If there’s one thing seasoned yoga practitioners are known for (other than the impressive and slightly alarming ability to bend their bodies in all manner of directions), it’s great skin. Think of instructors you’ve encountered or enthusiasts you know in real life — it’s likely they all have similarly youthful, radiant skin. Is it the deep, restorative breaths and meditative state that keep wrinkles at bay, or is it the focused flows of movement that challenge the body and increase circulation?
As it turns out, the answer is a little of both. Practicing yoga does wonders for the mind and body. As skin guru Dr. Nicholas Perricone wrote in The Clear Skin Prescription, “It is the perfect exercise for people who lead busy, stress-filled lives who want to look and feel their best.” Yoga in general improves skin health by reducing stress (a common catalyst to breakouts and fine lines) and removing toxins from the body. In fact, there are certain asanas (poses) that are especially good at this, and therefore especially good for the skin. I spoke with two Los Angeles-based yoga instructors, Lisa Paskel and Mary Fanto, to find out the best ways to get a yogic glow.
The Best Asanas for Your Skin
Before going into skin-advantageous poses, it’s important to note that these shouldn’t be performed without warming up the body first. “I would never tell anyone who’s not warmed up to go into a spinal twist or an inversion,”¯ warns Lisa Paskel, co-founder of Yoga Shelter. That could cause injury, especially for beginners unfamiliar with the poses in the first place. Even the simpler ones should be done slowly and carefully.
Tadasana (Mountain Pose)
This easy standing pose allows you to focus on deep, rhythmic breathing — an essential element of healthy skin. “Most adult humans barely breathe into their throats,”¯ Paskel explains, “[but] getting oxygen in the body is the number one thing.” Yogis and yoginis believe that drawing oxygen into, through, and out of the body releases harmful toxins and keeps vital systems running optimally.
Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)
This one is difficult if your hamstrings are especially tight (hence the importance of warming up first), but luckily, you don’t have to touch the ground or keep your legs pin-straight to get the pose’s skin benefits. “Even if you just bend over at the waist, close your eyes, and let your head hang … you’re clearing everything out and your blood is switching directions,” says Mary Fanto, an instructor at U Studio Yoga. She suggests trying that for one minute a day and working up to five.
Because forward-bending poses fight against gravity by turning the head toward the ground instead of toward the sky, Fanto refers to them as fountains of youth. Blood flows into the face faster, bringing with it oxygen and other helpful nutrients that fight free radicals, encourage skin cell renewal, and give the visage a rosy glow. Uttanasana is the easiest of the forward bends; those who practice yoga regularly can also try Downward-Facing Dog and the hip-opening Child’s Pose.