Stress is ugly. There are no two ways about it. It wreaks havoc on your skin and your health. Stress shows up in the strangest of ways, but one of my least favorite is on my face. If you're prone to anything - be it acne, oily skin, dry skin - when you're stressed, you can be rest assured all those little inconveniences suddenly become big, noticeable problems. Also worth noting, one of the biggest causes of pre-mature aging (up there with sun exposure) is stress.
I always talk about beauty coming from the inside first, literally and physiologically speaking. Digestion is a huge beauty system - it is what absorbs the nutrients that keep us healthy and glowing; however, when anything alters this system, the rest of our body feels it - quick. When you're stressed out, blood begins to flow to your muscles and other extremities preparing you for "fight or flight" and is diverted away from key operations such as absorbing vitamins and minerals. When you're stressed out, your B vitamins are depleted at far above normal rates and chronic stress depletes your beauty vitamin C as well as zinc and magnesium (all key components to beautiful skin). Even headaches caused by stress are no help in keeping those "furrowing lines" at bay.
So what can you do about it?
Well there are a lot of things: deep breathing, exercising, infrared saunas and drinking chamomile tea for starters... but for me, my favorite stress buster is yoga. I try to go as often as possible for many reasons, but one of the main reasons I became addicted to yoga was to destress. Below are my favorite 5 poses that are proven to have a calming effect on the nervous system and can be done anywhere you have a few square feet of space -- yes, even on the plane.
1. Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)
Standing forward bend helps calm your central nervous system and relax your mind. Allowing the blood to reach your head and circulate there for a little while is calming. Stay in this pose for as long as you feel comfortable and let yourself naturally deepen in the stretch as your muscles relax. Breathe.
2. Cobra (Bhujangasana)
Cobra pose opens up the chest and makes you feel more alive. It is great for your digestive system as well as your spinal column and helps you to release all that you have been "holding in your heart," so to say. If you are new to yoga, or have had a back injury in the past, practice this pose gently and with caution.
3. Seated Spinal Twist (Janu Sirsasana)
Spinal twists are glorious. They help aid with your digestion, and help open up the spine which is hugely helpful when it comes to relieving stress. Twist only as far as you are comfortable and choose to keep your bottom leg straight or bent depending on your comfort level. Breathe into the stretch and focus on the inhale and exhale.
4. Child's Pose (Balasana)
Child's pose is completely grounding, and one of my "go-tos" when I'm not feeling in my element. While stretching the back, child's pose also relaxes the nervous system. Most poses in which you bend forward are very calming. Keep your eyes closed and let the floor support your head. Breathe.
5. Salutation Seal (Anjali Mudra)
Sitting cross legged comfortably, with hands in the "salutation seal" and with eyes closed is one of the best ways to get into a meditative state. Breathe deeply and focus on your breath. Try to keep your thoughts only on your breath to help induce calmness.
Practice your yoga with a calm heart and quiet mind. Don't judge. Stay present. Stay present in your practice by focusing on the moment and your breath - the true beauty and benefits of yoga are all in the breath.