Could a little time on the mat help save your sanity and your skin?
When it comes to the claims around the positive effects of yoga on the body, there are simply too many to count. For me, what started as a complement to regular blasts of cardio evolved into a means of stripping daily stresses in exchange for blissful strength, length, and mental calm. And there was one other unexpected side effect—I discovered the “yoga glow.”
This past summer was a particularly wicked time in my life. An apartment move, financial stress, and the rigors of a 55-hour weekly work schedule created a physical and mental discomfort I can only describe as acidic. I was in need of something more than the occasional downward-facing dog. After losing 77 pounds over the past few years, I stalled out. Some of my old habits were starting to creep up again. I was substituting mental calm for a bag of potato chips, and ice cream had become a reward for meeting deadlines.
I reached out to my yogi, Stefanie Eris of Exhale, and we decided on a 30-day challenge: one class, every single day, regardless of vigor or length. Flow, Vinyasa, or Chill, I had to show up on the mat and dive deeply within, hopefully dislodging the stressors that caused mindless eating, sleepless nights, and the inability to vocalize discomfort.
And so I did. For the entire month of September 2015, I made a concerted effort to show up for myself. At first, my mind argued I had too many external commitments to carve out an hour each day for such selfish pursuits. But after the first week, I was hooked. As the sun rose every single day, I became excited for the yoga class to come. I started going to bed earlier. I gave up sugar. I started re-prioritizing meetings and client engagements. Food started to become fuel rather than a means of solace. Candy was no longer a consolation prize. I suddenly found the voice to say, “No more.”
I also couldn’t have predicted that thirty days would change my beauty routine. Perhaps the new state of mental calm, the hours spent sweating and learning to breathe through stress softened my view of my individual beauty. Now I respect the strength of my body. My limbs, the softness of my waist, the curves of my breasts and hips are glorious. Each time I look at my face in the mirror, the woman looking back at me feels loved, worthy of respect, and capable of turning it around. I don’t need to cover her in makeup or constrict her hair. She’s gorgeous.
The challenge and it’s resulting continued dedication to my practice have rewarded me with the best hair, nails, and skin of my life. Passersby and friends have remarked how my skin positively glows. I attribute that to a lack of stressed scowling, but experts say the benefits are far greater. “Yoga causes vasodilation (enlargement of the blood vessels), which leads to increased blood flow to the skin, providing it with more oxygen and nutrients, lending itself to a cutaneous flushing or ‘glow,’” explains Dendy Engelman, M.D., Director of Dermatologic Surgery and Laser Medicine at Metropolitan Hospital and dermatologist at Manhattan Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery. Yoga also helps your digestive tract process and eliminate toxins. “Toxins not cleared from the body often get deposited in adipose fat tissue and in the skin, which can lead to acne, discoloration, and accelerated aging.” In short? “Get to bending and twisting! Your face will thank you!”
Dr. Engelman does have one caveat when it comes to yoga and the skin: hot yoga isn’s right for every complexion. “Bikram or hot yoga should be avoided by those prone to rosacea and/or facial flushing, as it can make the condition worse.”
While the “yoga glow” is something I really treasure, it’s the new love affair with my body I’ve found most rewarding. Although the health aspects are surely true, I’d like to think that showing up for myself every single day (which continues as I’m midway through a 90-day yoga challenge) reflects through my entire body. I radiate joy through every pore. Yoga has given me a whole new view of my unique beauty in this world. I encourage all who are able to try it. Your body, mind, and soul — not to mention your skin — will thank you.