Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland (present in the throat) is underactive i.e. it does not produce sufficient thyroid hormones. Thyroid hormones are required to maintain metabolism, growth, and temperature of the body.
Women aged over 60 years are more likely to develop hypothyroidism.
Causes of Hypothyroidism
Hypothyroidism can be caused by a wide variety of factors:
- Autoimmune disease – like Hashimoto’s disease
- Congenital disease – born with a defective thyroid gland
- Pregnancy – Also called postpartum hypothyroidism, where the body produces antibodies to its own thyroid gland
- Deficiency of iodine – Iodine is essential for the production of thyroid hormones.
- Pituitary defects – failure of the pituitary gland to produce enough thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH)
- Thyroid surgery – occurs when a portion of the thyroid gland needs to be surgically removed
- Radiation therapy – like lithium, which is taken to treat psychiatric disorders
Yoga and the Management of Hypothyroidism
Yoga, considered a potent non-pharmacological lifestyle intervention, is valuable in assisting hypothyroid patients to manage their disease-related symptoms. It may not cure the disorder in all the cases mentioned above, however what cannot be denied is that it is a complementary or supportive therapy. Thus, it should be practiced along with medical interventions to treat hypothyroidism and then tested by weaning away the medication very very gradually.
- Metabolic syndromes (such as hypothyroidism) are known as Adhija-Vyadhi in yogic terminology i.e. of known psychosomatic origin.
- Yoga Vasistha, an ancient yogic text, states that Adhija-Vyadhi are diseases that originate in the mind (Adhi) and access the physical body through the vital energy.
- Thus, they manifest as a physical disease (Vyadhi).
A study published in the Journal of Complementary & Integrative Medicine concluded that practicing yoga for 6 months may help improve serum TSH and reduce thyroxine requirements in females with hypothyroidism.
Yoga Poses for Hypothyroidism
ViparitaKarani (inverted pose)
A simple pose, viparitakarani helps people with hypothyroidism to regulate thyroid function and increase the flow of blood to the thyroid gland. It also helps cure insomnia, relieve stress, combat anxiety, and rejuvenate the mind.
Sarvangasana (shoulder pose)
The shoulder pose is quite effective in squeezing the thyroid gland, releasing stagnant secretion. It puts pressure on the gland and improves blood flow to it.
Ustrasana (camel pose)
The camel pose stretches the neck, increasing blood flow to the thyroid gland. It also helps asthma sufferers and relieves spinal issues.
Setubandhasana (bridge pose)
The bridge pose improves circulation of blood to the thyroid gland, thus stimulating it to function well. It also reduces headaches and treats asthma. Women in the last trimester of their pregnancy should NOT perform this pose.
Halasana (plough pose)
A very effective pose for people with hypothyroidism, the halasana stretches the neck and stimulates the thyroid glands. It should NOT be performed by people with hyperthyroidism.
Matsyasana (fish pose)
Matsyasana helps relieve tension in the neck and throat area by stretching it and stimulates the thyroid gland by encouraging blood flow to it. It also aids in maintaining abdominal muscle health and spinal health.
Dhanurasana (bow pose)
The bow pose gently massages the thyroid gland, coaxing it to produce more thyroid hormones. It is also helpful in relieving menstrual pain, reducing stress, and strengthening the back.
Bhujangasana (cobra pose)
A part of surya namaskar, bhujangasana stretches the neck and throat area, thus improving thyroid function. However, if you have recently had abdominal surgery or have hernia or ulcers, this pose should be avoided.
CAVEAT: The success of the above poses to treat hypothyroidism is hinged on a vital prerequisite; that of correct cervical and spinal alignment. Incorrect cervical alignment may in fact worsen the situation while practicing the above poses. Hence, it is always advised to practice yoga under an experienced yoga therapist who recognizes the importance of alignment and energy balancing in setting your yoga routine.
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