3 yoga techniques for thyroid health
By Kelley Voegelin, RYT
Did you know you can improve thyroid health with 3 simple yoga techniques?
Yoga recognizes the importance of the throat — home to your fifth energy center (the 5th chakra) and the thyroid, a little gland with the big job of governing your metabolism.
The throat chakra (Vishuddha Chakra) is the single passageway where the flowing energies from the other 6 chakras converge. It’s believed that by coming together in this central location, these energies allow you to express your true and unique self to the rest of the world.
But imbalances are common in this crucial region of the body. They can show up physically as hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid gland) or as hyperthyroidism (overactive). And they can present energetically as the inability to speak clearly with your true voice, or, conversely, to quiet down when necessary.
If this sounds like new-age nonsense to you, consider how much trouble an imbalanced thyroid can cause in the form of symptoms — crushing fatigue and weird weight gain, but also depression, fuzzy thinking and memory issues.
Try these techniques to help keep your thyroid healthy, stable and balanced, and your throat open and clear.
Many yoga asanas, or postures, benefit your thyroid and bring fresh blood and energy to the throat area by carefully compressing and stretching the region. That’s just what this asana will do.
Supported Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
Lie on a bolster (or a few blankets folded into that shape) with your head and shoulders on one side and your legs on the other. Gradually slide your head and shoulders to the floor. Extend your legs and place your heels on a block or a folded blanket, with the soles of your feet against a wall if possible. (Before you lie back, try wrapping a belt or strap around your upper thighs to keep your legs from splaying out.)
Relax your arms out to the sides, in a cactus shape, or place your hands on your belly. Relax the back of your neck, with your throat compressed gently. Breathe in and out softly. Stay for 5-10 minutes and come out by carefully rolling off the bolster to one side.
Effects: Gently compresses and massages the throat and the thyroid gland. Upon release from the posture, fresh blood passes through the throat tissues, bringing in nutrients and oxygen, while removing toxins and stagnation. This exchange cleanses and stimulates the thyroid.
Note: In Bridge Pose, you can extend your legs up to the sky in a healing inversion that will move blood from the feet and legs toward the head and throat.
Fish Pose (Matsyasana)
Active Fish: Lie on your back with legs either extended or crossed at the shins, and arms by your side. Bend your elbows and your forearms into the ground as you raise your chest , letting your head drop toward the ground. Your throat and chest will spread open a lot. Take a few deep, slow breaths, then carefully tuck your chin to the chest and lower down.
Supported Fish: Place two yoga blocks behind you on low or medium height a few inches apart. Lie back on the blocks, with the first block supporting you from the upper back to the lowest tips of the shoulder blades. Let the furthest block support the base of the skull — not the cervical spine! Arms can lie extended or rest next to your sides, and legs can extend or bend at the knees. Stay for as long as feels comfortable, while breathing through your nose.
Effects: Counters the squeezing and compression of the thyroid you did in Bridge Pose and allows the throat region to stretch and open. Plus it encourages fresh circulation to the thyroid.
Note: Explore different variations of block positions, such as placing the further block on a higher level, or vice versa.
Practicing pranayama, or controlled breathing, to heal and support the thyroid can be very effective. When done regularly, it can also reduce anxiety, lower blood pressure and relieve stress.
Sit or lie in a comfortable position. Do a few rounds where you inhale through your mouth, making a “haaa” sound on the exhale. Then close your mouth and breathe through your nose but continue making the “haaa” sound in the back of your throat. This subtle ocean-like sound is made by gently constricting the vocal chords. Inhale slowly, filling the lungs to capacity but without allowing your body to become rigid. Fully complete your exhale through your nose. Close your eyes if possible and you turn your awareness to the sound of your own breath passing through the throat. Practice 8-10 cycles of breath.
Effects: Nourishes and massages the thyroid.
Mudras are hand positions that act as gestures or “seals” for energy that help engage and influence the body and mind. You can use them to manifest or release something happening in your life, or to nourish a certain organ, element or body region that needs extra care.
Vishuddha Mudra balances the subtle energy of the throat chakra where communication, both physical and emotional, is centered. When the throat chakra is balanced, you can communicate authentically to express your needs and creativity. You can also listen better, and embrace silence more easily.
Sitting or lying down, loosely bend the fingers of both hands and interlock them, with the palms facing up. Connect the tip of the right index finger to the right thumb, and left index finger to left thumb, creating two gently interlocked circles. Hold for 5 minutes — or longer if you have the time. Add an extra layer of subtlety by silently or softly repeating the “seed” (bija ) mantra for the Vishuddha Chakra: “Ham.” (Rhymes with “calm.”)Feel the vibration of the mantra resonate in your throat.
As with all practices, intention can infuse what you do with more power and purpose. Whether you are working toward better thyroid health, or addressing a blockage or overflow of energy in the throat chakra, consider setting an intention unique to you as you try out these techniques.
May this important passageway for the flow of energies and metabolic processes find balance, truth, and freedom of expression within your body.