Yoga for the Thyroid in Women

The butterfly-shaped thyroid gland sits in the lower part of the neck and plays a key role in the endocrine system. It produces thyroid hormone, which the body converts and distributes to every cell. These hormones affect the metabolic functioning of every system and function in the body. Hypothyroidism involves an underactive thyroid gland and is more common than hyperthyroidism, a condition in which the thyroid is overactive. Some people find yoga to be helpful in managing thyroid conditions.

Yoga can provide deep relaxation benefits for women with thyroid conditions. (Image: Ariel Skelley/Blend Images/Getty Images)

Yoga Breathing

Begin with a general yoga movement and breathing routine that incorporates deep abdominal breathing. To master basic yoga breathing awareness, lie flat on your back and place one hand on your abdomen. Take a slow, deep breath and notice your hand rising as you inhale. Then exhale slowly. After you establish a foundation with a general yoga movement and breathing program, you can add thyroid-specific poses and breathing. One thyroid-benefiting breathing exercise involves inhaling through your nose, as you focus that inhalation on the back of your throat.

Poses for Hypothyroid

Use caution while doing these yoga poses, especially if you are just beginning. The Shoulder Stand intermediate yoga pose is a key one for hypothyroidism. Place a folded towel or blanket under your shoulders for support when doing this exercise and work under the guidance of a certified instructor. To perform Shoulder Stand, lie back on a mat with the palms of your hands under your back. Lift your legs and lower body toward the ceiling until your shoulders, neck and head are the only parts of your body that have contact with the mat. Support your lower back area with your hands. While doing this, look at your toes and do not turn your head. Another hypothyroidism-specific pose is Fish pose. Place your legs straight out and use your elbows to support your torso as you recline on your back. Inhale while arching your chest and bending your head back. Move your elbows down the sides of your body, toward your hips, and slowly curve your back until the crown of your head touches the floor.

Poses for Hyperthyroid

If you have a hyperthyroid condition, it is even more important to not overexert yourself when doing yoga exercises. The Boat pose can be helpful for an overactive thyroid, and to do it you first lie on your abdomen. While keeping your feet together, rest your chest and forehead on the floor. Then stretch your arms overhead and attempt to raise your legs, trunk, shoulders, arms, neck and head. Do not bend your elbows or knees while doing this. Keep your back arched while bending as far as you can. The Stick pose, also helpful for hyperthyroidism, involves first lying on your back while stretching your arms over your head. You then point your toes and extend your feet and arms as much as possible in opposite directions.

Thyroid Benefits

Yoga can be beneficial to the thyroid partly because the poses and breathing exercises induce relaxation and help to reduce stress, and stress management is highly important for thyroid health. Specific thyroid-related physical benefits can include less fatigue and muscle pain. Yoga stretches and loosens the neck area, where the thyroid gland sits. Some who practice yoga find that they can reduce or even eliminate their thyroid medication, but it is important to follow the guidance of the prescribing practitioner while taking thyroid medication. Because thyroid disorders are so common in women, if you are female you can receive benefits from doing thyroid-specific yoga as prevention, even if you do not have a thyroid imbalance.

Customize Your Yoga Class

Start slowly and be careful when doing thyroid-aiding yoga. Check with your healthcare practitioner before starting any exercise program, and ask her if yoga is a good exercise choice, given your health needs. Inquire about yoga classes in your community, such as with your city's recreation center and at private yoga studios. Ask potential yoga instructors if they are familiar with yoga's effect on the thyroid, and ask them to guide you through yoga movements that are specifically helpful to the thyroid.

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