Deep Breathing - How Can It Stop Skin Aging?
Full and rhythmical breathing works wonders for our skin. It ensures the continuous flow of oxygen to cells and the swift removal of carbon dioxide.
Breathing happens of its own accord but many things can upset normal breathing patterns without our even noticing. Step outdoors on a frosty day or into a very hot sauna and the temperature shock will automatically make you gasp and hold your breath. Laughing, speaking, singing and weeping all change our breathing, making inhalations deep and exhalations short and spasmodic.
When anxious, fearful, angry or frustrated, adrenaline starts to flow and our breaths become increasingly rapid and shallow. It's known as over-breathing or hyperventilation and makes the heart pound and head spin. This is what happens during a panic attack. Tribal shamans purposely breathe this way to alter states of consciousness. But fast and shallow breathing is bad news because it reduces the oxygen supply to all the tissues. When we live in a state of constant tension we fail to use our full breathing potential. The good news is that although breathing is automatic, we can consciously override it to make it better.
Stretch and Glow
Yoga is possibly the oldest form of breathing therapy. This ancient system of exercise originates from India where it was developed and practised by yogis or spiritual men. They discovered how to energise and balance the mind, body and spirit through a combination of deep rhythmic breathing and certain stretching movements. The yogic term 'prana' is Sanskrit for breath yet it also refers to the life force or energy thought to pervade the universe. In Chinese philosophies this is known as chi or qi.
Yoga develops the art of slow deep 'ujjaya' breathing to stimulate the flow of prana around the body. This oxygenates the tissues and instils peace of mind. Meanwhile the postures literally squeeze tension out of the muscles and in doing so pave the way for freer, more relaxed day-today breathing.
The benefits reaped from practising yoga include smooth skin that exudes vitality, inner calm, greater energy and a lithe, supple body.
There are various different forms of yoga varying from meditative (kripalu) to intensely aerobic (ashtanga). It is worth trying a few to find which one is best suited to you.
Ashtanga yoga - Also known as power yoga', it is vigorous and very demanding. You move fast and furiously from one pose to the next. Only for the very fit and supple.
Iyengar yoga - Precise poses that work wonders for improving posture and alignment. Controlled breathing is helpful for asthma. Highly therapeutic.
Kripalu yoga - Cultivates inner stillness and awareness of the breath or prana.
Sivananda yoga - Focuses on stretching and relaxation. Ideal for beginners as it revolves around twelve basic postures which include the headstand. When upside down the heart works as hard as if you were running. Chanting clears and quietens the mind.
Lazy yoga - Thai massage or Nuad Bo Rarn is an Eastern touch treatment, traditionally practised by Buddhist monks that is like having yoga done to you. It is similar to other oriental therapies because it works with the body's energies which are said to flow along 10 Sen lines (akin to meridians). Using firm but gentle pressure with hands, feet and elbows, the Thai masseur applies pressure to key points on the Sen lines and stretches your body into yoga positions, so squeezing away the tension and encouraging deeper breathing. It is a wonderfully energising treatment that restores the free flow of oxygen to the skin and other tissues.
Pilates - This is like a modern version of yoga. Movements are slow and controlled, each working in perfect unison with the in- and out-breath. Pilates centres the body, stretches every muscle, and works to create a body that is firm yet flexible. An excellent form of breathing therapy.
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