Although it cannot cure a thyroid disorder, practicing yoga for thyroid health can help to manage it. It is recommended for individuals with both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism. Some yoga poses can be used to stimulate an underactive thyroid gland, while others can be used to help to cope with the symptoms of an overactive thyroid.
The thyroid consists of two glands that are located next to the throat, between the larynx and the trachea. It secretes the thyroxine and triiodothyronine hormones that are involved in the body’s metabolism. An overactive or underactive thyroid can result in problems such as weight loss or gain, lethargy, anxiety, or high or low body temperature.
There is some evidence that practicing yoga may be helpful for those experiencing thyroid problems. Certain yoga positions, especially those including chin locks, in which the chin is pressed to the chest, put pressure on the neck, pushing blood from the thyroid. When the chin lock is released, fresh, oxygenated blood refills the thyroid and circulates around the gland. Positions involving chin locks can help to stimulate an underactive thyroid gland, a condition called hypothyroidism.
Inversion poses are also helpful, especially for those with an underactive thyroid. These poses include back bends, shoulder stands, and hand stands. They raise the heart above the head and also put the head into the chin lock position.
One pose suggested for yoga for thyroid health is the bridge pose. The bridge involves a shoulder stand that raises the hips off the ground and puts the head into a chin lock while raising the heart off the ground. A more advanced pose that requires a chin lock is the plow pose, in which the legs and hips are pulled over the head.
Some believe that chanting or certain types of breathing involved in yoga can aid the thyroid. For example, making the “om” sound vibrates the vocal chords, stimulating the thyroid. Ujjayi, also known as ocean breath or victorious breath, is a type of breathing recommended for those with thyroid problems. It involves long, deep breaths taken in through the nose while the throat is contracted, creating long, thin breath. The friction created by the air passing through the tightened throat should create an audible hissing sound, after which the air is exhaled very slowly.
Individuals experiencing an overactive thyroid may have increased problems with stress and anxiety. Practicing yoga for thyroid health can reduce stress levels. In the case of hyperthyroidism, positions that stimulate the thyroid should be avoided, while poses that rest the mind and body should be practiced. Mild, restorative poses such as the goddess pose or the legs-up-wall pose can help to manage the stress and anxiety associated with hyperthyroidism.
Although practicing yoga for thyroid health can be beneficial to many, a doctor should be consulted before beginning any yoga routine. For those experiencing severe thyroid conditions, some believe that practicing more advanced poses, such as the plow pose, may cause more harm than good. Also, it is important to consult a professional yoga instructor before attempting poses independently, as performing poses incorrectly can cause physical harm.