"As the body bends in one direction and then the next, it’s like wringing out a dirty sponge. Not only do you cleanse the internal systems of the body by practicing yoga but you also cleanse your mind in the process, which is where so many of our imbalances arise including those that pop up on our faces."
I wish I could tell you that practicing one magical yoga posture per day will give you a glowing complexion but yoga is much more than skin deep. The good news is that a regular practice can have benefits for your skin and far beyond.
The most popular styles of yoga today create heat in the body, which is cleansing and good for your skin. The great teacher, Pattabhi Jois, used to say that yoga was a kind of “internal cleansing.” As the body bends in one direction and then the next, it’s like wringing out a dirty sponge. Not only do you cleanse the internal systems of the body by practicing yoga but you also cleanse your mind in the process, which is where so many of our imbalances arise including those that pop up on our faces.
While there isn’t one yoga pose to clear your skin, the great teacher BKS Iyengar addressed skin disorders such as acne, psoriasis, and eczema through the practice of physical poses. He believed the root of these issues, which are inflammatory in nature, are caused by anxiety and stress, which can be helped through yoga. While the poses themselves address the body, the deeper experience of yoga addresses the imbalances in the mind and help lead to healing many disorders including those that can appear on the skin due to stress, anxiety, and corresponding hormonal imbalances.
Maybe most notably regular yoga practice increases interoception. This is your ability to sense what’s going on inside of you at any given moment, such as when you are thirsty or hungry. Increased interoception can help you respond to your body’s needs with greater efficiency and clarity.
When I first began practicing yoga in college, my diet was made up of caffeine, processed foods, and sugar but after several months of practice I was astonished to realize I no longer craved the unhealthy foods I once loved. Suddenly I had a desire for more fresh fruits and vegetables, even veggie juice! I began drinking more water. And, I was keenly aware of the effect certain foods had on my energy level, mood, sleep, digestion, and skin. Because I was engaged in an embodied practice, a practice that oriented my awareness to my internal state of being, I developed the desire to make new choices that supported my overall health. And this was a completely unintentional side effect!
There’s no question that committing to a regular yoga practice ultimately changed the course of my life and led to enhanced health. My weight decreased, my body became lean and toned, and my skin glowed from the inside out. I'm a firm believer that everyone can benefit from incorporating a bit of yoga into their lives - next time I'll talk more about the actual practice.