As if there aren't enough reasons to love yoga, here's one more: Taking to the mat is also great for your skin. "Yoga is great for the whole body, so it's only natural that it would have a positive effect on your skin," Selby Hill, co-founder of Yonder Yoga in Atlanta, says.
Want to know what makes yoga so beneficial for your skin and which poses to do? Take a look below.
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A recent study by the National Institutes of Health showed how yoga can help reduce inflammation, both internally and externally. The study found that patients who practiced yoga had a 22% reduction in inflammation indicators, leading to a number of health benefits, including slowing down the skin’s aging process.
"By raising your heart rate, you're improving blood circulation to the skin, which allows your blood to deliver more oxygen and nutrients to your skin so that it's healthier and a little more glowy," says Leah Jacob, MD, assistant professor of dermatology at Tulane University.
Inversions are the best poses to promote good skin. Hill explains, "Anything that puts your heart over your head will help bring circulation up to your head and therefore your face. This is key for maintaining elasticity, recovering from scarring, and bringing out that healthy glowing skin. So think standing forward folds or any inversion where your hips are up over your heart."
Jacob appreciates yoga's ability to calm and center the mind. "Yoga contributes to stress reduction, especially with patients that are under chronic stress and have elevated levels of cortisol, which wreaks havoc on your skin," she says. "The negative effects of cortisol are acne, breakouts, blemishes, and dull, tired-looking skin."
Unfortunately, we've all probably experienced those dreaded stress-related skin issues. But by practicing regularly, you might be able to eliminate some of that. "Yoga has a great impact on the mind, specifically stress and anything that helps control or neutralize stress is going to have a positive effect on our skin and health," Hill adds.
As Jacob mentioned, lowering cortisol is an all-around health benefit, which is what yoga can do. Reduced stress also leads to an increase in the sleep hormone (melatonin). So yoga contributes to maintaining a balance of these and other hormones, which leads to better sleep. And it's no secret that sleep can affect your skin health, among other things.
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Twists are a group of poses that literally contort the body's inner organs, and yogis credit these with improving the digestive system. "Any twisting pose is detoxifying for the body, so although they take a lot of effort and breath, know that they are literally wringing out your body and ridding it of all that it doesn't need," Hill says. And studies have shown that what happens in your gut has an effect on your skin.
What You Need to Know About Hot Yoga
Room temperature is a frequent topic of yoga conversations. Some people love hot yoga; others don't. But Hill thinks a heated environment does wonders for skin. "Heated yoga, in particular, is good for healthy, glowing skin because of the sweat detoxification," she explains. "Even those of us who eat well and stay hydrated have toxins that our body needs to get rid of, so sweat is a natural and efficient way to do that."
But there are some things you need to be aware of when you're heading to a hot yoga session.
Your best friend in a heated yoga session is without a doubt your water bottle. "Being hydrated is super important," Jacob says. "You're going to be at an increased risk of getting dehydrated because of the amount you're sweating. You certainly want to maintain your hydration. Dehydrated skin is going to look dull, tired, and dry."
Keeping clean is another concern with hot yoga. Jacob advises you to take extra steps to ensure that your mat isn't a breeding ground for germs. "Hygiene is an issue with hot yoga. When there's increased sweating on the mat, you want to make sure you're cleaning your mat, taking a shower immediately afterward, and washing your face," she says. "These are important to reduce the incidents of infection."
"In patients where heat and sweat can exacerbate pre-existing skin conditions, hot yoga is probably not a good idea," Jacob says. "For patients with rosacea, it's more than likely going to flare their rosacea. Patients with eczema or atopic dermatitis, where sweat can trigger their itching, they're going to want to avoid hot yoga, too."