Yoga is the one eastern form of exercise that has really gained a lot of popularity in the western world. And I think that there’s a lot of benefit with using yoga for hypothyroidism. But like with everything in life, with the good, comes the bad. In the western world there seems to be this universal belief that the best results always come to those who work the hardest. So we work out harder, expecting to get even better results.
But yoga for hypothyroidism is one area where clearly, less is more. And also keep in mind that the right hypothyroidism diet can greatly increase the effectiveness of your yoga and help to drastically improve hypothyroidism symptoms.
Good Yoga for Hypothyroidism vs. Bad Yoga for Hypothyroidism
There are many different forms of yoga being practiced all over the world. Some focus more on the mental aspects of life. Others focus more on the physical aspects. Each and every form of yoga has its place. But it’s important to make sure that the form of yoga you choose is right for you and your lifestyle.
I shouldn’t even have to say this, but I will. If you are hypothyroid, then your body is under chronic stress. No ifs, ands, or buts. That’s just the reality of it.
So, while there are many forms of yoga that are designed to be quite physically demanding and are great for those who have no other stress in their lives, this is just not the case for you. But it’s too easy to fall into the trap of thinking that these physically demanding forms of yoga is really where you get the best results.
Trust me; you have enough stress in your life that yoga for hypothyroidism should focus entirely on reducing your stress instead of adding to it. So it should go without saying that the less intense the yoga, the better. Most “beginner” classes are frowned upon because they aren’t considered challenging. But this is probably the best form of yoga for hypothyroidism that you can do.
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The Importance of Proper Breathing
All forms of yoga place a lot of emphasis on breathing which is definitely a good thing. But the easy classes tend to spend more time devoted entirely to developing the right breathing patterns which is something that is a problem for most hypothyroid people. When your body is under stress, you tend to develop an inverted breathing pattern that involves breathing predominantly from your chest. And when you’re under chronic stress then this type of breathing becomes habit and causes your body to release even more stress hormones. So, one great way to reduce your stress levels is to re-learn that healthy diaphragmatic breathing pattern which will naturally reduce your stress levels. And this is where the basic yoga for hypothyroidism can make a big impact. It stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system which shifts you away from the “fight or flight” response of your sympathetic nervous system to a state of relaxation and recovery. And this creates a cascade of effects within your body that most notably improves your body’s ability to heal and decreases your stress hormones.
By decreasing your stress hormones, you automatically improve your blood sugar balance and improve your thyroid function. So something as simple as breathing properly can have a direct impact on your thyroid health.
Soft Tissue Considerations with Yoga for Hypothyroidism
Another very important topic to cover regarding yoga for hypothyroidism is the demand for flexibility and mobility which is lacking in those with hypothyroidism.
When you are hypothyroid, both estrogen and parathyroid hormones increase. And both of these hormones cause your cells to take up more calcium which leads to the calcification of your soft tissue. In other words, your tendons, ligaments, and muscle tissue that use to be quite flexible become hardened and lose a lot of that flexibility. So, this is a big reason why yoga for hypothyroidism should not be intense. If you force your body into poses that are too physically demanding for your lack of flexibility and mobility then you can seriously injure yourself. You should only work within your comfortable range of motion and not force anything. Leave the difficult poses to the yogi’s.
Yoga for Hypothyroidism Poses
I am in no way a yoga expert. I have only studied a form of yoga that was far more focused on the meditative aspect of yoga. However yoga postures were taught to supplement the meditative practices. But the truth is, at the time I lacked enough flexibility to do many of the poses from being hypothyroid myself and years of abusing my body in the gym. But there are a couple of poses that are great for yoga for hypothyroidism which focus on the neck and cervical spine which can help to stimulate your thyroid.
As I mentioned, I’m no yoga expert so I’m not going to attempt to explain how to do this pose properly. That’s best left to a trained yoga teacher.
But the Fish Pose is an exercise that places your cervical spine in extension and helps to stretch the soft tissue surrounding your thyroid cartilage and thyroid gland.
Shoulder Stand Pose
The shoulder Stand pose does the opposite of the Fish Pose by putting the cervical spine in flexion. This also helps stretch some of the soft tissues that affect your thyroid gland. But it also helps correct a postural issue called forward head posture. And forward head posture can also negatively affect your thyroid and contribute to hypothyroidism.
Hopefully it’s obvious by now that yoga is quite beneficial for hypothyroidism and can be an important part of your hypothyroidism treatment program. Just keep in mind that not all forms of yoga best suited for you. The best yoga for hypothyroidism is one that is comfortable, reduces your stress, and leaves you feeling energized.
About the Author Tom Brimeyer is a functional medicine practitioner, health researcher, and author on nutrition, hormones, and hypothyroidism.