We've all heard the saying "beauty is an inside job"; and, while I thoroughly agree with it, a little outside help couldn't hurt, right? Yoga is a healing practice in many ways, which is why it can offer some serious beauty benefits. Almost any practice you do will benefit your skin, but there are certain poses that are more beneficial than others. The following four asanas are especially powerful in terms of detoxifying, increasing circulation, and reducing stress.
Bow pose (dhanurasana) for glowing skin.
This posture gives your belly and digestive organs a sweet little squeeze and will send some fresh blood flowing through your system for that radiant look that only blush, or (err, yep, I'll say it) sex can typically give it.
- Start out on your belly in a prone position with arms by your side, head turned off to one side.
- Bend your knees, and reach back with your hands to grab for your ankles or the tops of your feet. Before kicking into your feet, lift from you upper back to elevate your chest, then lift the feet toward the sky, followed by kicking energy into the feet.
- Hold for 3 to 5 breaths, lowering, and repeating 1 to 2 more times.
Shoulder stand (sirsasana) for healthier hair.
Where does all that blood go when you're on your feet for long days? To your feet! Shoulder stand gets the blood naturally flowing back to the heart and head with ease. Hair grows where there's more blood flow, and this posture definitely does the trick while offering some stress relief as an added benefit.
- From a reclining position on your back, extend your legs up overhead with the gaze directly up at your toes. It's important to keep your gaze extended up to the sky or ceiling, protecting the cervical spine from any damage or strain here.
- Start with plow pose, positioning the shoulders under the body, propping your back with your hands to offer support.
- Elevate the legs directly up to the sky, and, depending on the flexibility of your hamstrings, straighten the legs all the way.
Modification: Allow the legs to be at a 90-degree angle instead of straight overhead for a variation for those with tighter hamstrings or those who may be newer to the posture. Hold for 10 to 15 breaths, as desired.
Seated spinal twist (ardha matsyendrasana) to detoxify + drain the lymph.
Wring. It. Out. All the junk, get rid of it! Twists, supine twists, and any kind of side-to-side motion of the spine can help to relieve and remove toxins from the body. The lymph system is like our internal garbage chute, cleaning out the blood lines, disposing of the "trash" we don't need in our system. And we, as humans, have a lot of trash gunked up in us, no matter how clean we try to be! It's life and (unfortunately) human at this point. But yoga is something we can do about it!
- From seated position, bend one knee, keeping the sole of the foot connected to the mat. With the opposing leg extended straight, actively pressing the healing down to the ground, lengthen up tall through the spine.
- Extend the arm up overhead on your inhale (the same-side arm as the extended straight leg—so, left leg, left arm, for example), hooking the elbow over the knee to twist on the exhale.
- Repeat for 5 to 10 breaths on each side.
BONUS: This posture is also fantastic after long flights and air travel to relieve constipation. Gross, I know! But, hey, it sure beats keeping all that extra "trash" inside of you, right?
Legs up the wall (viparita karani) for inner calm.
Ah, my peaceful pose that is the go-to after long days on an airplane, or after hours of being on my feet. Whenever I travel, this is one of the first postures I do once I land in my hotel room, helping to restore my sore feet, calm my go-go-go active mind, and mentally ground myself in a new place I've just arrived in. Of course, you can do this posture any time you're in need of calming, grounding, or have been on your toes all day—legs up to that!
- Get your butt as close as you can to the wall or back of the bed. Optional to place a pillow under your tush, or just use the floor or cushion.
- Extend your legs up the wall, feet softly flexed, and arms extended out wide. Stay here for 5 to 15 minutes as desired, rolling out the way you came in to a child's pose on the side afterward for a pause. When in doubt, just breathe!
Just the relaxation and energizing benefits of regular in-and-out conscious breathing can increase all of the health benefits listed above. My go-to favorite breathing exercise, or pranayam? Breath of equal duration, or same vritti. Inhale to the count of four, exhale to the count of four. Repeat for 5 to 10 minutes. The calming, conscious breathing brings your focus to the count, the breath, your mind, and your body, all in the same activity—bliss!