Yoga to cleanse the skin!
Our skin is the interface between our bodies’ interior and exterior. It communicates to others our state of inner health, both physical and mental. All forms of physical movement will improve the quality of your skin by increasing circulation to your face, but yoga practice in particular helps to keep skin hydrated and glowing, with the focus on relaxation, deep, full breathing and specific postures to cleanse and tone.
Thankfully, that lovely post-exercise glow need not be hard work. In fact, one of the main reasons a yoga practitioner’s skin often looks so good is that during the practice they consciously relax their whole body, including the skin on their face. Unlike other forms of physical exercise, such as weight-lifting, rowing or cycling, where the facial muscles often strain under the pressure, in yoga practice the focus is on keeping the breath flowing smoothly and fully in the poses, meaning the body stays relaxed and the mind calm. When we’re relaxed, our skin remains hydrated and looks rejuvenated rather than wrinkled and worn out.
For youthful skin, it’s important to avoid stress, drink plenty of water, eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, sleep well at night, avoid direct sunlight, cleanse the skin and refrain from smoking. Stress in the muscles and skin on the face can be caused by clenching the jaw, frowning, squinting and being overtired and dehydrated.
Yoga practice soothes the body and mind and lowers stress levels, most yoga classes ending with lying flat in savasana, or Corpse Pose. In savasana, the body is taught to completely relax while the mind observes just the soft flow of the natural breath. With the focus on the breath, the mind has a holiday from thinking and after the practice you feel physically and mentally relaxed and rested. As you cultivate the art of relaxation, you find it easier to get that all-important beauty sleep.
There are many yoga poses that greatly improve the appearance and health of the skin, especially the inverted poses. Healthy, toned, relaxed skin is well oxygenated and well fed. Inverted postures such as downward dog, shoulder stand and headstand increase circulation of rich oxygenated blood to the head, brain and face, helping to remove wrinkles caused by toxins. The upside-down postures help to balance the body’s hormonal system, which improves skin health and enhances mental calm. Varicose veins are prevented as blood moves more freely back to the heart.
Cleansing yoga postures such as the twists help improve skin conditions such as acne and eczema by stimulating the removal of acidity and toxins from the body. Yoga postures that stretch the skin, such as forward bends, stimulate the skin’s cells, creating firmer, healthier skin that feels and looks toned.
Breathing well is vital to both good skin and good yoga practice. In yoga, we cultivate the quality of our breath so it becomes smooth, even and unrestricted. Just think how your body tenses with short, shallow breathing, often related to stress and anxiety, as opposed to how it feels when your breathing is long and full. As you begin to breathe better it’s reflected in the skin on your face, which is receiving more nutrients to combat skin conditions and other signs of stress as well as more oxygen for that relaxed yoga glow.
To get the best out of your yoga practice, be in a comfortable environment where you feel good. Choose postures that suit your flexibility, strength and energy levels that day. Avoid anything that causes strain or anxiety. Incorporate deep, full breathing, sitting in stillness and relaxation poses that leave your body feeling physically restored, your mind calm and your skin communicating relaxation to those around you.
Jessie Chapman is a yoga teacher who runs Radiance Yoga Wellness Retreats (www.radianceretreats.com) in Byron Bay, Thailand and Bali. Jessie has published four yoga books with HarperCollins Publishers and has a Radiance Yoga DVD for home practice.