise your arms in line with your shoulders.
- Face both palms to each other with fingers extended.
- Breathe in and out deeply for five counts.
- Bring both legs and arms down slowly. Let the legs hug and let go of the head before you release the pose.
Note: Pregnant ladies should not perform the Navasana. Avoid the asana if you have abdominal pain.
11. Bitilasana Marjaryasana
This pose is a combination of the cat stretch and the cow pose. It is an invigorating asana which is believed to stimulate the thyroid gland. Stretching the chin into your chest and then stretching it out to expose the throat chakra is of benefit to your neck area.
How to Do
- Bend down on all fours with wrists parallel to your shoulders and knees below the hip.
- Oscillate your weight moving forward and backwards and then from one side to another.
- Come back to the centre with weight equally distributed.
- Inhale to let your stomach fill with air and then drop toward the ground.
- Look up at the ceiling to stretch your throat.
- Exhale to draw your belly button into your spine.
- Tuck your chin towards your chest when you lift and circle your spine to the ceiling.
- Let your breathing guide you.
- Continue this for a few moments.
- Release the pose by sinking into balasana pose momentarily.
Note: Pregnant women in their last trimester should not perform this asana.
Yoga and pranayama help you by improving your mental acuity and clearing your energies. This, in turn, helps to relieve symptoms of several ailments. However, you should not stop taking treatment as advised by your medical practitioner.