Affecting over 12 percent of the US population at some point in their lifetime, thyroid disorders are common around the world. Any dysfunction in the butterfly-shaped gland at the base of the neck results in thyroid disorders. Hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, and goiter are some of the most prevalent forms of thyroid disease.
While yoga may not be able to instantly cure the condition, it can keep the glands healthy, regulate metabolism, and prevent further complications. In a study, 6 months of intense yoga practice helped women with hypothyroidism and reduced their need for thyroxine medication.1 2 Here’s a list of yoga asanas that effectively reduce hypothyroidism. These exercises also strengthen the muscles and reduce the effects of hypothyroidism on them. However, if you are affected by hyperthyroidism, avoid these neck-stretching asanas and opt for simpler breathing exercises like the pranayama.
1. Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand)
Sarvangasana helps in maintaining the governing system of our body, the endocrine system. This pose is believed to help individuals with hypothyroidism owing to the pressure it exerts on the gland. The thyroid receives the largest supply of blood in the body, and practicing this posture can improve its function by improving circulation and squeezing out stagnant secretions. The shoulder-stand releases blood into the neck and helps nourish the thyroid, thus alleviating hypothyroidism.3 4 5
Sarvangasana is also beneficial for the functioning of the circulatory, nervous, and respiratory systems. By practicing this asana regularly, you will also be able to strengthen your muscles, increase the flexibility of the body, and prevent signs of premature aging.6
It is important to be careful while practicing this asana, as it can be harmful to the neck if performed incorrectly. However, sarvangasana should be avoided by those suffering from Graves’ disease or hyperthyroidism, as the pose increases the thyroid function.7
How To Do Sarvangasana
- Lie still on a mat.
- Slowly raise your legs toward the ceiling.
- Press the ground with your palms and lift your legs so that they are perpendicular to the ground.
- Keep your elbow on the floor and support your waist with your palms.
- The weight of your body should rest on your shoulder blades.
- Hold the position for a minute.
- Slowly bring back your legs to the ground.
2. Matsyasana (Fish Pose)
Matsyasana translates to the “fish pose.” This yoga asana arches your back such that there is increased blood circulation at the thyroid gland. The pose stretches the neck and throat, stimulates the thyroid gland, and relieves tension in the area. The inverted position of the head encourages blood flow to the thyroid and helps people with hypothyroidism.
Apart from strengthening the thyroid, matsyasana also works toward keeping the abdominal muscles and the spinal column healthy.8
The fish pose should always be performed after the sarvangasana as the two poses are complimentary to each other.9
How To Do Matsyasana
- Sit cross-legged on the floor, and assume the lotus position.
- Without removing your legs or knees from the ground, slowly arch your upper body backward.
- The weight of your upper body is carried by your elbows and the hands, which should be kept flat against the ground.
- Observe the stretch in your throat and neck.
- Hold the pose as long as you can, breathing evenly.
3. Halasana (Plow Pose)
The pose resembles the Indian plow and is hence called halasana. This yoga exercise stretches the neck and stimulates the thyroid glands. Halasana should be performed by people with hypothyroidism, but not by those suffering from hyperthyroidism, as the pose facilitates the secretion of thyroid hormones.10 11
Halasana not only activates the thyroid gland but also strengthens the back muscles, tones the abdominal organs, and relaxes the autonomous nervous systems.12
This pose should also be avoided if you suffer from Hashimoto’s disease.13
How To Do Halsana
- Sleep on the mat, keeping your legs, elbows, palms, and head firmly against the floor.
- Slowly raise your legs and keep them perpendicular to the ground.
- Gently, push the legs toward the floor so that your feet touch the ground.
- Breathe deeply, and maintain the position for 1 minute.
- If required, you can support your waist with your hands and carry your upper body weight on your elbows.
4. Viparita Karani (Inverted Pose)
The meaning of viparita is “reverse” and karani translates to “by which.” This pose is also called legs up the wall pose. Viparita karani is a panacea for various ailments. The asana treats hypothyroidism by increasing the blood flow to the thyroid gland and regulating the thyroid function.14
Another benefit of the viparita karani pose is the rejuvenating effect that it has on the mind. Hypothyroidism can make people prone to depression. It is also believed to cure insomnia, relieve stress, and fight anxiety.15
How To Do Viparita Karani
- Lie still on your back, with your elbow rested firmly against the ground.
- Using your hands to support your hips, slowly lift your legs upward.
- Pull your shoulder blades toward each other.
- Keep your head straight against the floor and feel the stretch in your neck.
- As an alternative, rest your legs against a wall.
- Hold the position for 5 minutes.
5. Ustrasana (Camel Pose)
Ustrasana, or the camel pose, stimulates the thyroid activity by stretching the neck and allowing blood circulation to the gland.16
The camel pose also helps relieve issues of the spine and is particularly helpful for people suffering from asthma.17
If you have hernia or ulcers, avoid practicing the camel pose. This asana is also unsafe for anybody suffering from vertigo, arthritis, or any kind of abdominal injuries. If you are pregnant, the ustrasana should not be performed.
How To Do Ustrasana
- Kneel down with your heels facing the ceiling and your ankles touching the ground.
- Keep your upper body straight.
- Slowly arch backward toward your toes, trying to keep your chest parallel to your legs.
- Place your hands on your heels and bend your neck backward.
- Feel the stretch in your neck and throat.
- Hold the position for 5 minutes.
6. Bhujangasana (The Cobra Pose)
Bhujangasana stretches the neck and the throat region, which helps increase the thyroid function. So it is helpful for individuals with hypothyroidism.18
If you are suffering from chronic back pain or neck pain, the cobra pose will help you overcome it by strengthening and toning your muscles.19
If you have recently undergone abdominal surgery, avoid practicing this exercise. This asana should also be avoided if you are affected by hernia or ulcers.
How To Do Bhujangasana
- Lie on your stomach, with your palms rested on the ground.
- Slowly raise your upper body to a cobra-like stance.
- Bend your head backward and feel the pull in your neck.
- Hold the pose for a few minutes.
7. Setu Bandhasana (Bridge Pose)
An effective yoga asana for thyroid disorders, setu bandhasana, or the bridge pose, is useful for those with hypothyroidism. The pose stretches the neck, improves blood circulation at the thyroid gland, and maintains thyroid activity.
Setu bandhasana is also helpful in reducing headaches, strengthening the muscles, and treating asthma.20
Do not perform the setu bandhasana if you are in the final stages of pregnancy. If you have hernia or ulcers, avoid this asana.
How To Do Setu Bandhasana
- Lie on your back
- Bend your legs at your knees in a relaxed manner, stretch your arms, and place hands at your heels.
- Resting your head and arms flat against the ground, push up your upper body, such that your buttocks do not touch the ground.
- The upper body will resemble a bridge.
- Hold the pose for 5 minutes.
8. Dhanurasana (Bow Pose)
The bow pose massages the thyroid gland effectively and compels the gland to produce the required amount of hormone to control metabolism. The dhanurasana is effective in treating and reducing hypothyroidism.
Dhanurasana is good for strengthening the back, relieving menstrual pain, and reducing stress.
Don’t practice the pose if you have hernia or ulcer or are pregnant. Though it helps strengthen the back, don’t practice the pose if your back pain is severe.
How To Do Dhanurasana
- Lie down on your stomach.
- Slowly lift up your legs and bend them toward your buttocks.
- Lift your hands and hold your feet together.
- Using your legs as a support, slowly raise your upper body.
- Your pose will resemble a bow.
- Hold the position for 5 minutes.
Other effective asanas include surya namskara, pavanamuktasana, yoga mudras, suptavajrasana, and other backward-bending asanas. Asanas like the headstand are also effective in reducing hypothyroidism, but they are difficult to perform and should be practiced only by advanced yoga practitioners.
Pranayama For Thyroid Diseases
The most effective pranayama for thyroid problems is ujjayi pranayama. It works on the throat area, reducing hyper- and hypothyroidism. Its healing effect is due to the stimulation of reflex pathways within the throat area, which in turn activates the thyroid gland. This practice also gives us direct access to the pranic and psychic network, the substructure of metabolic activity. Make sure to practice ujjayi pranayama every day, but no more than 11 times a day.
Breathing exercises like the pranayama are safe to perform if you are suffering from hyperthyroidism.
How To Do Ujjayi Pranayama
- Sit in a comfortable yoga meditative pose, like sukhasana (easy pose) or padmasana (lotus pose)
- Draw in a long, deep breath, using both nostrils.
- Exhale thoroughly through your mouth, producing a “HHAAA” sound from your throat.
- Repeat the exercise 5 to 10 times, in one go.
- Start off by practicing it 3 times a day and gradually build it up to 10.
What You Need To Remember
Although these yoga asanas are beneficial, these practices should be avoided in case of severe hyperthyroidism, physical debility, or an enlarged goiter. If you are menstruating or pregnant, consult your doctor before performing these asanas. If you have recently undergone surgery or have intense abdominal pain, do not practice the listed exercises.
Commercial treatments for thyroid are not only expensive but can also cause side effects. These yoga poses will help you overcome thyroid naturally while strengthening your body and mind.
|↑1||General Information/Press Room. American Thyroid Association.|
|↑2||Nilakanthan, Savitri, Kashinath Metri, Nagaratna Raghuram, and Nagendra Hongasandra. “Effect of 6 months intense Yoga practice on lipid profile, thyroxine medication and serum TSH level in women suffering from hypothyroidism: A pilot study.” Journal of Complementary and Integrative Medicine 13, no. 2 (2016): 189-193.|
|↑3||Stiles, Mukunda. Ayurvedic Yoga Therapy. Lotus Press, 2008.|
|↑4||Pajai, Minal S., Sanket V. Pajai. Role of Yoga in prevention of hypothryoidism. Journal of pharmaceutical and scientific innovation, 2014.|
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|↑13||Yoga Journal. 25th Anniversary Collectors Issue. Active Interest Media, Inc, Sept-Aug, 2000.|
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|↑15||Kirk, Martin. Hatha Yoga Illustrated. Human Kinetics, 2004.|
|↑16||Yoga Journal, No. 90. Active Interest Media, Inc, 1990.|
|↑17||Ramdev, Swami. Yog Its Philosophy & Practice. Diamond Pocket Books (P) Ltd., 2006.|
|↑18||Ananda, Sri. Complete Book of Yoga. Orient Paperbacks, 1993.|
|↑19||Saran, Renu. Yoga for Mind, Body & Soul. Diamond Pocket Books Pvt Ltd, 2017.|
|↑20||Yoga Journal, No. 108. Active Interest Media, 1992.|