In August 2006, a collaboration between the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) and Ohio State University studied the effects of yoga on skin. The study proved that yogis are onto something: Even in today’s savvy modern society, the thousand year old practice of breath work can make a profound difference on skin. Nearly 80% of the population does not breathe properly. When the fight-or-flight response triggers the sympathetic nervous system (the part of the nervous system that signals danger to the body), breath comes into the upper chest in a fast, shallow manner. After years of being turned “on,” this “wrong” breath becomes habitual for many. Being chronically stuck in sympathetic mode leads to chemical and electrical imbalances within the body. And illness isn’t far behind. The good news? Automatic sympathetic breathing can be reversed.
Have you ever watched a child breathe in and out? Their little tummies rise and fall naturally with each deep, unhurried breath. This calm, relaxed way of breathing means that the parasympathetic branch of the nervous system is working. This peaceful breath is the way we were all designed to take in oxygen because it calms and nurtures our bodies by increasing sensory awareness, digestion, and positive energy. When we have control over stress, breath, and our bodies we can promote a deeper healing from within.
Our skin reflects inner health and shows emotional turmoil, stress, and even poor nutritional choices we make. And the go-go-go mentality of modern society doesn’t help. This is why a strong foundation of soothing breath, or pranayama, is key in over coming every day commonalities. But laying this groundwork won’t happen over night. As yoga master B.K. Iyengar once said, “"[the breath must] be enticed… like catching a horse in a field. Not by chasing after it but by standing still with an apple in one's hand. Nothing can be forced; receptivity is everything."
To start, breathe deeply through the nose so that the breath hits the back of throat (it sounds like Darth Vader). These breaths should move into your abdomen and there should be little to no movement in the upper chest. Congratulations! You’ve just conquered Ujjayi (oo-jy-ee), the most common pranayama. Try this for 15 to 30 minutes daily and while doing beneficial poses (asanas) like the chest opening Cobra pose or stress-busters like Corpse.
By using pranayama as the anxiety tamer of choice, changes in skin will begin as the breath turns off your body’s automatic flight-or-fight, balances hormones, increases circulation of oxygen rich blood, reduces toxicity, enhances digestion and gives the “yoga glow.”
Best of all you don’t need a fancy face cream or expensive gym membership to reap the benefits. The breath is always with you.
Kassie Kuehl is a respected leader and educator in natural health and beauty care. Kassie is founder of Kasia Organic Salon and many result orientated "beautiful health" products, and leading expert in ammonia free hair color. Kasia Salon remains on the cutting edge of all-natural, non-toxic, and organic professional hair, skin, and body products and services. To become an Informed Beauty, contact Kassie at 612.386.4044, or visit www.kasiaorganicsalon.com.
ClinicalTrials.gov: Yoga Immune Function, and Health: http://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/study/NCT00371397
Peters, Leslie. Yoga Journal: Blissful Breath: http://www.yogajournal.com/practice/2574
Spice Diva: Yoga For Glowing Skin: http://www.ayushveda.com/womens-magazine/yoga-for-a-glowing-skin/