If you haven’t been diagnosed with a thyroid disorder, you may not understand what a thyroid is, and its overall job within our body.
That’s totally fine!
It’s definitely not an everyday topic.
To put it most simply, the thyroid is a gland, or an organ in the body that secretes chemical substances, located in the front of the neck.
Its function is to release hormones that regulate body temperature and weight, as well as the growth and development of our bodies as we age. Normally, that’s all well and good.
There are tons of other health problems caused by an unbalanced thyroid that would take forever to list, so if you’re interested in learning more, view here, for hypothyroidism, and view here, for hyperthyroidism.
Now that you’re practically an expert on thyroid health, let’s talk about how yoga can assist in managing your thyroid.
Can Yoga Cure Thyroid Permanently?
No, yoga can’t cure thyroid permanently. However, when it comes to the health of your thyroid, yoga can help in various ways.
On one hand, it can help to prevent and treat thyroid imbalance by massaging the throat with pressure and twists done through different yoga poses.
This action helps to stimulate the thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) in the pituitary gland, which then lets the thyroid gland release thyroxin.
Thyroxin is the main hormone in the thyroid that helps regulate body temperature, growth, and development, as well as metabolic rate, and stimulating the release of this hormone is important for a healthy thyroid balance.
Yoga is also useful and known for stress-relief.
Stress can cause hormone imbalances, including thyroid imbalance. So limiting your stress through the use of poses and breathing techniques is recommended to counter that.
In addition, studies have shown that a consistent, active, and relaxing yoga practice done for six months has helped regulate thyroxin levels in patients.
With all that being said, yoga is an excellent complimentary treatment for thyroid problems, however, it is not a cure.
If you have hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism and yoga is something you’re interested in, be sure to consult your doctor before starting your practice.
They may tell you to only practice certain poses, or they may want to put you on medication or other health regimens that will help your thyroid. Thyroid issues are serious and should be treated by a professional.
Three Useful Breathing Exercises for Thyroid Problems
The use of breathing exercises is vital for stress relief and also useful for anxiety and anger management.
If you notice that some of your emotions tend to affect your health negatively, you will especially benefit from the meditation component of yoga.
Try to find at least 5 to 15 minutes a day to practice one of the following breathing techniques:
Ocean Breath: Ujjayi Pranayama
This breath technique is used in both a physical practice and meditation to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, relaxing the body’s muscles and mind.
It is also very effective in helping our thyroid because the breath is inhaled and exhaled through the throat, and the throat muscles are activated.
When practicing this breath during meditation, come into an easy, seated position sitting up tall, and do dhyana mudra with your hands.
Dhyana mudra is done with your left hand faced up on your lap, right hand faced up and resting on top of it, and the pads of each thumb touching.
To do the actual breath, inhale through your nostrils for 4 seconds, and then exhale with your mouth closed into your throat for 6 seconds. Repeat this process for however long you believe necessary. You will immediately start to feel your body come into a state of relaxation and ease.
Alternate Nostril Breathing
Once you have mastered ujjayi pranayama, you may want to try a more advanced breathing technique. This breathing technique has similar effects, but spiritually also balances the yin and yang of your body, as well as the feminine and masculine.
Start off in a comfortable seated position, as explained in the prior breathing technique.
Lift your dominant hand, bend your middle finger and pointer finger, facing your palm towards you, and rest that hand on the knee of the same side.
With your other hand, do Gyan mudra, bringing the pads of your thumb and pointer finger together, and then letting the other fingers touch while straightened. Rest that hand on the knee of the same side.
Next, keeping your dominant hand in the position given, bring it close to your face and use your thumb to close the nostril on the same side as your hand (ie. If you are using your right hand, close your right nostril)
3 Deep Breathing Exercises
This last breathing technique is the most beginner friendly but is beneficial for yogis of all levels.
While it is deeply relaxing, just as the previous breathing techniques are, it also helps to stretch the diaphragm, abdominal muscles and chest muscles, so you can breathe deeper without pain.
I highly recommend focusing on the third part of the breathing technique, bringing the breath into the chest, to best help your thyroid.
To start, come into a comfortable seated position. Straighten your spine by sitting up straight, and bring your hands onto your belly. Take a deep inhale in, expanding your belly as much as you can. After that, slowly exhale and let the belly deflate. Repeat this at least 5 times.
Next, put your hands onto your heart area. Inhale deeply, letting both your belly and your upper abdominals muscles expand this time. You should feel the abs rising under your hands.
Exhale slowly, as you did with the first part, and repeat this cycle at least five times.
Lastly, bring your hands just below the collar bones on your chest. This time, inhale deeply into the chest, sucking in your stomach, so the breath stays entirely in this area.
There are muscles on the chest that will rise when you inhale entirely, and you want to feel that under your hands. Exhale slowly, letting your stomach and chest relax.
To reiterate, this is the part you really want to focus on for thyroid health, so repeat at least 10 times.
Five Yoga Poses for Thyroid Health
As explained earlier, certain yoga poses are excellent to do in order to massage the thyroid gland, and stimulate hormonal release, as well as induce relaxation. These yoga poses decrease stress and muscle pain.
Below, we have five yoga poses that are best for these reasons, and will help to keep your thyroid health in check!
Supported Shoulder Stand
In this pose, you will invert your body, letting the blood go to your neck and head region. This helps the thyroid and nourishes the gland with oxygenated blood.
To do this pose, start off on your back with your hands at your side. Bring your legs together, and then bend your knees, so your feet are planted on the mat.
Next, bring your knees into your chest, and start to straighten your legs up into the air.
Start to tilt your straight legs towards you, so that your bum is lifting from the floor, and then support your bum with your hands.
After that, slowly push your hips and lower back off the floor, until your legs are vertical to your hip bones, and pressure it put on your shoulder blades, neck, and lower part of the head. Continue to support this shoulder stand with your hands.
Hold for a couple breaths and then slowly come out of the pose.
Legs up the Wall Pose
If shoulder stand is not in your practice, or you’re feeling tired and stressed, here is an easier, and more relaxed inversion you can try instead.
Start off by going towards a part of your wall that is a blank canvas. Rather than lying towards it, lie on your back sideways to the wall, so that your shoulder is touching it.
Bend your knees, with feet grounded on the floor, and then straighten the legs to face the ceiling, so that you can pivot your body to face the wall now. You can use your hand to help move you if you’d like.
Let your legs and bum rest on the wall with your arms by your side, and just breathe here. Feet don’t need to be flexed; they can just flop outward. Immediately, you’ll most likely start to feel a sense of relaxation.
Stay in this pose as long as you like, and take slow, deep breaths, just like you practiced with the breathing techniques.
This is a backbend that bends the neck backward so that you feel a stretch in front of the neck. Oxygenated blood is sent to this area to nourish the thyroid gland, as well as opening up the neck and chest muscles to make it easier to breathe.
Begin on your back with your hands by your side, and legs together.
Next, slowly lift your lower back while tilting back your head, allowing the upper arms to lift.
Ground your hands and forearm into the ground, to allow yourself to lift your back even more. For more of a challenge, point your toes.
Stay in this pose for 30 seconds to a minute and take breaths here.
If you need to warm up these muscles, relax the back, and bring the head back to neutral after about 3 breaths, and then come back into the fish pose. Repeat the pattern until your muscles feel warmed up.
This popular pose-duo is great for thyroid, due to the movement of the neck when shifting from each pose.
Start off on your hands and knees, making sure that your knees are aligned with your hips, and wrists are aligned with the shoulders. Fingers of the hands should be spread wide.
From here, inhale through the nose, and bring the belly down, and tilt the head up for cow pose. Make sure that your arms are still straight when doing this motion.
On the exhale, bring the belly in, curving the spine, and tucking the chin to the chest. Again, make sure that the arms are still straight.
Cycle through these poses a couple times, until you feel that your neck and spine doing better.
For the grand finale, I saved a more advanced pose. However, if the full version is painful, you can come into a half-camel pose that I will explain first. Just like cat-cow, this pose bends the head back, exposing the neck, giving a nice stretch to that area. It also opened up the chest and brings the shoulders back for good posture.
To begin, come into a kneeling position, with your hips vertically aligned with your knees.bring your hands on your hips, with your thumbs on your lower back to support it. If you can go deeper, try to move your whole palms to your lower back, tucking the elbows in towards the middle of the body, which will bring the shoulders back.
Start to tilt your head and upper back backwards, without bringing the thighs backward. Thighs should remain vertically aligned with the hips and knees. You can either stay here for the half-camel pose, take some breaths, and then come out of the slight backbend, or you can start moving towards full camel pose.
For full camel pose, tilt back even more until your torso has gone backwards about 90 degrees. Next, move your hands from your lower back to your ankles. If you can, hold onto your ankles. Make sure that your hips are still vertically stacked with your knees. It’s important that your lower body isn’t tilted backwards as well.
Take a couple breaths here, and then be conscience about slowly coming out of the backbend, so you don’t injure yourself.
Yoga Diet Tips for Healthy Thyroid
Diet is another aspect that is important for thyroid health and your yoga practice. For any yoga practice, it is highly recommended that you refrain from eating within 2 hours before class.
This is to induce proper digestion and prevent acid reflux, or a sensation of heaviness. However, when you do prepare your pre-yoga meal, try to include iodized salt, seaweed or any other food or seasoning with iodine.
Iodine is essential for good thyroid health, and an absence of this nutrient can cause hypothyroidism and its signs and symptoms such as fatigue, weight gain, and depression, as well as an enlarged thyroid gland called a goiter.
This often happens when people use non-iodized salt to season their meals, instead of using Himalayan pink salt or sea salt. It’s also possible to receive too much iodine, which is common among those with a high-salt diet. Remember, balance is key.