Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid does not produce enough thyroid hormones. Thyroid hormones regulate many of the body’s functions, such as metabolism (conversion of food into energy and building blocks for cells and elimination of wastes) and heart rate.
Low levels of thyroid hormones can lead to a variety of symptoms like fatigue, weight gain, thinning hair, intolerance to cold, and depression.
Yoga is a complementary therapy that has been shown to provide a variety of health benefits, such as improved stress management, weight control, and positive mental health effects. In people with hypothyroidism, yoga can help stimulate the throat and decrease symptoms.
In this article, you will learn the benefits of yoga for hypothyroidism, 11 poses that may benefit the condition, and how to get started with a yoga practice.
Can Yoga Help Hypothyroidism?
Yoga is a holistic (addressing the whole person) mind-body practice that combines physical movement with other practices such as breathing exercises and meditation to improve overall well-being.
With hypothyroidism, yoga has been shown to decrease symptoms like depression and fatigue and even lower clinical markers of the disease, like thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH).
Symptoms of Hypothyroidism
Symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
Since exercise intolerance is common with hypothyroidism, practicing yoga poses can help increase physical activity levels without added strain or exertion.
Which Yoga Poses Are Best for Hypothyroidism?
A few specific poses are thought to benefit the thyroid by increasing circulation to the gland and stimulating the area surrounding it.
These poses tend to fall into the categories of heart opening, in which the back is arched, and inversions, in which the body is in an upside-down position.
The poses should never be painful.
Not all yoga poses will be right for everybody. Some may need to be modified or avoided. Listen to your body. If you feel strain, pinching, or pain, it is best to come out of the pose.
Talk to Your Healthcare Provider
Yoga should not be used as a substitute for prescribed medications or a healthcare provider’s treatment plan. Before starting yoga, talk to your healthcare provider to make sure the practice is right for you.
Cat-cow pose is a set of moving poses that brings energy and blood flow to the thyroid area through a fluid movement of the entire spine. Cat-cow is a great warm-up pose that can also help loosen stiff joints and ease joint and muscle pain, especially in the hips and back. To do it:
- Start on your hands and knees, with your wrists under your shoulders and your knees under your hips.
- Inhale, drop your the belly toward the ground as you look up.
- Exhale, press into your hands and knees as you round your spine toward the sky and tuck your chin to your chest.
- Continue this pattern: Inhale, drop your the belly and look up; exhale, press into your hands and round your the spine.
Cobra pose is a gentle heart opener that creates energy and brings movement to the throat area through a soft backbend. Cobra pose can also help warm up the shoulders, hips, and back. To do it:
- Lie flat on your belly, forehead resting on the ground.
- Place your hands on the sides of your chest, elbows bent and stacked directly over your wrists.
- Roll your shoulders back and down toward your feet.
- Press into your hands as you lift your chest and head.
- Start straightening your arms toward straight but stop if your shoulders begin to bunch towards your ears or you feel any pain in your lower back.
- Gently look up to lengthen your neck.
- Lower down to the ground when finished.
Inverted pose, or legs up the wall pose, is a great introduction to an inversion (upside-down pose). Inversions are thought to induce calm and reduce stress which can be beneficial for people with hypothyroidism who experience mental health changes due to the condition. To do it:
- Sit close to a wall with your knees bent and your arms extended behind you.
- Lean back into your arms and lower your torso down to the ground as you twist toward the wall.
- Extend your legs up the wall; your legs can be straight or bent.
- Adjust your distance from the wall depending on your level of flexibility. Hips closer to the wall will create a deeper stretch in the back of the legs, and hips farther from the wall will lessen the stretch.
Plow pose is another inversion that impacts your throat area and stimulates the thyroid. To do it:
- Lie flat on the ground with arms alongside you, palms facing down.
- Bend at your hips to lift to straighten your legs to 90 degrees.
- Push into the ground with your arms/hands and bring legs up and over your head. If feet do not touch the ground behind you, place blocks or a pillow underneath them for support.
- Wiggle your shoulders toward one another and bring your hands to your lower back, fingers pointing up.
- If your feet touch the ground behind you, you can interlace your fingers on the ground or extend your arms alongside you or toward your feet.
- To release the pose, remove your hands from your lower back area and extend them alongside you.
- Slowly roll your spine down until you’re lying flat.
Supported Shoulder Stand
Shoulder stand is believed to increase efficiency of the thyroid gland. By focusing the weight of the body onto the upper back and shoulder blade area and tucking the chin into the chest, blood flow is directed into the throat area.
While moving into shoulder stand, you will pass through the plow pose. To do it:
- Lie flat on the ground with your arms alongside you, palms facing down.
- For added support, place a folded towel or blanket under your shoulders and rest your neck and head on the ground.
- Bend at your hips to lift your straightened legs to 90 degrees.
- Push into the ground with your arms/hands and bring your legs up and over your head, as in plow pose. Here, your feet do not have to touch the ground behind you; they can hang in the air.
- Wiggle your shoulders toward one another and bring your hands to your lower back, fingers pointing upward.
- Press into your lower back as you lift your legs straight to the sky.
- Look up to your toes. Do not turn your head back and forth.
- Hold for five breaths or more.
- To come out of the pose, lower your legs back to the ground behind you.
- Slowly release your arms from behind your lower back and roll your spine down to the ground until lying flat.
Shoulder stand can be difficult, requiring a significant amount of flexibility and core strength. The possibility of injury to the neck is higher in this pose than in many others. If this pose does not work for your body, return to the inverted pose or plow pose, which will provide similar benefits with less difficulty to achieve.
Fish pose opens the throat area and is a great counter pose to shoulder stand or plow pose. After stimulating the thyroid and sending blood to the area, fish pose allows the blood to flow back out into the body. To do it:
- Sit with your legs extended in front of you and your hands flat on the ground next to your hips.
- Draw your shoulder blades toward one another, opening up your chest.
- Slide your fingers toward your body, placing your hands close to or underneath each side of your buttocks.
- Slowly bend your elbows to lean back onto your forearms.
- Press into your forearms to open your chest toward the sky.
- If it feels OK, drop your head back.
- To release, lift your head and slowly move your forearms off to the side and lower onto your back, so you’re lying flat.
Boat pose is a core strengthening pose that can improve overall balance and provide support to your spine and neck. The pose also opens the throat area. To do it:
- Sit with your knees bent, feet planted, and hands flat behind you.
- Roll your shoulders down your back to open your chest and keep your spine straight.
- Keep your head in line with the spine.
- Lean into your arms to balance on your sitz bones (the two bones of the pelvis in the middle of each buttock that you sit on).
- Lift your bent knees to 90 degrees.
- Remain here or begin to lift your arms to fully balance on the sitz bones.
- If lifting your arms, bring them parallel to the ground, palms facing one another.
- In either version, you can also try to straighten your legs.
- Continue opening your chest and rolling your shoulders down as you balance and breathe.
- To release, place your feet on the ground and wrap your arms around the legs to hug your knees into your chest.
Camel pose is a kneeling backbend that can be energizing. To do it:
- Start kneeling on your shins, with your toes tucked under.
- Place your hands on your pelvis, fingers pointed upward or downward.
- Draw your elbows toward one another as you start to open your chest.
- Press your thighs forward as you imagine lifting your chest up and over a beach ball.
- Your head can drop back if it feels comfortable.
- Some people may be able to grab their heels to create a deeper backbend. This can be stressful on the lower back, so only do this if it feels comfortable.
- To come out of the pose, draw your hands back to your pelvis and slowly straighten your spine.
- From here, you can bend your knees and sit on your heels.
Bridge pose opens the chest and stimulates the throat area. As a backbend, or heart opener, bridge pose is thought to create energy in the body which may help counteract fatigue. To do it:
- Lie on your back with arms at your sides, your knees bent, and your feet planted hips’ width apart.
- Push into your arms and feet to lift your hips to the sky.
- Rock your shoulder blades toward one another.
- If accessible, interlace your fingers on the ground underneath your buttocks.
- Alternatively, place your hands under your hips for added support.
- Press gently into your feet to open your chest further.
- To release, undo your interlaced fingers and remove your hands from beneath your buttocks.
- Place your arms alongside you and slowly lower your torso to the ground.
Upward Bow Pose
Upward bow, or wheel pose, is an extension of bridge pose that can create energy and open the throat area. To do it:
- Lie on your back with your arms at your sides, knees bent, and feet planted hips’ width apart.
- Push into your arms and feet to lift your hips to the sky the same as the bridge pose.
- Bend your arms to place your hands alongside your ears, fingers pointed toward your shoulders.
- Push into your hands and extend your head back to come to the crown of your head.
- Press into your hands and feet as you straighten your arms.
- Think about sending your knees forward and your chest backward.
- To release, lower your back onto the crown of your head.
- Tuck your chin into your chest as you come off the crown of your head and lower your hips to the ground.
Corpse pose is the final resting pose in yoga. Corpse pose is a great place to relax and clear your mind. Corpse pose can help with stress and release tension in the body. To do it:
- Lie on your back with your arms alongside you, palms face up, legs extended.
- Close your eyes.
- Take a deep breath through your nose, then exhale out through your mouth.
- Allow your body to become heavy and relaxed.
- Stay here for as long as desired.
Alternative Exercises That Can Help Hypothyroidism
Some people with hypothyroidism may have difficulty with intense exercises. Gentle exercises beyond yoga that can help with the condition and your overall health include walking, biking, swimming, and Pilates.
Tips on Getting Started
Starting a yoga practice doesn’t have to be complex. Here are some tips to get started:
- Start slowly: Begin with one pose that feels good in your body. Corpse or Cat/cow are always great places to start. There is no need to rush to do all the poses at once.
- Strive for a perfect feeling, not a perfect pose: The poses all come with instructions to learn how to perform the pose, but not everybody can do exactly as an illustration or photo suggests. If the object of the pose is to open your heart, then focus on that, what it means to you, and how you can achieve that.
- Remember to breathe: So often people force their bodies into poses they’ve never done before and they forget to breathe. Take your time. If all you do in the pose is focus on inhaling and exhaling, you’re doing enough.
- Keep learning: Take a class at your local studio. Befriend a teacher on social media. Ask questions after class. Find online classes for beginners. Talk to other people with hypothyroidism and ask what’s helped them.
Yoga can benefit your overall health as well as your hypothyroidism condition by increasing your physical activity, improving your mental health, easing your symptoms, and even lowering some clinical markers of the disease.
Yoga poses that help with hypothyroidism focus on stimulating the throat area. To get started with yoga begin slowly, seek guidance, and remember to breathe.
A Word From Verywell
As a mind-body practice, yoga can be incredibly beneficial to improving your physical and mental health. However, while yoga has many benefits, itrs not a cure-all and should be used as a complementary treatment alongside your healthcare provider’s suggested treatment plan.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the best exercises for hypothyroidism?
Daily movement is important for overall health. Any exercise that you can do consistently will help with hypothyroidism.
How can I activate my thyroid to lose weight?
Thyroid function does indeed affect weight. However, the correlation between weight and thyroid function is complex. If you are having issues with weight, talk to your healthcare provider to discuss treatment options.