You’ve probably already heard about the many physical and mental benefits yoga offers. The practice can improve flexibility, strength, sleep quality, and your well-being overall, wrote the authors of a study published in the International Journal of Yoga. But did you know your time on the mat can also help your skin?
“Our skin is the largest organ in our body,” says Adarsh Vijay Mudgil, MD, a celebrity dermatologist and medical director of Mudgil Dermatology in New York City. “Anything that’s good for the body is good for the skin.”
The benefits center on yoga’s ability to reduce inflammation, which is an immune response that can cause the skin to become red, dry, and itchy, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. One study, published in December 2012 in the journal Physiology & Behavior, compared inflammatory hormones of 25 yogis with 25 people who were new to the practice. Proinflammatory leptin was 36 percent higher among the novice group compared with those with yoga experience, and levels of the anti-inflammatory hormone adiponectin were 28 percent higher among the experts.
As anyone who’s walked away from the mat feeling a renewed sense of energy knows, yoga has a stress-relieving effect, too. In particular, it’s been linked with lowering levels of the stress hormone cortisol. “When one does yoga, in addition to the neuromuscular benefits, there is an overall positive effect on our endocrine system, which regulates our hormones, including cortisol,” Dr. Mudgil says. A study published in the January–February 2016 issue of the Journal of International Society of Preventative & Community Dentistry found people who practice yoga regularly had lower cortisol levels than those who did not practice. “When cortisol is in check, our skin — and body — is happier,” Mudgil says.
Claire Grieve, an international yoga specialist and health coach, says yoga helps the skin in other ways, too. “It gets your heart pumping and your blood flowing, which carries fresh oxygen and nutrients throughout your whole body, including your face,” she says. Research published in the journal Gut Pathogens also showed there’s a gut-skin connection — a healthy gut equals healthy skin, Grieve says. Finally, a sweaty yoga sesh can help clear away dead skin cells and surface toxins, Grieve says. The result? A glowing complexion.
Any yoga practice will help you reap skin benefits, but Grieve recommends these six moves in particular for a more glowing complexion.