You’ve probably taken breathing for granted your entire life. After all, it’s automatic, requires no special thought, and seems like the most natural thing in the world. However, what if we told you that by paying a little more attention to your breath, you could yield amazing health benefits? Sound too good to be true? Keep reading!
Specifically, the ancient practice of pranayama breathing has been shown to improve the look of skin, but that’s just for starters! It also helps your health in a number of other ways but before we discuss them, let’s explain exactly what pranayama breathing is.
The Beginnings of Pranayama Breathing
Pranayama breathing is an ancient Indian technique that is used to control breath. Although the practice began thousands of years ago, it is still popular today and is often done in conjunction with yoga poses. The term “prana” refers to our “life force,” and ayama means, “extending out.” So, pranayama breathing can be considered a way to release and channel the body’s internal energy.
This releasing and channeling occurs through deep, rhythmic breathing that is done through the nostrils. Consider this deep breathing a far cry from what your body has become accustomed to. On an average day, we breathe roughly 23,000 times. Although that sounds like a lot, most of those breaths are shallow, causing us to lose lung function, become more fatigued, build up toxins, weaken our immune system, and age prematurely.
Having said that, it’s easy to see how pranayama breathing might be a great way to counterbalance our tendency to breathe from our chest, rather than our diaphragm. And not only can it help with those problems associated with shallow breathing, but pranayama breathing techniques can also provide benefits for other health-related issues.
According to the Chopra Center, researchers have concluded that a regular practice of simple, deep breathing reduces anxiety, depression, and feelings of stress. However, pranayama breathing doesn’t just affect our emotional state, it also has a beneficial effect on our physical wellbeing. For instance, it has been proven to increase energy levels, relax muscles, and lower blood pressure.
However, the benefits of pranayama breathing don’t stop there. Mladen Golubic, a Cleveland Clinic physician, told NPR that breathing can have a profound impact on our health.
He explains, “You can influence asthma; you can influence chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; you can influence heart failure. There are studies that show that people who practice breathing exercises and have those conditions—they benefit.”
Let’s Get to the Glowing Skin Part!
Having said all that, you’re probably thinking, “Pranayama breathing sounds great but how can it give me beautiful skin?” First, let’s talk about the impact of stress on our skin. Unfortunately, stress is associated with acne, eczema, hives, rosacea, and psoriasis. Stress also worsens wrinkles, because cortisol—a stress hormone—degrades collagen, which is what leads to wrinkling. Pranayama breathing is an excellent stress reliever, reducing the likelihood that your anxiety will show up on your face in the form of pimples, wrinkles, or dull skin.
Furthermore, Pranayama breathing is useful because weeliminate 70% of toxins through breathing. Yet when we take shallow breaths, it’s harder to expel these toxins. This leads to excessive toxin buildup, manifesting on our skin as acne and premature aging.
Finally, our body relies on oxygen to function. When we fail to get enough oxygen, our skin suffers and our circulation decreases. Deep pranayama breathing can correct these issues by increasing oxygen to our skin, improving blood flow, producing more collagen, and slowing down the physical aging process.
Pranayama Breathing Exercises
So, now that we’ve discussed the benefits of pranayama breathing to your skin, you’re probably wondering how you can incorporate it into your life. Fortunately, it’s easy. To get you started, here are 3 pranayama breathing techniques that you can use to decrease stress, improve your health, and develop glowing, more beautiful skin.
- Ocean’s Breath.
Exhale the sound “haaaaah” with your mouth open. Now take a breath that is slightly deeper than normal and with your mouth closed, exhale through your nose and constrict your throat muscles while making a similar sound. If you are doing this correctly, the sound should be reminiscent of ocean waves, hence the name.
- Alternate Nostril.
Using the thumb of your dominant hand, cover your right nostril. Then, take a deep belly breath through your left nostril. Now cover your left nostril and exhale through your right nostril. Pause before inhaling again with your right nostril. A complete cycle includes an inhalation and exhalation from both nostrils—aim for 10 cycles. You can also deepen the breath by inhaling for 4 counts, holding for 4 counts, and exhaling for 4 counts.
- Bellows Breath.
Inhale deeply through your nostrils before exhaling rapidly through your nostrils. Make sure that your inhale is a slow one and that the exhale is done quickly—much like a deflating balloon. Repeat this process for 5 minutes.
If solo breathing exercises aren’t your thing, consider signing up for a yoga class at your local recreation center or yoga studio. Not only will you derive the same benefits, but you can also add flexibility and muscle strength as well.
Payoffs of Pranayama Breathing
Deep, rhythmic breathing alleviates stress, increases the oxygen in your bloodstream, improves circulation, and eliminates toxins. If you’re not already engaged in pranayama breathing, think about trying one of the exercises we listed above. By doing so, not only will you feel better, but your skin will develop that beautiful glow that we associate with a healthy lifestyle and nutritious eating!