We all know that yoga can help with a host of ailments, from promoting weight loss to alleviating depression. But what about acne? Can you stretch your way to smooth, blemish-free skin?
One of the main causes of acne is stress. Or, more specifically, an imbalance in the autonomic nervous system (the system that controls breathing, heart rate, digestion and sexual arousal). Stress — whether physical, emotional or even dietary — creates this imbalance by stimulating the sympathetic subsystem, often referred to as the “fight or flight” response. The sympathetic response makes your heart beat faster, floods the body with hormones (including adrenalin) and diverts blood away from the digestive system and the skin. This can trigger acne outbreaks.
Some poses suggests include:
Uttanasana (standing forward bend): Stand up straight with your hands on your hips. Exhale and bend forward from your hips, lengthening your torso as you move toward the floor. With your knees straight, bring your palms or fingertips to the floor, or cross your forearms and hold your elbows. Lengthen your torso with each inhalation and deepen the bend with each exhalation. Relax your head and neck. Hold for up to one minute, then bring your hands back onto your hips. Come up on an inhalation, keeping your torso long and straight.
Janu Sirsasana (head-to-knee forward bend): Sit on the floor on a folded blanket with legs extended. Inhale, bending your right knee and drawing your heel back toward your groin. Rest your right foot against the inside of your left thigh. Lay your outer right leg on the floor, with your shin at a right angle to your left leg. Press your right hand against your inner right thigh and your left hand on the floor beside your hip. Exhale and turn your torso to the left, reaching to grasp your left foot in your right hand. Inhale and lengthen through the top of your head, twisting further to the left. Reach your left hand to the outside of your left foot, exhaling as you bend forward to touch your nose to your knee. Hold for up to one minute, then release on an exhalation. Repeat on the other side.
Supta Padangusthasana (reclining big toe pose): Lie on the floor, legs extended. Exhale, bending your left knee and hugging your thigh to your stomach. Loop a strap around the arch of your left foot, holding the strap with both hands. Inhale and straighten your left knee, pressing your heel toward the ceiling. Move your hands up the strap until your elbows are fully extended, pressing your shoulder blades into the floor. Once your left leg is fully lengthened, extend through your big toe. Turn your left leg outward to the left from the hip joint, then exhale and swing it out to the left, holding it a few inches off the floor. Continue rotating your left leg, then inhale, bringing it back to vertical. Hold for up to one minute, then release on an exhalation. Repeat on the other side.
Salamba Sarvangasana (supported shoulder stand): Recommends the supported shoulder stand, which she calls the “mother of all postures” because it balances all the systems of the body. However, she cautions that you should learn this pose from an experienced yoga instructor to ensure that you don’t injure your neck or back.