Like many people, I struggled with skin problems such as acne and dullness for years. And, like many of us, I searched far and wide for skincare solutions, splurging on all sorts of potions, lotions, and promises. Frustrated with lackluster results that felt temporary and surface-level at best, I eventually decided to focus on a deeper, more holistic approach to skin health, including yoga.
My reasoning? Your complexion is said to mirror your internal environment, both physical and mental. A tense body and mind can show up as stressed skin. And, when your overall health is in good shape, your visage tends to reflect that as well. I realized that when you treat your body well, it treats you well back. Over time, I’ve learned that my skin looks best when I’m practicing asana, eating well, staying hydrated, and getting adequate, quality sleep. Using this approach, I saw noticeable improvement in about a month. Perhaps this approach will work for you too!
Moves, Mudra, and Meditation for Happier Skin
The twists, folding postures, and strengthening moves in the following sequence help build your healthy glow by activating your internal organs to function optimally, which increases blood flow to your face. In particular, the cleansing twists are essential to squeeze toxins out, just like wringing clothes by hand.
After all, yoga is said to purify the blood and increase the blood flow in one’s body. Ever wondered what those rosy red cheeks are? They are a result of a rich supply of blood to your face, which makes it bright. That’s right! Inversions and certain pranayama techniques can help you find your glow.
This sequence incorporates mudras, which are symbolic gestures that align your energies to benefit your internal organs and your skin. We also explore balancing pranayama and close with a few minutes of meditation. Practicing yoga can benefit your body, mind, and your skin. The magi elixir is within you.
Yoga Mudrasana (Yogic Seal)
Sit in Sukhasana (Easy Pose) or Padmasana (Lotus Pose). Take your hands behind your back and hold your right wrist with your left. Gently release your torso forward and place your forehead on a yoga prop or on the floor. Breathe normally. Stay for a minute or two. Slowly sit up straight.
Benefits to your skin: You may see your face turn pristine and lightly flushed from practicing this reintegrating asana.
Vakrasana (Half Seated Spinal Twist)
From seated, stretch your legs forward. Bend your right leg and place your right foot to near your outer left knee. Take your right hand behind your waist. Twist your torso to your right and place your right palm on the ground or on a yoga prop. Bring your left hand close to your right knee and hold your elongated leg’s leg’s ankle or big toe. If this is not possible, fold your left arm and push it against your right knee. Turn your shoulders and head to the right side, and look over your right shoulder. Hold for 10 breaths. Release the pose, return to center, and repeat on the other side.
Benefits to your skin: Stress can elevate hormones, which can lead to skin discoloration. This asana is said to kindle the adrenal gland to function correctly and bring stress under control, which can help even out your skin tone.
Matsyasana (Fish Pose)
Sit tall with your legs outstretched in front of your body. Lean backward, and press your forearms on the mat as you rest the crown of your head on the floor or on a yoga prop. Arch your back and place both of your palms on the tops of your thighs or rest them on the floor. Expand your chest toward the ceiling. Hold for 10 breaths.
Benefits to your skin: This pose is said to stimulate the thyroid gland and help optimize its function. The thyroid gland regulates hormones, and imbalanced hormones can cause acne. This asana encourages deep respiration as well, which will increase oxygen levels in your body. Higher oxygen levels in your body reduced stress and increased metabolism and immunity, and helped bring about brightness and plumpness to your face. A healthy thyroid will also promote wound healing–helpful in clearing out acne and pimple scars.
Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend)
From seated, stretch your legs forward. Reach your arms beside your face and gently release your torso forward, trying to keep your knees as straight as possible. Use a strap wrapped around your feet to hold on to, or, if you can, hold your big toes or the soles of your feet as you elongate your torso toward your toes. Hold for 20 breaths. Release and pause. Repeat the pose once more.
Benefits to your skin: This pose boosts oxygen-rich blood flow, which assists in flushing out weariness and fatigue, bringing about youthfulness, and can help clear the skin. Kundalini energy moves from the base of your spine to the top of it, which can brighten your skin.
Salamba Sarvangasana (Supported Shoulderstand)
Note: You can also use props to make this pose more accessible or skip it and practice Viparita Karani (shown below) instead. Lie down on your back with your legs together. With bend knees or elongated legs, lift your feet off of the mat as you press the floor with your palms. Now lift your hips. Position your hands so that you can hold your side hips or lower back in your palms as you continue lifting your hips, then your waist, off of the floor. If you are working with bent knees, you can keep them bent, or, elongate your legs and reach your feet up toward the ceiling. Your legs will be vertical to the floor. Keep anchoring your upper arms and elbows to the mat and holding your waist using your palms. Balance and raise your legs to a 90-degree angle. Your body weight should rest on your shoulders. Hold for 1 minute, or longer, as per your comfort. Lower your legs slowly, re-bending your knees if that’s helpful, and release your palms from your back.
Benefits to your skin: This asana is said to purify the blood and increase the flow of blood toward your face. It is purported to slow down the aging process, bringing about youthfulness in one’s skin. With regular practice, your skin can look refreshed. This asana is also said to stimulate the thyroid gland. Excess secretion from the thyroid gland can make us lethargic, which can show up on your skin as dullness.
Halasana (Plow Pose)
From Shoulderstand, lift your waist and legs and bend them toward the top of your head, curving your back and resting your big toes on strategically placed yoga props behind your head or on the floor. If possible, keep your knees straight. More seasoned practitioners might explore raising their hands above their head to grasp their big toes. Hold for 10-15 breaths. Slowly release by letting go of your big toes and raising your legs up to a 90-degree angle. You can bend your knees or keep your legs long as you gently lower them down and rest.
Benefits to your skin: This pose can facilitate a rich supply of blood towards the face and makes it bloom.
Viparita Karani (Legs-up-the-Wall Pose)
Try this inversion, especially if you’d like an alternative to poses like Sirsasana (Headstand) and Sarvangasana (Shoulderstand). Sit against a wall with your right hip touching the wall. Move onto your back and reach your legs up the wall. If necessary, re-adjust your hips so that your low back feels supported and your entire back can anchor into the floor with your hands spread by your sides. (Moving your hips away from the wall can help this posture feel easier in your hamstrings, back body, and pelvis). Close your eyes and relax in this restorative pose for 5-10 minutes or longer.
Benefits to your skin: This asana offers many of the same benefits as Salamba Sarvangasana (Supported Shoulderstand). This pose is said to purify the blood and increase the flow of blood toward your face. It is purported to slow down the aging process, bringing about youthfulness in one’s skin. With regular practice, your skin can look refreshed. This asana is also said to stimulate the thyroid gland. Excess secretion from the thyroid gland can make us lethargic, which can show up on your skin as dullness.
Kapalabhati Pranayama (Skull Shining Breath)
Start by sitting in a comfortable position, with your spine long and your hands resting on your knees in Janan Mudra or Chin Mudra (shown). Close your eyes and inhale deeply from your abdomen. Now start exhaling continuously by repeatedly compressing your stomach, pushing the breath out through your nose. Your inhale will happen automatically and passively so stay focused on your exhales. After completing ten rapid breaths in succession, inhale and exhale deeply. This would be one round. Do this for a minimum of 3-5 rounds. Do not strain. After the completion of the rounds, bring your attention to your face. More experienced Kapalabhati practitioners can add more cycles.
Benefits to your skin: This practice will increase blood supply to your face and remove impurities by forceful exhalation.
Note: Practitioners who experience dizziness, pain, or discomfort should discontinue the practice.
Anulom Viloma Pranayama (Interval Breath)
Sit in a comfortable meditation posture, keeping your head gently lifted and your spine straight. Bring your body to a state of relaxation and close your eyes. Adopt Nasagra Mudra (pictured) by tucking in your index, and middle finger and allowing your thumb, ring finger, and pinky to stick out. Do this with your right hand, and place your left hand on your left knee. Close your right nostril using your right thumb and inhale from your left nostril. Breathe deeply without strain. Close the left nostril using your ring finger, release the pressure off your right nostril and move your thumb away. Exhale here. Next, inhale through your right nostril and then followed by exhaling through your left nostril while covering your right nostril using your thumb. This is one round; you can practice 5-10 rounds. Try to keep the inhales and exhales comfortable, slow, and equal. Increase the number of counts as your progress with your practice over time. Reduce or stop the practice if you are facing any signs of discomfort.
Benefits to your skin: This practice is ideal for establishing a state of calmness in your brain and heart. Stress is said to indicate its presence on your skin first. It is best to treat the root cause to help you move toward mind and body balance.
Seated Meditation With Prithvi Mudra
Create this mudra to support you while you meditate for 10 minutes each day. Join the tips of your ring finger with the tip of the thumb. Keeping the index finger, middle finger, and pinky finger straight. Practice for 10 minutes daily.
Benefits to your skin: This mudra is known as a beauty aid. Prithvi refers to the earth element. It is an essential component of bodily tissues like bones, skin, hair, and nails. Prithvi reduces the fire within our body, helping us overcome issues like inflammation. It is said to alleviate skin discoloration, certain skin allergies, and scars.