Yoga is an Eastern practice that goes back thousands of years. Only recently has it become a popularized form of exercise in the West.
Although the real intention of yoga (unity of body with spirit) is rarely attained in the colonized Western version of the practice, the postures involved still provide a low-impact form of stretching. These stretches and poses, which allow blood to flow to areas that need healing, can undoubtedly address specific health concerns.
There are thousands, if not millions, of yoga poses, from which you can choose to target different areas of your body. Poses run from easy (like corpse pose) to advanced (like crow pose), so they’re good for any age, or shape.
WHERE IS THE THYROID?
The thyroid is a small butterfly-shaped organ that sits in the front of your neck. It produces hormones that regulate your metabolism and affect every organ in the body. Thyroid hormones are also involved in the regulation of skeletal growth and maintenance, as well as heart function.
Around 27-million Americans have thyroid disease, and even more, have low thyroid function.
Symptoms of thyroid dysfunction include :
- Slowed metabolism
- Weight gain
- Difficulty concentrating
- Waxy skin and swelling (myxedema)
- Dry skin
- Low libido
- Slow pulse
- Dry, brittle hair
- Deep, hoarse voice
WHAT TRIGGERS POOR THYROID FUNCTION?
There are a variety of reasons as to why your thyroid might be malfunctioning. Environmental factors put a heavy toll on the thyroid and are one of the main factors in contributing to autoimmune thyroid disease.
These factors include :
- Exposure to radiation
- Nutrient deficiencies (iodine, selenium, zinc, vitamin B12)
- Environmental toxins (pesticide exposure, fluoride in water, etc.)
- Chronic infections
- Certain medications (beta blockers, birth control pills, estrogen, iodinated contrast agents, lithium, phenytoin, steroids (testosterone injections), theophylline)
YOGA FOR THYROID
Yoga works to stretch and open constricted muscle and connective tissue around the neck, improve blood and lymph flow, reduce stress, and stimulate the endocrine system (which includes the thyroid).
The poses mentioned below are throat-stimulating. They improve circulation and energy flow around the thyroid and help stretch and strengthen the neck.
In fact, several studies have shown the positive effect of yoga on improving thyroid function. One study found that practicing yoga for six months helped improve cholesterol levels, serum TSH, and reduced the thyroxine requirement in female patients suffering from hypothyroidism.
As with all stretching and yoga routines, remember to breathe deep, and never go too deep into a pose if you experience sharp pain.
1. FISH POSE
- Sit on the floor with your legs extended out in front of you.
- Move to one side at a time so that you can place your hands directly underneath each buttock (palms facing down, fingers towards the toes).
- Draw your elbows to each other and open your chest.
- Slowly lean back onto your forearms and elbows.
- Again, open your chest as much as possible and press into your arms to stay lifted.
- Drop your head back if you haven’t had any neck injuries, and only if it is comfortable.
- Release by lifting your head, releasing your hands and lying down on your back.
2. LEGS-UP-THE-WALL POSE
- Use a folded blanket or firm pillow underneath your hips for support.
- Add more height to the support if you’re more flexible.
- Sit with your right side against the wall, and lift your legs up along the wall at the same time as you lie back.
- Your buttocks can be right against the wall, or a few inches away.
- Soften your throat and relax your neck and chin
- Keep your arms alongside your body, above your head, or anywhere that is most comfortable.
- Stay here for up to 20 minutes – the longer, the better!
- Release the pose by pushing yourself away from the wall.
3. CAT AND COW POSE
- Start with your hands and knees on the floor, palms directly under the shoulder and knees directly below the hips.
- Breathe in and pull your abdominal muscles in as you arch your back up like a stretching cat. Let your head and tailbone drop down toward the floor.
- Return to the initial position, and then extend the upper part of the spine upwards, supporting it with your abdominal muscles and not letting your neck sink into your shoulders, or your shoulders crunch up into your neck. Make sure your neck is a long extension of your spine, and don’t let the head fall back.
- Return to starting position and repeat 5 times.
4. COBRA POSE
- Place your hands, palms facing down, on the ground beneath your shoulders.
- Inhale as you lift your chest up off the ground by straightening your arms, abdominals engaged.
- Keep your lower ribs on the floor, draw your shoulders back, and your heart forward. Do NOT crunch your neck. Keep shoulders dropped away from the ears.
- Hold for 30 seconds, then release, and slowly lower your chest and forehead to the mat.
5. CAMEL POSE
- Kneel upright with your knees hip-distance apart. Press your shins and tops of your feet into the floor, and do not squeeze your buttocks.
- Rest your hands on the back of your pelvis, fingers pointing to the floor, almost like they are in your back jean pockets.
- Lean back, with your chin, slightly tucked toward your chest. If you’re a beginner, stay here, and keep your hands on the back of your pelvis.
- If you are comfortable here, reach back and hold onto each heel. Your palms should rest on your heels with your fingers pointed toward your toes and your thumbs holding the outside of each foot. If you feel any compression in your lower back, tuck your toes to elevate your heels.
- Lift up through your pelvis, keeping your lower spine long. Keep your head in a neutral position or allow it to drop back without straining or crunching your neck.
- Hold for 30-60 seconds, and release by bringing your hands back to your front hips. Inhale, and lift your torso by pushing your hips toward the floor, with your head coming up last.
- Repeat 2-3 times if your back in comfort with the pose. This is a very deep heart-opening pose, so once or twice will suffice.
6. SUPPORTED SHOULDER STAND
- You can use a folded towel or blanket under your shoulders for support.
- Bring your shoulders to the edge of a blanket and let your head rest on a mat.
- Press your arms and back into the floor for support, and on an inhale, lift your legs up to ninety degrees.
- Exhale, and bring your legs over your head. Your feet can balance in the air.
- Bring your hands to your lower back to support your body.
- Keep your fingers pointing up toward your hips with your pinky fingers on either side of your spine.
- Raise your legs straight up toward the ceiling.
- Keep the shoulders, spine, and hips in one line if it’s possible.
- Keep your chin tucked into your chest as you keep your neck in one position. Release the pose by slowly releasing your legs back over your head.
- Bring your arms back alongside your body, and on an inhale, slowly roll back down to starting position, vertebrae by vertebrae.
7. PLOW POSE
- Begin on your back, arms alongside the body, palms facing down.
- On an inhale, lift your legs up to ninety degrees.
- Support yourself on the lower back with your hands, and bring your elbows in towards the body.
- Slowly bring your knees down towards your forehead and extend the legs.
- Bring the hands down to the mat, and press the toes into the mat.
- Activate the legs, and keep your gaze toward the navel.
- When you’re ready to release, press your hands into the mat, and use your core strength to slowly come all the way down.
8. UPWARD BOW (WHEEL) POSE
If you aren’t that advanced, skip this pose (it is a little more difficult!).
- Lay on your back with the soles of your feet on the floor, heels close to your hips and feet hip-width apart.
- Place your hands on the floor just above your shoulders with fingers spread wide and fingertips pointing toward your shoulders.
- Send your arm bones into their sockets so you feel your shoulder blades come together on your back.
- Press into your feet, and on an exhale, lift up your tailbone and buttocks.
- Draw the energy of your knees together and keep your thighs strong.
- Press into the insides of your feet, and then press into your hands as you lift up onto the crown of your head.
- Next, press all four points into the floor as you lift your head off the floor and straighten your arms.
- Allow your head to hang back, and release any tension in the throat.
- Slowly release out of the pose the same way you came up.