Around 200 million people world-wide have some form of Thyroid disorders and 42 million people in India have been estimated to be suffering from this disorder. All caused by the thyroid gland, a tiny 2-inch butterfly shaped gland weighing less than 30 grams!
Few facts –
- The Thyroid gland located in the front of the trachea (like a bow-tie inside the neck!) functions like a data centre and holds the intelligence on how to keep the body systems in equilibrium / homeostasis.
- When the Thyroid gland works well, we have good energy and sleep, adequate warmth, and normal bowel function. When it slows (Hypothyroidism), we feel sluggish, cold, and constipated and worse increasing body weight. When it speeds up (hyperthyroidism) we feel restless, overheated, prone to diarrhoea and weight loss. And more in both cases!!
- Women are more prone to thyroid dysfunction than men. In general, the clinical manifestations are many times hidden under assumption of ovarian imbalance in women or age-related issues and stress for both genders respectively.
- The unknown causes for issues like weight gain/loss or other symptoms like blood lipid increase results in more stress further exacerbating the issue.
The real issue sometimes takes a few months to years to detect depending on the severity of the symptoms.
Prescription thyroid medications may bring levels in the blood to a normal range and have to be taken for one’s lifetime. Surprisingly, a holistic intervention calls for ancient yogic practices marrying modern medicine!!
Yoga has proved to have the potential to overhaul and enhance the natural homeostasis of the Thyroid gland. Yoga has been shown to decrease oxidative stress, which signals an imbalance in free radicals and is linked to disease. It has also been shown to enhance thyroid activity.
Specific yoga poses practiced consistently with breathing techniques and meditations enable a “re-tune” of the endocrinal balance which is more holistic and systemic. (Practices below).
The advantage with yoga is that it is an all-inclusive treatment enhancing total physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wellness.
A complete body rejuvenation plus the Thyroid gland in equilibrium at no additional effort!!
- Hormones are chemicals that are responsible for telling some part of the body to do something or to stop doing something, thereby regulating body processes.
- Chakras or energy centres play a key role regulating pranic energy flow within the body. Each chakra corresponds to specific nerve bundles and close located organs in the body. Subtle anatomy of yoga indicates that the throat chakra (Vishudhi) is related to the Thyroid gland, is where the energy imbalance is and hence the clearance is primarily expected to happen in this chakra through various yogic practices.
- An interesting example on how stress affects the thyroid. When you hold stress in your jaw, for example, or your neck and shoulders, you habitually tighten the muscles that may, reduce the blood flow into the thyroid and prevent optimal outflow of toxins and waste. A consistent yoga practice can not only release that tension, but also enable awareness when you start gripping those areas of the body.
- Thyroid hormones regulate body metabolism—the rate at which the body produces energy from nutrients and oxygen—and in turn affects body functions, such as energy levels and heart rate, as well as fertility and reproductive health. The thyroid gland is also connected to gastrointestinal function, adrenal hormone metabolism, blood-sugar levels, stomach acid production, brain chemistry changes, and liver detoxification.
- The thyroid hormones are also essential for brain maturation and for brain function throughout life. They perform certain actions starting from foetal stages and there are marked variations in thyroid axis function with advancing age
Yoga offers a unique combination of mild to moderate physical postures (Surya namaskar and asana), Bandhas (psychic locks), Mudras (hand gestures) and Pranayama (Breath control)
Some yoga practices and links to videos to enable your rejuvenation journey:
If you feel dizzy while practicing, stop and start normal breathing while seated or lying down. Recommended for beginners and regular yoga practitioners.
1.Surya Namaskar or Sun salutation reduces stress by bringing awareness to the mind body and breath. It is a set of 12 postures that can be done starting from the right and then from the left side of the body to make a total set of 24 postures. Beginners can start with 2-3 sets and then progress to 6 sets or more.
2.Shadanan Mudra (6 neck movements) benefits nerves connecting the organs around the neck. Avoid in case of cervical spondylosis or pain in the jaw
- Sit in comfortable pose with the spine straight. Hands on knees
- Turn your face to the right then towards left, come to centre then up and down, come to the centre and then lateral bend to right and then towards left.
- Each movement must be slow and relaxed, gradually extend hold time on each side.
3. Ushtrasan (camel pose): backward bend, calms the mind. Avoid in case of low BP, knee or spinal issues.
- Kneel on the floor with knees and feet shoulder-width apart. Place palms on the back of the hips, extend shoulders and elbows back.
- Inhale expand chest and take head up and bend backwards. Hold for as long as comfortable.
- To release exhale and slowly come back to centre.
4. Saral Matsyasana (Fish-pose) This pose massages the thyroid glands. Avoid in case of heart disease, peptic ulcers or spine related issues.
- Stretch both legs straight in front of the body. Lean backward, using the forearms for support, raise head and chest and then, rest the crown of the head on the floor.
- Arch the back and place both palms on the thighs or let them rest on the floor. As an alternative, this pose can be done from the lying position.
- To release exhale and slowly come back to centre.
- It is important that the body is slowly lowered into and raised from the final position by using the elbows as a support, to avoid any injury to the spine.
5.Simha Mudra (Lion pose): Helps tone the entire neck region. Avoid if you suffer from cervical spondylosis or vertigo.
- Sit in a comfortable posture with spine straight, both hands holding the knees.
- Open the mouth and stretch the tongue out as comfortable. Take the chin down towards the chest.
- Continue for 5-6 breaths with normal breathing. Repeat 2-3 times.
6.Jalandhara Bandha (Throat Lock): Bandha means to lock, hold or tighten. It results in flushing of pranic energy in the particular area improving blood circulation thus cleansing out toxins. This practice energizes both the Thyroid gland and the nervous system. Avoid in case of cervical spondylosis, hypertension or vertigo issues.
- Sit in a comfortable posture like Padmasana or Sukhasana. Keep the back erect
- Inhale deeply, hold the breath and lower the chin, resting it in the notch between the collar bones.
- Close eyes and focus
- To end gently lift the head up with exhalation. Repeat 4-5 times
7. Ujjayi Pranayama (victorious breath): It is also known as the psychic breath as it leads to subtle states of the mind. The vibration sound created in the throat is calming and healing.
- Sit in any meditative pose with head and spine up straight, hands resting on the knees.
- As you inhale constrict the throat muscles so that there is a narrowing of the air passage, this creates a gentle snoring sound. Exhale following the same method of constricting the throat muscles. One inhalation and exhalation are one round.
- Practice for 10-12 rounds
8. Anulom Vilom (alternate nostril breathing), It purifies the different energy channels in the body and is recommended for Hyperthyroidism. Anulom vilom is not to be practised while suffering from colds, flu or fever.
- Close the right nostril with the right thumb and breathe in from the left nostril. Close both nostrils and hold breath in. Then close left nostril with the ring finger of the right hand and breathe out from the right nostril.
- Now breathe in deeply from the right nostril, close both nostrils, hold breath and then close the right nostril and breathe out deeply from the left nostril. This is one round. Practice 5 to 10 rounds for a start.
- The time for inhalation and exhalation should be equal initially and with practice the time for exhalation can be longer than inhalation. Breathing process must be slow, controlled and relaxed.
9. Bhramari Pranayama (humming bee breath): This Pranayama induces a meditative state by harmonizing the mind and directing the awareness inward. It is recommended for Hyperthyroidism. Practice to be avoided in case of throat infections.
- Sit in any meditative pose with head and back straight, right palm resting on left in Padma mudra.
- Close the eyes and relax the whole body. Close the lips gently throughout the practice.
- Breathe in through the nose and exhale slowly and in a controlled manner while making a deep steady humming sound like a black bee. This is one round, repeat 4-5 rounds.
Other beneficial postures: to energize the thyroid gland are Ardha chakrasana, Padahastasana, Vakrasana, Bhujangasana, and Halasana. These neck-bending or twisting asanas help regulate the thyroid gland and balance hormones by acting on the pituitary and hypothalamus. Each asana is to be practiced following proper breathing pattern and for at least 10 to 20 seconds each, preferably under guidance.
Pranayama helps stimulate the Vishudhi chakra. Bhastrika particularly stimulates the sympathetic nervous system to increase thyroid hormones (for hypothyroidism) whereas Sheetali and Sheetkari pranayama’s and yoga nidra meditation stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system to regulate over production of thyroid hormones (for hyperthyroidism).
- The signal to the Thyroid comes from a small gland located at the bottom of the brain called the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland produces and sends out a hormone called thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). TSH then tells the thyroid gland how much hormones to produce and secrete. TSH levels in the blood rise and fall depending on the body’s need to produce more or less thyroid hormone.
- There is a third player involved in this transmission. The pituitary gland responds either directly to the thyroid hormones in the blood, but it also responds to signals from the hypothalamus, which sits above the pituitary gland as part of the brain. The hypothalamus releases its own hormone thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH). The TRH in turn stimulates the release of TSH in the pituitary, which then signals to the thyroid gland. This whole network is also referred to as the hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid axis (HPT) and it adapts to metabolic changes and the body’s needs.
- Research studies point to yoga’s ability to reduce the stress hormones—particularly cortisol—that interfere with normal thyroid function. When cortisol, the main stress hormone, either soars too high or sinks too low, it blocks the body’s ability to make T3, the active thyroid hormone, even when the pituitary sends the right signal.
- Thyroid hormones help regulate metabolism (the process of converting food into energy), weight, heartbeat, muscle and digestive function internal temperature, brain development, bone maintenance, energy levels, and sexual function.
- Since stress is believed to be one of the major factors of thyroid disorders, meditation keeps the mind calm, relaxed and alleviates everyday stress. Chanting ‘Om’ every day for a few minutes also helps. After chanting, put your hand on the thyroid gland and feel that it is getting healed. Let the positive vibrations of chanting have a stimulating effect on the thyroid gland.
- Regular practice of pranayama (breath focus) improves one’s breathing pattern, blood circulation and increases assimilation of oxygen and release of carbon dioxide, thus helping in the overall functioning of the endocrine system.
While these yogic practices are a wonderful way to achieve optimal functioning of the body and mind, consult your physician before incorporating these practices. Yoga shouldn’t be used as a replacement for any therapies or medications.
Overall, it is interesting that western science has started embracing ancient eastern approaches of holistic treatments like Yoga and Pranayama.
Despite scant research material on yoga and thyroid health, a yoga session comprising Asanas, Bandhas, mudras, pranayama and meditation will certainly help elevate the mind-body nexus.
As Charles W Chestnutt says “we sometimes underestimate the influence of little things”, an example of which is the miniscule Thyroid gland that converses with every cell in the body and exerts a formidable influence in the body systems!
To learn more, get in touch with us at https://www.amiyogaglobal.com .
- Asana, Pranayama, Mudra, Bandha by Swami Satyananda Saraswati
- Yoga practices for stress management – Mrs.Usha Karnik
- Thyroid pics deposit photos.com; Getty images; Wikimedia
- US EPA