Surviving Summit: Better skin through yoga, the fitness fountain of youth
We’ve discovered the fountain of youth and it’s made of dumbbells and yoga mats.
Regular exercise has plenty of health benefits, like a slimmer frame, improved fitness, more energy and better cardiovascular health. But most people know little about how exercise can improve your skin as you age.
To protect your skin every day, start with basic lifestyle tips. Wear moisturizer and SPF 30 sunscreen every day, year round. Drink at least half of your body weight in ounces of water (if you’re 160 pounds, drink 80 ounces or 10 cups daily). Our bodies and skin are made up of mostly water, so it only makes sense to adequately hydrate. Get at least eight hours of sleep a night — when your body is rested it shows on your face. Build your diet with Omega-3 fatty acids, plus fresh fruits and vegetables rich in Vitamin C. (Want more diet tips? See Part One about the best foods for skincare.)
Beyond the basics
Protecting your skin from the sun, wind and dry conditions is a no brainer, but exercise and yoga can undeniably brighten your skin and give it a healthy glow — even as you age.
Over the years, the outer protective layer of our skin gets drier and thicker, while the layer of skin beneath begins to thin and lose its elasticity. This can give the skin a saggy appearance. To combat this, exercise helps more blood reach your skin to deliver the essential nutrients it needs, and when your blood flows efficiently, your skin gets filled with nutrients. It repairs damage from the sun and other environmental pollutants.
Working out also reduces inflammation in the body and helps the body produce collagen, a protein that keeps your skin supple and firm to prevent wrinkles. Another benefit is just working up a good sweat, which flushes out trapped dirt and oil. Think of it as cleansing your skin from the inside out.
It’s important to note that you shouldn’t overdo it with exercise. Becoming too thin can cause you to look gaunt and lose the healthy fats that plump out wrinkles. Excessive cardio can also cause your skin to lose its youthful elasticity. According to celebrity trainer Dalton Wong, one of the main reasons for this is that long-duration cardio can put stress on your body and produce an excessive amount of the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol tends to break down collagen, which can take a heavy toll on your skin and result in breakouts, wrinkling and sagging.
One of Wong’s key training tips is to focus on increasing lean muscle mass. This tones the lean muscle that sits under the surface of the skin to create lifted and taught-looking skin.
Yoga skin care
Like other forms of exercise, a regular yoga practice can improve digestion and circulation. Having better blood flow naturally gives your skin a glow and sweating through a vinyasa or hot yoga class helps flush out damaging toxins. In addition, mindful movements, deep breathing and meditation all reduce stress levels and inflammation in the body to fight tired and dull skin.
Here are a few of my favorite yoga poses for radiant skin:
Standing forward fold
Standing forward fold, or uttanasana, is a gentle inversion to reverse gravity’s aging effects. Inversions are the best way to enhance your skin and plump out wrinkles. They increase blood flow to your face to deliver oxygen and other nutrients, which fight inflammation, toxins and free radicals that cause aging. Let your head hang, close your eyes and breathe.
Headstands and shoulder stands
Headstand, or sirasana, basically gives you a free facelift and allows blood, nutrients and oxygen to flow to your face, making you look younger. Shoulder stand is another effective and beginner-friendly inversion. Give your skin a boost by inverting gravity’s pull, and lower your stress level by improving concentration and relaxation.
In back bends, such as wheel or fish pose (a gentler option), your neck and spine are arched back, allowing blood to flow through the neck and into your face. Chest openers and backbends are energizing and help increase oxygen to the system.
Twisting postures do wonders for your skin. They improve digestion and help detoxify by removing harmful substances from your organs. Clearing waste from the body creates vibrant skin, so be sure to boost your twist by drinking plenty of water. This also helps purge toxins.
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