Could Yoga Help Treat Thyroid Problems?

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.

Yoga and thyroid health

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.

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.

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.

Beneficial yoga poses

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

Yoga pose supported shoulder stand

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

Plow Pose or Halasana yoga pose.

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

Fish Pose or Matsyasana yoga pose.

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 backwards
  • 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

Bridge Pose or Setu Bandha Sarvangasan yoga pose.

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

Cobra Pose or Bhujangasana yoga pose.

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

Boat Pose or Navasana yoga pose.

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

Hyperthyroidism symptoms

Both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism can cause extreme tiredness.

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 symptoms

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

When to see a doctor

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.