Yoga Asana, Pranayama Breathing techniques, Meditation helps counter Thyroid problems like Hypothyroidism.
Yoga works for thyroid condition like Hypothyroidism, Hyperthyroidism and goitre. While yoga may not be able to instantly cure the condition, regular practice of yoga can help reduce or even eliminate the thyroid medication.
Thyroid disease is a medical condition, which affects the functioning of thyroid gland leading to either of the two related issues – Hypothyroidism ( not enough thyroid hormones) and Hyperthyroidism (too much thyroid hormones).
More than 11 percent of the Indian population will develop a thyroid condition during their lifetime.
While prescription thyroid medications may bring thyroid levels in the blood to a normal range, the hormone replacement doesn’t address the cause that slowed down the hormonal production in the first place. Yoga and the related practices help regulate and improve the functioning of thyroid gland, the natural way.
What does Thyroid functioning influence?
One of the most indispensable endocrine glands in our body, the primary function of thyroid gland is to take iodine, found in many foods, and convert it into thyroid hormones thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3).
Every cell in the body depends upon thyroid hormones for regulation of their metabolism. The normal thyroid gland produces about 80% T4 and about 20% T3, however, T3 possesses about four times the hormone “strength” as T4.
The main function of thyroid gland is to regulate metabolism, which is the body’s ability to break down food and convert it to energy
Your thyroid gland influence body functions, such as heart rate, respiratory rate, energy levels, fertility, body temperature, gastrointestinal function, metabolism of adrenal hormones, regulation of blood sugar, brain chemistry, and liver detoxification.
Thyroid malfunction can contribute to many clinical manifestations such as chronic weight gain, mental and physical fatigue, irregular periods, depression, osteoporosis, sleep apnea and weakened immune and digestive function.
Related article… Know your Hyperthyroidism
Regular practice of Yoga Asana can help increase in levels of thyroid hormones
Yoga Asana practice is an alternative healing system whose power has been widely studied to treat Thyroid and related Hypothyroidism issues.
1. If left untreated, hypothyroidism can reduce cardiac fitness. Patients suffering from hypothyroidism are at a greater risk of ventricular arrhythmias, or a rapid heart rate. In addition to medications, yoga also plays a key role in improving cardiovascular endurance.
2. The related mood boosting benefits of yoga and meditation can relieve other hypothyroidism symptoms including depression and fatigue.
3. Hypothyroidism patients frequently experience muscle and joint pain. Yoga being the Low-impact activity can minimize stress on joints and is easier to do as opposed to more strenuous activities.
4. Yoga acts directly on the energy system of the body, resetting the endocrine system so that the energy potential of the body is boosted. Also yoga treats the root cause of hypothyroidism and not only the symptoms of the body. Hence the benefits of the practice are long lasting.
5. Yoga is beneficial in improving pulmonary function tests in hypothyroid patients by improving respiratory muscle strength and increasing air entry in the alveoli, which increase oxygen concentration in the blood (Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology 2009).
6. Since many of thyroid disorders occur due to stress and autoimmunity, yoga by addressing derangements in the body help alleviating stress and anxiety to a great extent.
7. It is proved that Physical and psychological stress triggered neuro-endrocrine hormones lead to deregulation of immune system, which ultimately leads to autoimmune diseases (like Hashimoto thyroiditis). Yoga not only serves as a holistic therapy in relieving existing thyroid symptoms, but also help in the prevention of further damage to the thyroid gland.
8. Yoga techniques by massaging and stimulating the thyroid gland, improving microcirculation, eliminating waste and by reducing stiffness help improve overall function of the gland and help it to function at optimal level.
One study showed that a significant change in thyroid hormone output could be seen as quickly as a month. The study participants were divided into two groups – yoga group and exercise group where the participants performed exercises for the same amount of time and frequency as done by yoga group.
Those doing the yoga poses showed a significant increase in levels of thyroid hormones, whereas no such changes were shown in those doing physical therapy.
Some of the most beneficial yoga techniques to nourish and support your thyroid health…
1. Sarvang asana (Shoulder Stand). Sarvangasana is the Sanskrit name for the Shoulder stand. This asana gives many benefits of head stand, but in this the circulation is directed to your neck region and particular to the thyroid gland.
By turning the body upside down, sarvangasana allows the blood flow to the neck and head region faster than normal, and this blood helps to nourish and stimulate the gland.
Use caution while doing this pose, especially if you are a beginner and always work under the guidance of a certified yoga teacher.
Caution: Do not practice this pose during menstruation, if you are holding the posture for more than 2 minutes. People with high blood pressure should only attempt this asana after holding the pose of halasana for at least 3 minutes.
2. Matsya asana (Fish pose). This backbend asana allows lengthening of the neck while the crown of the head is pointed towards the floor.
With practice the arch of the back increases, that improves blood circulation to the thyroid gland. It not only stretches the gland but also stimulates the production of thyroid hormones.
Both Sarvanga asana and Matsyasana are complementary to for each other. While the former compresses the gland, the later gives good stretch and massage to the thyroid gland.
3. Marjara asana (Cat pose). The thyroid gland has one of the largest blood supplies in our body so the compression and stretch created by this asana dramatically affects its function, blood circulation and helps in squeezing out stagnant secretions.
4. Virabhadra asana 2 (Warrior pose 2). This pose is named after a legendary warrior, Virabhadra. This asana exercise your limbs and torso vigorously. It improves breathing capacity by expanding the chest, helps to reduce fat deposition around the hips and promote weight loss.
Caution: Do not practice this asana if you have heart palpitations, heartburn, diarrhea, menorrhagia and metrorrhgia.
5. Danda asana (Staff pose). This asana is the basic sitting pose for all forward bend poses. Regular practice of this asana helps to relieve anxiety and mood swings commonly seen in hypothyroid patients.
Also this asana helps to relive breathlessness, improves sitting posture, will power and enhance your emotional stability
Caution: if your spine has tendency to sag or if you are experiencing breathlessness, practice this asana with proper back support.
6. Salamba Sirsa asana (Headstand). The inversion position in the Headstand asana brings a rejuvenating supply of blood to brain cells. Regular practice of this asana strengthens lungs, stimulates pituitary gland (enhances release of thyroid stimulating hormone) and alleviates fatigue and insomnia.
Caution: Do not practice this asana if you have uncontrolled hypertension, spondylosis, backache, or migraine. Do not practice this asana during menstruation.
7. Hala asana (Plough pose). In Halasana your body takes the shape of a plough. Practicing halasana regularly helps to relieve fatigue associated with hypothyroidism and boosts energy level.
Caution: Do not practice this asana if you have cervical spondylosis or diarrhea or during menstruation. Practice halasana with props if you are a beginner, overweight, or prone to headaches, migraine, asthma, high blood pressure and fatigue.
8. Ustra asana (Camel pose). In this asana you bend backwards until your body resembles that of a camel. It is recommended even for beginners or elderly as the balance of the final pose is easy to maintain. This asana helps to improve lung capacity, posture and removes stiffness in the shoulders, back and ankles.
Caution: Do not practice this asana during diarrhea, headache, migraine or uncontrolled hypertension.
9. Urdhva Dhanura asana (Bow pose). In this asana your body arches backwards to form an extended bow. Regular practice of this asana balance endocrine system by stimulating pituitary, thyroid and pineal glands. It increases cardiovascular endurance, prevents thickening of the arteries and ensures good circulation throughout the body.
Caution: Avoid this pose if your blood pressure is too high or too low, or if you have constipation or diarrhea, or you have migraine attack or severe headache.
10. Shava asana. In Savasna, keep your body as motionless as a corpse and mind alert yet calm. By withdrawing your organs of perception from outside world you experience inner silence. This inner silence helps to alleviate stress and anxiety: the two root causes of hypothyroidism.
Practicing this asana regularly relaxes the body and eases the breathing. It soothes the nervous system and relives both physical and mental fatigue.
Caution: Practice savasana with head and chest supported if you are pregnant, have breathlessness or experiencing panic attack.
11. Prasarita Padottana asana (Intense leg Stretch). This restful and recuperative asana gives an intense stretch to your legs. It addresses many of the symptoms of hypothyroidism like depression, mood swings, fatigue, menstrual irregularities and joint and muscle pain.
It soothes the brain and sympathetic nervous system, improves heart and lungs capacity and boosts self-regulation.
Caution: Do not hold this asana for more than 1 minute if you are a beginner or having low blood pressure.
12. Adhomukha Svana asana (Downward facing dog stretch). This inverting posture brings fresh blood to the thyroid gland, the heart and the lungs, increasing the fitness of the entire body.
This stretch tones and relaxes the brain, helping to relieve depression and anxiety. It cures extreme fatigue, chronic constipation and improves lymphatic circulation.
How effective is pranayama practice for Hypothyroidism?
Pranayama is not merely the cycles of inhalation and exhalation, nor is it just deep breathing. The practice of Pranayama goes beyond these to explore our physiological and spiritual dimensions.
1. Pranayama can significantly address blood sugar imbalances, gut inflammation and adrenal stress: the triad responsible for hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s.
High level of stress hormones – can cause swings in blood sugar or Dysglycemia. Dysglycemia weakens digestive system, lungs and brain, causes hormonal imbalances, exhausts adrenal glands, affects detoxification pathways and impairs metabolism. All of these effects significantly impair thyroid function.
2. Pranayama- assists in healthy elimination, nourish kidneys, and cleanse blood—which in turn support the thyroid health. All glands in our body work in synergy, so by supporting your liver, spleen, kidneys, and lymphatic system, you support and stimulate an underactive thyroid.
3. Pranayama increases circulation and maximal lung capacity and respiratory muscle strength. By increasing circulation, Pranayama stimulates thyroid secretions and aids in reduction of stagnation and inflammation.
4. Many times with increased weight and lack of cardio-respiratory fitness, hypothyroidism patients tend to pant for air, take shallow and short breaths. Deep breathing exercises can help those in taking more oxygen with each breath and can help with stress reduction, and relaxation.
5. Pranayama speeds up the metabolism by optimizing gaseous exchange and helps to burn out fat. In fact it speeds up the metabolism by a factor of five and triggers a faster weight loss.
6. Pranayama by increasing Brain derived neurotropic factor (BNDF), serotonin and GABA levels produces antidepressant effects and thereby help alleviate depression and mood swings associated with low thyroid hormones.
Some of the most beneficial pranayama techniques to nourish and support your thyroid health…
1. Ujjayi Pranayama. In this Pranayama you take a diaphragmatic breath, which first fills the lower belly (activating the first and second chakras), rises to the lower rib cage (activating the third and fourth chakras), and finally moves into the upper chest and throat.
Both inhalation and exhalation are done through the nose. Narrowing the glottis as air passes in and out creates the “ocean sound”.
This Pranayama relives depression and boosts confidence. It invigorates the nervous system and improves function of all endocrine glands including the thyroid gland.
2. Bhramari Pranayama. The characteristic of this Pranayama is to create a sound of humming bee while performing pooraka or rechaka.
Pooraka: Follow pooraka after a gradual rechaka. During inhalation press the soft palate in the throat lightly, so as to obstruct the airflow. As the soft palate is flexible, it vibrates to produce a peculiar sound similar to the tone of humming bee.
Kumbhaka: It is performed once the poorka with constant pace and sound is completed. Once the poorka is completed, close the nostril, fix all the three bandhas and perform kumbhaka. No sound is generated while being in kumbhaka.
Rechaka: once kumbhaka is completed, the bhandhas should be released to perform rechaka, in rechaka sound is generated by obstructing the air flow, but this sound has more volume than in pooraka.
3. Kapalbhati (Skull shining). Kapalbhati pranayama is also helpful for treating hypothyroidism. It is a kind of breathing exercise that helps in improving blood circulation and oxygenation of blood thus makes the body more active and can fight the fatigue most thyroid patients confront.
4. Nadi Shodhan (alternate nose breathing). This technique is useful in rebalancing metabolism, helps in de stressing and reduces tiredness and fatigue. This technique gives us direct access into the pranic and psychic energy- the substructure of metabolic activity.
How effective is Meditation for Hypothyroidism?
“ Meditation is the art and practice of going within to access the tremendous healing power of your subconscious mind. It is a remarkable tool for realising your full potential, and healing all aspects of your life. ”
1. The relaxation response generated by meditation relaxes muscle tension, calms the nervous system, diminishes pent-up stress and anxiety and promotes a positive outlook.
But the greatest benefit of meditation is that it actually affects your neurotransmitters- serotonin, GABA and dopamine.
Serotonin checks hyperactivity and anxiety, while alleviating depression, mood swings and depleted energy levels caused by the disease itself or the prescription drugs. GABA acts as a sedative and has a natural calming effect that subdues anxiety and worry.
Dopamine positively regulates attention and memory .It also stimulates motivation, self esteem, will power and desire. Low levels of these neurotransmitters are symptomatic of a hypothyroidism.
2. Meditation helps in escalating into the deeper levels of your subconscious mind, which is a storehouse of endless healing power. It controls and regulates your all bodily functions, and most importantly the hormonal system itself.
3. Meditation revitalizes your adrenal glands and checks the amount of cortisol released due to stress. Meditation also increases oxytocin hormone production- the hormone responsible for reducing stress levels while relieving depression.
4. Finally, Meditation stimulates pituitary gland and orchestrates the realignment of all other glands present in our body. Once all glands restore equilibrium and harmony you experience the empowering self-healing power of meditation.
A few of the Meditation techniques for Thyroid and Hypothyroidism
1. Guided Meditation. Scientific research has validated the extraordinary benefits of guided mediation for assisting you at many levels to restore stability of your thyroid.
Guided Meditation helps you to get a more peaceful, optimistic attitude about your health and thyroid.
The purpose of Guided Meditation is to bring your Body, Mind and Spirit into harmony, thereby creating a favorable environment to promote healing from within.
2. Preksha Meditation. Formulated by Acharya Aahapragya in 1970s, Preksha Meditation is the practice of purification of emotions and consciousness by following important disciplines- complete awareness of one’s mental and physical actions, attitude, diet, spiritual vigilance and silence.
A study published in International Multidisciplinary Research Journal 2015 established the effect of Preksha Mediation- yoga in 60 hypothyroidism patients. The study authors concluded that the effect of Preksha Mediation is mainly due to modulation of Hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid axis which resulted in enhancement of thyroid hormones.
3. Omkar Chanting and Yoga Nidra. Omkar chanting is one of the best effective treatments for hypothyroidism. The vibration produced by chanting affects the thyroid directly, which regulates and stimulates its function.
Daily omkar chanting for 15 – 30 minutes gives a good progress. This vibration produced in the head also stimulates pituitary gland and hypothalamus, hence optimizes its functioning
Yoga Nidra practiced once daily relieves stress and anxiety from the mind, which is the root cause of thyroid disorders.
Mudras and Bandhas for Hypothyroidism
Jalandhar bandha stimulates the function of Vishuddhi Chakra, which corresponds to thyroid gland, and is concerned with purification and the harmonization of the endocrine glands. jalandhara bandha has almost same effect as Shoulder Stand Asana as it squeezes the thyroid gland and stimulates production of thyroid hormones.
Jalandhar bandha compliments ujjayi Pranayama as both of them increases he pranic flow towards the throat region. Viparita karani mudra increases the reversible blood flow towards head and throat and increases function of thyroid and pituitary gland.
With consistent practice, these Yoga poses and asana, Pranayama Breathing techniques and Meditation practices work by clearing the stagnation around your organs, enhancing the output of lymphatic system, resetting the balance of your hormonal system, which ultimately supports overall endocrine health.