Yoga for Acne
A flush of blood and energy to the face in an inversion pose is just one way yoga can help clear skin.
Acne is a common problem that can run the gamut from an occasional blemish to regular full-blown flares. It’s common enough for teenagers when hormones are struggling for balance, but many adults have to deal with acne too, and that can have a major impact on our self-esteem and wellbeing.
A lot of people think acne is a problem with cleansing the skin or getting the right products. Indeed, some products are helpful (while others are harmful). However, when acne is recurring, it’s usually much more than skin-deep. Yoga for acne is about regular yoga practice to address the root causes of acne, help prevent flare-ups, or allow them to subside more quickly.
Recurrent Acne & Stress: What’s Going On?
When acne is recurrent, it’s almost always a problem with hormonal imbalance. The number one thing that will throw off your hormones is stress (duh!). Balancing stress in our lives will go a long way towards soothing our skin.
Hormones and digestion also work intimately with each other, and imbalances in digestion will often show up in the skin. (The skin is even sometimes called the second liver because it helps us get rid of the toxins our livers can’t.) This doesn’t mean people with acne have an unhealthy diet—for example, it’s a myth that eating chocolate causes acne (at least, for most people). But sometimes there’s an underlying imbalance, some difficulty with digesting healthy food that shows up in the skin. And guess what deeply impacts our digestion? You guessed it. Stress.
Yoga for Acne: Balancing Hormones Requires Regular Practice
In order to create some balance, we need regularity and routine. This can certainly be a challenge in our busy lives, especially if you have children or a heavy work schedule (or both). But if you choose to use yoga to help soothe your acne, you have to do it regularly, so think carefully about how you’re going to fit it in. Also keep in mind that it’s not about going to a super intense 90-minute hot yoga class every time. Twenty minutes twice a week will have a much bigger impact. Once a week will make a difference. Daily can be great as long as it’s not too intense of a practice.
Before I had a baby, I always fit in my daily practices first thing in the morning. After work became a good routine to transition from my workday to my evening hours, especially when I was working at home. Now that I have a baby, I sometimes do yoga with him while we’re playing on the floor in the afternoons. If I need a little more focus, I’ll take 20 minutes after his bedtime to stretch out and focus.
Regardless of the specific time, place, and duration, a regular yoga practice can help clear up your skin. Try these poses for acne relief.
Sun salutations are a fantastic little sequence that most of us can memorize and do from home. A few of these have a number of benefits because they move the body in almost every direction. We stretch forward and back and open the hips, which stimulates the lymph nodes in the armpits, groin, and belly, helping the lymphatic system detoxify and stimulating the organs to do their thing, which prevents the skin from needing to express itself through zits and blackheads. The slight sweat we can get going after a few of these is also helpful for detoxification and clearing the skin. Beware, however—the chaturanga part of the sun salutation can be really hard on the shoulders. Find a variation that feels safe and sustainable for your body.
Every time we invert, which means bringing the head below the heart, we are bringing a flush of blood and energy to the face and skin (which is also a great anti-aging strategy). This helps the skin process blockages and clear the acne. Standing Forward Fold or Downward Dog are both great inversions that have this quality, though if you like Headstand and Handstand, they are helpful too.
To come into Standing Forward Fold, stand with your feet parallel, about hips distance apart, though they can be wider. Bend your knees, at least a little bit. Fold forward and rest your elbows on your thighs. Stick your butt out a little so your back is nice and neutral and relax your head. If this feels safe and you don’t have any back issues like osteoporosis or slipped discs, let your elbows come off your knees and fold completely. You can sway side to side or bend one knee and then the other, or just relax.
An incomplete stress cycle is a major reason for hormones to be imbalanced, causing acne. Restorative yoga calms the nervous system and helps the parasympathetic nervous system activate. This is when our digestion, immune function, and hormonal balance gets a chance to do its thing. There are many wonderful restorative classes you can do, but even one posture for 5-20 minutes a day will make a huge difference in your stress levels and help clear your skin.
I recommend Legs Up the Wall. It’s excellent for calming the system and the inversion is especially helpful for acne.
For this pose, lie on your side with your bum close to a wall, then carefully swing your legs up. Try to have your bum as close to the wall as you can. You can enhance Legs Up the Wall by placing a pillow or bolster under your bum, a blanket over your legs, a rolled towel behind your neck, and a scarf or eye pillow over your eyes. Breathe deeply into your belly and relax.
Keep in mind this pose should be very comfortable, and some pregnant or menstruating people don’t find it to be so. If that’s the case, try a different restorative pose or simply lay comfortably on your side and rest.
Our skin isn’t just our largest organ, it’s the one that comes into direct contact with the world. Taking care of skin, including being happy about how it looks and feels, is vital to our health. Yoga for acne can play a vital role.
- by Julie Peters