Our fashionista and beauty expert, Shameena, tells us how Prayanama and meditation can help keep the skin young and glowing, in the weekly column, exclusively for Different Truths.
Each and every person, irrespective of the gender dreams of achieving healthy and glowing skin that shines from within. But in today’s world where we are surrounded by pollution and toxins at all times, the possibility of having naturally glowing skin seems to be an unachievable and unrealistic desire. Even the harsh weather and UV rays also take a toll on your skin. But what if I tell you that the ultimate answer to the question of how to have glowing skin naturally lies in not only in the benefits of yoga or meditation, but also in Pranayama (breathing techniques)? Yes, it is true, and the results can be noticed within just a few weeks of getting started with the Pranayama.
Pranayama and meditation involve a lot of simple breathing exercises that supplies more oxygen to your system and regenerates and rejuvenates the skin cells. Some of the best Pranayama breathing exercises that you can practice for healthy skin are Kapalbhati, Narishodan Pranayama, Bhastrika and Anulom Vilom. You should also include the Varun Mudra in your breathing exercises in order to balance the water element in the body.
What is Prana and where did Pranayamas Come From?
“This Is the Fastest Way to Calm Down” ~Time Health
In yoga, we call the branch dedicated to our breathing techniques Pranayama, which means breath control. Breathing exercises are a huge part of any yoga practice, and they can be a very useful tool in our daily lives, too.
The ancient Indian system of yoga identified Prana, as the universal life force or energy which distinguishes the living from the dead, and flows through thousands of subtle energy channels they called ‘nadis’ and energy centers called ‘chakras.’
These original yogic seers observed the power of the breath to increase one’s prana and developed special breathing techniques to increase life energy, maintain health and create a calm, clear state of mind that is conducive for meditation.
Sources of Prana
We get prana from food, rest, breath and by being in a calm, happy frame of mind.
There is more prana in fresh foods than canned, frozen or stale foods. Similarly, vegetarian foods are said to be generally of high prana, while meat, being dead, is considered low or even negative prana.
However, the most direct and immediate source of prana is breath – when our breath stops, we die. And, as we will see in a moment, the way we breathe has a powerful effect on how we feel.
The Effects of High and Low Prana
It was discovered that the quantity and quality of prana and the way it flows through the nadis (subtle energy channels) determines one’s state of mind.
Due to lack of attention, the energy channels in the average person may be partially blocked, making the flow of prana broken and jerky. This results in increased worry, fear, uncertainty, conflict, tension and other negative emotions.
When the prana level is high and its flow is continuous, smooth and steady, then the mind is calm, positive and enthusiastic.
What is Yogic Breathing or Pranayama?
‘Prana’ refers to the universal life force and ‘Ayama’ means to regulate or lengthen. Prana is the vital energy needed by our physical and subtle layers, without which the body would perish. It is what keeps us alive. Pranayama is the control of prana through the breath. These techniques rely on breathing through the nostrils.
The key to healthy and happy living may lie in right breathing. When we attend to our breath, it brings us to the present moment, increases our self-awareness, and brings a sense of calm.
Pranayama goes a step further than simple awareness of the breath, using specific rhythms and techniques to bring us numerous benefits on the mental, emotional and physical levels.
▪ Calms the mind, reducing worries and anxieties
▪ Improves focus and attention, removing brain fog
▪ Increases energy, bringing enthusiasm and positivity
▪ Boosts the immune system
▪ Rejuvenates the body and mind
▪ May even slow down the aging process
Over 65 independent studies have been done on Art of Living’s combination of Pranayamas and Sudarshan Kriya breathing, demonstrating numerous impressive health benefits.
This one of the most common Pranayamas practised by common people and it helps to increase stamina, provide a flat belly and develop a healthy and glowing skin.
Skull cleanser otherwise known as Kapalabhati breathing, this technique is another cleansing breath exercise that raises your energy level dramatically. Basically, it is the same as the Breath of Fire technique, but with a larger emphasis on the exhale, and with your arms straight up above your head to promote lymph circulation through the upper body.
Hold your hands in the mudra of your choice. For example, try Apana Mudra for invoking the future. Simply make your hands look like a dog’s head with the ring and middle finger resting on your thumb in a triangle, stick your pinkie and pointer finger straight up like ears.
Nadi = subtle energy channel; Shodhan = cleaning, purification; Pranayama = breathing technique. Nadis are subtle energy channels in the human body that can get blocked due to various reasons. The Nadi Shodhan pranayama is a breathing technique that helps clear these blocked energy channels, thus calming the mind. This technique is also known as Anulom Vilom pranayama.
Nadi Shodhan pranayama helps relax the mind and prepares it to enter a meditative state. Practicing it for just a few minutes every day helps keep the mind calm, happy and peaceful. It helps in releasing accumulated tension and fatigue.
· Sit comfortably with your spine erect and shoulders relaxed. Keep a gentle smile on your face.
· Place your left hand on the left knee, palms open to the sky or in Chin Mudra (thumb and index finger gently touching at the tips).
· Place the tip of the index finger and middle finger of the right hand in between the eyebrows, the ring finger and little finger on the left nostril, and the thumb on the right nostril. We will use the ring finger and little finger to open or close the left nostril and thumb for the right nostril.
· Press your thumb down on the right nostril and breathe out gently through the left nostril.
· Now breathe in from the left nostril and then press the left nostril gently with the ring finger and little finger. Removing the right thumb from the right nostril, breathe out from the right.
· Breathe in from the right nostril and exhale from the left. You have now completed one round of Nadi Shodhan pranayama. Continue inhaling and exhaling from alternate nostrils.
· Complete 9 such rounds by alternately breathing through both the nostrils. After every exhalation, remember to breathe in from the same nostril from which you exhaled. Keep your eyes closed throughout and continue taking long, deep, smooth breaths without any force or effort.
The next time you feel sluggish, instead of reaching for a cup of coffee, try an energetic breathing practice, eventually bringing a glow to your skin, instead.
Bhastrika, or “bellows breath,” is a traditional breathing exercise in yoga that helps to increase Prana or life force in your being. It’s often used to energize the body and clarify the mind. If you feel hazy, or like you’re moving in slow motion, Bhastrika will help clear the clouds.
Bellows breathing is also a practice to consider if you’re trying to lose weight. Performing a few rounds throughout the day can help increase your digestive power and boost your metabolism.
You probably want to avoid practicing bellows breathing close to bedtime, as it may invigorate your mind and make it difficult to fall asleep. But the next time you need an energy boost, give it a try.
How to Perform Bellows Breath
1. Sit up tall, relax your shoulders, and take a few deep, breaths in and out from your nose. With each inhale, expand your belly fully as you breathe.
2. Begin bellows breathing by exhaling forcefully through your nose. Follow by inhaling forcefully at the rate of one second per cycle.
3. Make sure the breath is coming from your diaphragm; keep your head, neck, shoulders, and chest still while your belly moves in and out.
For your first cycle, move through a round of 10 Bhastrika breaths, then take a break and breathe naturally, observing the sensations in your mind and body. After a 15- to 30-second break, begin the next round with 20 breaths. Finally, after pausing for another 30 seconds, complete a third round of 30 bellows breaths.
Make sure to listen to your body during the practice. Bellows breathing is a safe practice, but if you feel light-headed in any way, take a pause for a few minutes while breathing naturally. When the discomfort passes, try another round of bellows breathing, slower and with less intensity.
The Varun Mudra is known as the “seal of mental clarity”. When the two fingers are placed together it is meant to symbolize and encourage openness and fluid communication.
It also helps balance the water element in the body, activating the salivary glands and moistening dry eyes and skin.
How to do the Varun Mudra
The little (pinky) finger and thumb tips are lightly touching, and the remaining three fingers are held out gently, but not ridged.
There is no time limit on this mudra, you can do it anytime and anywhere, however, sitting cross-legged is usually preferable.
The Varun Mudra helps you to clearly and intuitively communicate. It also helps to balance the water content in your body by activating fluid circulation through the body, keeping it moisturized. This leads to healing for many skin conditions and to a natural glow and lustre to your face.
Essential Yoga Tips for Glowing Skin
There are some specific yoga poses and mudra that are specially designed for improving blood flow to the head and face. Practicing these yoga poses is especially beneficial for achieving healthy and glowing skin naturally.
▪ Choose yoga postures that promote blood circulation to the upper part of the body – the head and face area. Some examples are Cobra Pose, Plow Pose, Shoulder Stand, Fish Pose, Child pose and Triangle pose. All these postures increase oxygenation by opening up the chest. Forward bends and Inverted postures also increase blood flow to the head.
▪ People with oily skin face problems of acne and pimples during summer. Cooling pranayama and breathing exercises can render a soothing and cooling effect on the skin and help to retain its glow. It also aids emotional and physical cleansing.
▪ Try the wind relieving pose, Vajrasana, Bow pose, Naadi Shodhan Pranayama and Kapal Bhati on empty stomach in order to detoxify the body. The detoxification takes place through forceful exhalation. It also helps to improve the digestive process.
▪ Meditate at least two times a day daily in order to radiate natural glow from within.
▪ Devote 20 minutes to facial yoga exercises every day. It helps to tighten and tone the facial muscles and keep the signs of aging at bay. Massage your jaws and eyebrows to reduce stress and relax the facial muscles. Work your cheeks and chin by doing the “Kiss and Smile Technique”. Push your lips out as much as you can as if you are about to kiss and then smile broadly.
▪ Get into some fast-paced yoga such as a few rounds of Sun Salutation or Surya Namaskar to break into a sweat and promote natural detoxification of the skin.
Photos sourced from the author from Internet
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Shameena is a Self-made independent entrepreneur, Fashion Designer and Stylist, Artist, Photographer, Fitness freak, Poet, Blogger, Graphic Designer, Life strategist and many other things. Her collections cater to a broad range of women, from classic to modern, fusion and embrace all attitudes from romantic to dramatic. She is currently situated in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.