Yoga is an accessible, low-impact exercise that reduces stress and supports well-being. Could yoga help treat thyroid problems?

The thyroid is a small gland in the throat that secretes hormones. These hormones affect a person’s metabolism, body temperature, and growth. They also affect the way a child’s brain develops.

When a person has a problem with their thyroid, it can affect both their physical and mental health. This article explores yoga as a complementary therapy for thyroid problems.

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Yoga may help to relieve stress and ease the symptoms of thyroid conditions.

Yoga is an exercise that helps reduce a person’s stress levels. A 2017 study found that yoga reduces the symptoms of stress and improves overall well-being.

Stress is often associated with thyroid problems. For this reason, yoga may be beneficial for thyroid health.

There are a variety of conditions that affect the thyroid. Two of the most common conditions are:

  • Hyperthyroidism: This is when the thyroid produces an excessive quantity of thyroid hormones. The underlying cause of hyperthyroidism may be Graves’ disease or an overactive thyroid.
  • Hypothyroidism: This is when thyroid hormone production is too low. This is often caused by an autoimmune disease that has damaged the thyroid.

Some evidence also exists that supports a more direct link between yoga and improved thyroid function.

A small study conducted in 2014 found that yoga improved thyroid function. However, the study noted that further studies with more participants were needed to draw firm conclusions.

A 2016 study found that 6 months of yoga practice helped to improve cholesterol levels and levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). This reduced the need for thyroid replacement therapy in women suffering from hypothyroidism.

The following yoga poses focus on stimulating the throat. They are thought to improve circulation, as well as stretch and strengthen the neck where the thyroid is located.

It is important to only stay in yoga poses for as long as feels comfortable. Beginners can try one or two poses and build on this each time they practice.

Each of the below yoga poses is easy to try at home with a yoga mat.

1. Supported shoulder stand

The supported shoulder stand pose involves being upside down, which is known in yoga as an inversion.

Inversions help increased blood flow to the throat. Yoga researchers believe this helps to stimulate the thyroid.

The Sanskrit name for this pose is Sarvangasana.

To do a supported shoulder stand, a person should:

  • lie down flat on the back
  • place a folded towel or blanket under the shoulders to support them
  • bring the shoulders to the edge of the towel while resting the head on the mat
  • place the arms on either side with palms facing down
  • press arms and back firmly into the floor
  • breathe in and lift legs up at a right angle
  • breathe out and lift legs up, pushing up onto the shoulders
  • push hands into the lower back to support the hips
  • keep the stomach pulled in, so the core is strong
  • hold the body and legs in a straight line up from the shoulders
  • keep the chin tucked into the chest
  • breathe deeply three times
  • lower the legs back down slowly, keeping the core engaged

2. Plow Pose

The Plow Pose is also believed to stimulate the thyroid.

The Sanskrit name for this pose is Halasana.

To do the Plow Pose, a person should begin in the same way as for a shoulder stand.

Rather than holding the legs up in a straight line from the shoulders, they should:

  • bring the legs right over and behind their head
  • rest their toes on the floor behind their head
  • keep their lower back supported with their hands throughout
  • breathe deeply three times
  • bring the legs back above the head
  • slowly lower the legs back to the floor, keeping the core engaged

The Plow is a safe pose, but it may feel uncomfortable for people who are overweight or women with larger breasts.

If a person feels like the Plow Pose makes breathing difficult, they should slowly come out of the position.

3. Fish Pose

The Fish Pose is an excellent pose to do after a shoulder stand or Plow, as it stretches the body in the opposite direction. In yoga, people refer to this as a counter pose.

The Sanskrit name for this pose is Matsyasana.

The Fish Pose is straightforward to perform and is perfect for beginners.

To do the Fish Pose, a person should:

  • sit down with the legs extended in front of them
  • place the hands on the mat behind them with their fingers tucked under their buttocks
  • lower the elbows to the mat and lean backward
  • align the shoulders with the elbows
  • gently drop the head back as far as it feels comfortable, with the eventual aim of touching the crown of the head on the mat
  • keep the chest up and open, imagining a string pulling it up to the sky
  • breathe deeply three times
  • slowly lift the head up and release the arms to come out of the position

4. Bridge Pose

The Bridge Pose is good for strengthening the back. It may also help promote thyroid health.

The Sanskrit name for this pose is Setu Bandha Sarvangasana.

To do the Bridge Pose, a person should:

  • lie on the mat with their back on the floor
  • draw the feet inwards towards their hips
  • keep the feet and knees in line with the hips
  • with arms by the sides of the body, press the palms into the floor
  • lift the hips up to the sky, imagining a string pulling the hips upward
  • if this is difficult, put the palms on the lower back for support
  • tuck the chin into the chest
  • breathe deeply three times
  • slowly lower the hips to come out of the position

5. Cobra Pose

The Cobra Pose gently stimulates the throat and thyroid.

The Sanskrit name for this pose is Bhujangasana.

To do this pose, a person should:

  • lie down on their stomach on the mat
  • place the palms on the mat under the shoulders
  • squeeze the elbows into their sides
  • press the palms into the mat
  • lift the head up until the chest lifts of the mat and the back is arched
  • drop the head back towards the bottom if this feels comfortable
  • breathe deeply three times
  • slowly lower chest and head back down to the mat

6. Boat Pose

The Boat Pose is good for strengthening the core. It also stimulates the throat and may be beneficial for the thyroid.

The Sanskrit name for this pose is Navasana.

To do this pose, a person should:

  • sit on the floor with the legs out in front
  • place the hands on the mat, palms down, either side of the legs
  • slowly lean back, keeping the core strong, the chin tucked in, and the back straight
  • bending the knees, lift the feet off the floor
  • if possible extend the legs and point the feet, so the legs and body make a V-shape
  • raise the arms, so they are in line with the shoulders
  • palms should face each other, with fingers extended
  • breathe deeply three to five times
  • bring the arms and legs down slowly, hugging the legs and dropping the head before releasing

7. Upward Bow Pose

The Upward Bow Pose, which is sometimes referred to as the Wheel Pose, provides energy by stretching the chest and lungs.

The Upward Bow also stimulates the thyroid and pituitary glands and strengthens the arms, legs, and spine.

The Sanskrit name for this pose is Urdhva Dhanurasana.

To do this pose, a person should:

  • lie down flat on the back, bending the knees and bringing them close to the body
  • place the hands on the mat next to the head, ensuring that the fingers are pointing toward the shoulders and the elbows point upward
  • press the feet into the mat and exhale while lifting the tailbone and buttocks
  • ensure the thighs and inner feet are parallel
  • press into the feet and hands and lift onto the crown of the head
  • press further into the feet and hands while exhaling, then lift the head completely off of the floor until the arms are straight
  • spread the shoulder blades and allow the head to hang loosely
  • hold the pose for 5-10 seconds while breathing deeply
  • slowly release from the pose, bending the arms and allowing the tailbone and buttocks to return to the mat

8. Supported Headstand Pose

The Supported Headstand Pose is one of the most advanced yoga positions, and acts directly on the thyroid glands.

The pose helps blood flow to the heart as well as stimulating the brain’s pituitary and pineal glands, which helps to relieve stress.

The pose should not be attempted without prior yoga experience and should be performed under the supervision of an experienced teacher on the first attempt.

The Sanskrit name for this pose is Sirshasana,

To do this pose a person should:

  • kneel forward so that the knees and forearms are on the mat
  • lace the fingers together with elbows at shoulder width and press the inner wrists firmly into the mat
  • set the crown of the head into the mat and gently push the back of the head up against the palms of the open hands
  • lift the knees up from the mat while inhaling
  • walk the feet closer to the elbows and elevate the heels to form an inverted V shape
  • elevate the shoulder blades upward so the torso becomes long and slightly stretched
  • lift both feet off of the mat simultaneously while exhaling; it may be easier to bend the knees a little during the ascent
  • turn the upper thighs in while pushing the heels toward the ceiling, straightening out the knees
  • ensure the weight is balanced between the forearms and continue to elevate the shoulders upward
  • when the legs are fully lengthened, press upward through the big toes
  • hold the pose for 5-10 seconds (this can be increased by a further 5 seconds each time the pose is repeated in the future)
  • slowly bring the feet back toward the mat while exhaling, keeping the shoulders pushing upward until both feet reach the mat

The signs of hyperthyroidism, which is an overproduction of thyroid hormones, include:

  • extreme tiredness
  • shaking hands
  • mood swings
  • anxiety
  • rapid heartbeat
  • heart palpitations
  • dry skin
  • trouble sleeping
  • unexplained weight loss
  • increased bowel movements
  • light or missed periods

Hypothyroidism means that the thyroid does not produce enough thyroid hormones. The signs of hypothyroidism:

  • extreme tiredness
  • feeling weak
  • gaining or finding it hard to lose weight
  • dry hair and skin
  • hair loss
  • feeling the cold more than usual
  • muscle cramps and aches
  • constipation
  • depression
  • feeling irritable
  • having memory problems
  • changes in normal menstrual cycle
  • reduced sex drive

If a person suspects they may have a problem with their thyroid, they should speak to their doctor.

A doctor can help to diagnose hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism and recommend appropriate treatments.

It is important to remember that yoga is a complementary therapy. It can be undertaken alongside other treatments recommended by a doctor, but cannot replace them.