There’s so much stress assaulting our skin in our fast, polluted modern lives. Through some cruel tricks of evolution, a high level of the stress hormone cortisol weakens the skin barrier, slows down wound healing, and prematurely ages the skin. Stress can make rashes, rosacea and psoriasis worse. If you’re stressed, you’re also less likely to spend time on your daily cleanse-tone-moisturize routine. The key to plump and clear skin in adulthood then is to keep stress at bay. And there’s nothing like meditation for stress-busting.
A very intriguing study nearly twenty years ago found that mindfulness meditation during UV light therapy for psoriasis (a skin condition) speeds up the healing of lesions. Scientists are getting more and more convinced that meditation isn’t only good for your mind. It also acts as a deep surgical tool (when you do it regularly) that can reduce stress and the damage that stress does. It’s not surprising at all that the world is turning to Indian meditation and yoga techniques to look and feel beautiful.
There are many ways to meditate. Here are a few simple ways you can start today.
1. Daily chanting
The Vedic practice of OM meditation involves chanting “OM” for 30 minutes, every day. You can choose to chant a prayer or phrase that works for you. Sit in a comfortable position, close your eyes and breathe in slowly through your nose. With the outgoing breath, chant OM aloud or in your mind. While you chant, focus your attention on the word alone. If you find your mind wandering, gently pull it back to the chant.
Various studies have found that doing this for 3 months significantly reduced the levels of stress detected on the skin. When we are stressed, our sweat glands tend to react and the study tested this stress response. It revealed evidence that meditation and prayer reduce this response by quite a bit. With meditation we are calmer, our emotions are more under control, and our immune system is better able to do its job. Have you noticed your skin breaks out a lot when you’re stressed? That’s also because higher cortisol levels signal your sweat glands to produce more oils, and as we all know, oily skin is prone to acne.
2. Breath focus with belly-breathing
If religion or spirituality is not very meaningful to you, you don’t have to focus on phrases like OM. Instead, you can simply pay attention to your breath. Take deep and slow breaths, right from your belly. As you breathe, gently detach your mind from your thoughts. Focusing on your breathing is the simplest form of meditation. It is often the start of a more involved technique, such as the well-known practice of Vipassana.
3. Mindfulness meditation
While there is a lot of information out there on the traditional Buddhist practice of concentration and awareness, the practice can also be done in simple way. To practice, sit comfortably with your eyes closed and bring your attention to your breathing. Focus on the present, not on the past or the future. With time, mindfulness can become second nature to you. It can become a part of everything you do, and you’ll see the difference in the healthy glow of your skin. There is evidence to suggest that mindfulness helps with anxiety, pain and depression.
4. Guided imagery
This may be the most enjoyable form of meditation for some people. Sit comfortably, close your eyes, and draw up an image in your mind of a soothing scene, experience or place that’s made you happy in the past. Focus on the thought and the feelings, and you should feel positivity flooding through you. This technique may be difficult for those with “monkey minds” (see point number 5) or those who have trouble conjuring up mental images.
5. A simple breath meditation for moments of scattered thinking
If you tend to have a “monkey mind” that runs rampant from time to time, skipping from one thought to another, you may find it hard to complete the simplest tasks and make decisions or pay attention and remember things. This can stress you out.
There’s a simple meditation to bring your mind within your control every time you find your mind wandering restlessly. Sit comfortably and close your eyes. Breathe in slowly through your nose and count 1. Then breathe out through your mouth and count 2, such that one breath lasts about six seconds. The purpose is to breathe deeply and slowly, to focus your mind on your breath and let go of your thoughts as far as you can. When your mind wanders, gently bring it back to your breath. Count until you reach 10 and then count backwards. You can repeat this cycle for around 2 to 5 minutes or until you feel like you’ve tamed your mind for the present.
6. Body scan
This technique is a good one to practice before bed every night. It involves a combination of focus and relaxation. After breathing deeply for a while to bring your mind in focus, you should turn your mind to different parts of your body and different muscle groups, and slowly release the tension in that part. You’ll find guided body scan meditation on YouTube by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and other meditation teachers.
You can think of Yoga as a kind of meditation that also involves your body in the form of asanas. The Sarvangasana, or the shoulder stand, is well-known for its ability to give you glowing skin. It sends blood to your face and if you do it regularly for 3 to 5 minutes every day, it can clear your skin of acne and other troubles.
Any kind of stress management is good for glowing skin, as long as you’re regular with it. Weave these meditation techniques into your life and you’ll start to see a difference soon. But don’t forget to be relaxed about your expectations. The last thing you want is to get so obsessed with obtaining results that your meditation technique suffers as a consequence!