If you think back to all of the yoga instructors and long time yoga practitioners you know, you might realize that they all have a few things in common. For example, they’re probably strong and flexible physically, and usually give off a calm, happy and relaxed vibe. Here’s another one you may have noticed: they tend to have radiant, glowing skin.
As you may have guessed, it’s not so much that people with beautiful skin are attracted to yoga; yoga actually gives you beautiful skin! A regular yoga practice can transform your skin in two ways. Through mindful movements, meditation, and breathing exercises, practicing yoga reduces your stress levels—which when high can wreak havoc on your skin by increasing inflammation in the body. Practicing yoga regularly also helps to eliminate toxins in your body through sweating, breath-work (pranayama), and asanas, or poses, which increase circulation and detoxify the body.
Note: Before attempting any of these poses, be sure to warm up your body with a few rounds of Surya Namaskar, or Sun Salutations.
Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)
Uttanasana is a gentle inversion which reverses gravity’s aging effects and increases blood flow to your face. When new blood flows into the face, it delivers oxygen and other nutrients which fight the inflammation and free radicals that cause aging. Don’t worry, you don’t have to be able to reach your toes to get the benefits, you simply have to relax, let your head hang, close your eyes, and breathe.
To Do This Pose:
Stand at the top of your mat with your feet hips-width apart, toes pointing forward. Bring your hands to your hips. Inhale and lengthen your spine, and exhale and fold from your hips, bringing your head toward the floor. You can hold onto opposite elbows with your hands, grab hold of your calves, or simply let your arms dangle toward the floor. Close your eyes and breathe deeply through the nose. Start by holding the pose for 1 minute, and work up to 5.
Ardha Matsyendrasana (Seated Twist)
Twisting postures do wonders for your skin, as they improve digestion, which is crucial for detoxifying. Whenever you practice twists, be sure to drink plenty of water after your practice. This will help you get the toxins you’ve released out of your body.
To Do This Pose:
Start in a seated position with both legs extended in front of you. Bend your right leg and place the right sole of your foot next to your left knee. Twist your torso to your left side, placing your right hand behind you—about 6 inches from your hips—for support. Press into the outside of your right knee with your elbow to increase the twist. Breathe deeply through your nose, and stay in the posture for one minute. Repeat on the other side.
The benefits of Sirsana, the ‘King of the Asanas,’ are many, and include being fabulous for the health and look of your skin. Performing headstand basically gives you a free facelift, as completely inverting your body causes your skin to hang in the opposite direction, and allows fresh blood, nutrients, and oxygen to flow to your face. This is what gives you that famous yoga glow!
To Do This Pose:
Come onto your knees in the middle of your mat. Interlace your fingers together and set your forearms on the floor about two feet in front of your knees, with your elbows shoulder width apart. Place the top of your head on the mat, so that the back of your head is pressing into your palms.
Tuck your toes, straighten your legs, and begin to step your feet toward your elbows. When you cannot walk your feet in any closer, inhale and lift your feet from the mat, so that you’re balancing with your knees tucked in close to your chest. Begin to slowly straighten your legs over your head. Stay here breathing deeply for 10 seconds, eventually working up to 5 minutes. See here for our video example.
Note: Headstand should only be practiced by advanced and experienced practitioners. If headstand isn’t part of your practice, you can get most of these benefits through other inversions like shoulderstand, extending your feet upwards, or simply by lying on the floor and resting your legs against the wall, so that your legs and torso are at a 90-degree angle.
Matsyasana (Fish Pose)
In fish pose, your neck and spine are arched back, allowing blood to flow through the neck, and into your face. Relax and breathe deeply through the nose when you practice this pose, and you’ll notice a difference in your complexion when you come out of it!
To Do This Pose:
Lie down on your back with your arms close to your sides, palms down. Keeping your buttocks on the floor, press your hands and forearms into the floor to lift your torso off the mat. Arch your back, and let your neck tilt backwards towards the floor, resting the top of your head on the mat if you can. Start by holding the pose for 5 deep breaths, working up to 1 minute.
Be sure to finish your practice with a final relaxation and some deep breathing in Savasana, which will leave you feeling and looking relaxed and refreshed!