Breathe Your Way to Better Skin

Your skin reflects the general state of health of your body. It will react to factors like diet and stress. Nutrition is a well know line of treatment for conditions like rosacea, acne and eczema. Perhaps less known is the fact that stress levels can be very effectively controlled using some simple breathing techniques.

The underlying principle is that deep, regular breathing sends a signal to each part of your body to relax. And good breathing habits can learnt. That is why disciplines like yoga and chi gung teach breathing techniques. You may not have the time to practice yoga or chi gung, but dedicating five to ten minutes a day to practising a breathing exercise can give you very rewarding results.

The first – and perhaps the greatest – barrier to practising correct breathing is our belief that we know how to breath. After all, we have done it uninterruptedly from the minute were were born. No one will dare argue with that. It is equally true however, that from an early age stress and postural constraints have interfered with our breathing, leading to shallow, less than efficient breathing. So it makes a lot of sense to re-learn how to breath well. Would you care to give it a try? Here are a few simple instructions.

When and how often should you practise? Once a day, for five to ten minutes. Doing your breathing exercises just before bedtime will help you relax and get a good night sleep. As you practice and start to love your exercise, you will probably find other opportunities to practise it – using a few minutes break at work, or on train or bus.

This is what the exercise consists of: Sit comfortably in a quiet area. You can have your back leaning against a chair or wall, shoulders relaxed, neck and head upright. Wear loose, comfortable clothing – make sure your abdomen is not restricted when breathing in.

Breathing out

In order to make your breathing more effective, you need to make sure that your out-breath expels as much air from your lungs as possible. Exhale slowly and extend your exhalation as far as possible, to the point where the breathing-in reflex kicks in by itself. Visualise your ribs and shoulders moving down and your ribcage getting smaller and closer to your spine.

You may find that narrowing your throat on the out-breath, to produce a Darth Vader-like noise, helps slow down your exhalation and makes it more complete.

Breathing in

Fill your lungs with air from the bottom up. Start by expanding the abdomen as much as comfortably possible. Then start breathing into your thorax. Make sure your abdomen does not withdraw as your chest expands. Visualise your abdomen and thorax as a pair of cylinders expanding outwards in all four directions to accommodate the air you draw in with each in-breath.

Avoid any strain while practising your breathing exercise. The aim is to relax. As you keep practising day after day, your breath will become naturally longer and deeper. To make it more fun you can time your breathing cycle (one in-breath followed by one out-breath) before you do your first exercise, and then every couple of weeks to monitor your progress.

Sounds too easy to do anything much? Try it – you may well be surprised. If you’d like to read more about efficient breathing, you can find more details in this blog post: A Peek at Taoist Breathing Practices

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