NMFIT Thyroid Health Series: Dina Ivas Shares the Benefits of Yoga

Last week I shared my personal journey pertaining to my thyroid surgery and health. The goal I hope to achieve through the series is educating those that might be having a hard time dealing with their diagnosis or looking to learn more about the thyroid gland.  

In this week's post I had a great one on one interview with Dina Ivas the founder of Yoga with Dina. I met Dina earlier this year at a fitness event in New York, we instantly connected! Dina's passion for yoga and the true desire to help others made her perfect for this interview.  

I can't say it enough, there are a number of healing benefits when it comes to physical exercise. Continue reading to discover a new way to keep your thyroid levels in check and feel more energized everyday by practicing Yoga. 

NMFIT: Why is practicing yoga beneficial to someone suffering from thyroid disease? 

DI: Yoga is a practice of creating balance.  Similar to the principles of acupuncture and reiki, yoga improves the way our bodies and minds function by removing energetic blockages.  When these blockages occur, they can lead to physical and emotional distress.  There are seven energy centers (or chakras) throughout the body and the thyroid gland is linked to the 5th chakra located at the throat.  Some of the physiological effects of an imbalance in the 5th chakra are an underactive or overactive thyroid.  The thyroid gland is very important to our daily well-being as it is secretes hormones that regulate metabolism.  Practicing poses that stimulate the thyroid help encourage it to function properly.  Yoga is also amazing for relieving stress, which is believed to be one of the major catalysts for thyroid disorders.  Be sure to consult your doctor before beginning a yoga practice if you are suffering from a thyroid disorder. 

NMFIT: As you know many people that suffer from different thyroid disorders are usually extremely fatigued. What Yoga moves energize the body?

DI: Backbending poses are so uplifting…I refer to them as “yogic adrenaline” because they always give me an energetic boost on days when I’m feeling lethargic.  Some of my favorite backbends are camel pose and supported fish pose.  I highly recommend warming up your core and opening up your shoulders before practicing camel pose as it is an active backbend that can be quite physically demanding. The beauty of supported fish pose is it does not require any physical effort, and is friendly to yogis with lower back issues as the lumbar spine is not deep flexion. 

Dina Ivas

Dina Ivas

Inversions can also fight fatigue.  I think it’s the excitement of going upside down that really revs up the system.  When I’m feeling sluggish, I love kicking up into a handstand against the wall.  It’s comforting to have the safety net of the wall, and it also allows me to hold myself upside down for a longer period of time, reversing the blood’s natural path through the body, and thus sending fresh, oxygenated blood to the entire upper body, including the thyroid gland to help regulate the production of T3 and T4 (thyroid hormones).

NMFIT: One way to promote a healthy thyroid is to detox the body. What Yoga moves promote detox? 

Twisting poses are amazing for detoxification , helping eliminate waste from the body.  They literally wring you out.  When you are in a twist, your digestive organs are compressed which causes a lack of circulation.  When you untwist, fresh blood flows back into those organs, bringing with it oxygen and essential nutrients and stimulating the digestive process.  One of my favorite poses to do after a big meal is supine spinal twist.  To perform this pose:  Lie on your back and hug your knees into your chest, gently pressing your tailbone down towards the ground.  Relax.  Extend your arms onto the ground into a “T” shape in line with your shoulders, palms facing upwards to allow the shoulders to soften down the back.  Breathe in, and as you breathe out, allow your knees to fall to the right side, being mindful to keep them in line with your navel, or slightly higher.  You can keep your neck neutral or, if it feels good, look over your left shoulder.  Stay here for at least five deep breaths, then switch sides.

Dina Ivas

Dina Ivas

NMFIT: Can you share three yoga moves? Some you can do throughout the day whether it is first thing in the morning, on a lunch break or right before bed?

DI: One of my favorite things to do in the morning or on a lunch break is to grab a yoga strap (you can also use a towel or a belt) and do some shoulder openers.  Our shoulders are a storage house for tension.  When that tension builds up, we can feel like the weight of the world is pushing down on us.  You can stand or sit at the edge of a sturdy chair to perform these stretches.  Hold your strap with both hands at shoulder height, hands about double shoulder width depending on your mobility.  Be sure to keep your wrists neutral and your shoulders down as you inhale and lift your arms overhead, trying your best to keep the elbows from bending.  Find that “sticky spot” where you can’t go any further, and take several deep breaths.  Be mindful not to arch your back or poke your chin up.  The spine is neutral and the work is to truly isolate the shoulder joint.  Over time, you may find you can take the strap all the way up and over your head behind your back, making almost a full revolution from front to back a few times.  If that seems impossible, you can always bring your hands a little wider apart.  If you don’t feel it much, bring your hands closer together.

Right before bed, especially on nights when I can’t slow down the hamster wheel in my brain, I love doing legs up the wall pose.  Restorative yoga poses relax the nervous system, soothe the mind, and help settle the body.  To perform this pose:  Set your mat vertically against a wall.  Place a sturdy pillow or folded blanket on your mat, right up against the wall.  Sit up on your pillow or blanket so that your right hip is snuggled against the wall, then gently tip back and send your legs upward, placing your hands to the mat behind you to scooch your sitting bones as close to the wall as possible, until your legs are resting vertically.  Relax your arms onto the floor your sides, palms facing up so the shoulders can melt down.  Take a deep breath in, all the way down to your belly, and as your breathe out, soften all of your muscles.  Close your eyes, or even cover them with an eye pillow or towel if you have one handy, and continue to breathe slow, deep belly breaths as you rest peaceful in the pose for at least 5-10 minutes.  When you are ready to exit the pose, gently bend your knees into your chest, and let them fall softly to your right side, coming into a fetal position.  Rise up to a comfortable seat slowly as you are ready.

NMFIT: Sadly many people suffer from a slowed down metabolism due to an unhealthy thyroid. Are there moves that can rev up a persons metabolism?

DI: Yoga helps to reduce the cortisol level in your body which helps to burn fat.  Cortisol is known as the “stress hormone” because it is released when we are exposed to stressors, both good and bad.  Problems arise when our cortisol levels surge, and there are countless studies linking elevated cortisol to weight gain.  So, while it might seem ironic, slowing down and practicing deep breathing and meditation can actually give your metabolism a kick as it soothes the central nervous system, which aids in the reduction of cortisol production.  Don’t let the word “meditation” scare you away.  You don’t have to fold your legs into lotus position and chanting by candlelight.  It could be as simple sitting comfortably, closing your eyes, and taking several deep, mindful breaths.  

About Dina Ivas:

Dina earned her certification in Group Exercise in 2002 through the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America and moved to NYC to begin sharing her love of movement.  The pressures of city life left her feeling totally unbalanced, and it was then that she discovered yoga.  In 2010, Dina completed the 200-hour Teacher Training Program at Sonic Yoga, becoming a certified Vinyasa Yoga Teacher.  In addition to teaching at America’s #1 health club chain, Equinox Fitness Clubs, Dina works privately with individual and corporate clients, and leads yoga retreats around the globe.  She strives to offer classes that inspire students to go beyond their perceived limits, are fun, not intimidating, and accessible to all levels.  Her approach to teaching is embodied in three simple words: "Breathe, Play, Grow."  Dina encourages students to explore on their yoga mat without judgment.  For more information on yoga with dina, visit: www.yogawithdina.com 


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