The Use of Yoga Within Dermatology
Many patients often feel unhappy or dissatisfied with traditional medical treatment plans and therefore turn to complementary medicine that more aligns with their personal beliefs and philosophy to life.[1,2] In this approach, therapies such as yoga can be a potential treatment option. As interest in yoga has increased from beyond an ancient Indian practice to more of a modern physical and mental health exercise, it has potential as an additional treatment since many conditions incorporate mental health complications. Patients are, ideally, no longer defined by their disease, but rather viewed as persons suffering from ailments that can be treated with multiple options.
What Is Yoga?
While many individuals are unfamiliar with yoga, most associate it with the ancient practices of India. Indian practitioners first introduced yoga to the western world of the United States around the early 1890s. For individuals more familiar with yoga, it may seem a little daunting, as yoga can be further classified into many different parts or styles. Finding the style that is best or most effective is dependent on the individual person, and a study contrasting them demonstrated that the most effective yoga style was the one most appropriate for personal preference and availability. While these different styles can have different names, here are some of the most common styles of yoga:[6-8]
- Hatha yoga – a more basic, gentle yoga ideal for beginners that teaches the poses
- Vinyasa yoga – an active yoga that includes high-intensity intervals to increase heart rate
- Iyengar yoga – a detail-oriented yoga that emphasizes proper form
- Ashtanga yoga – a specific order yoga that follows a sequence of set six poses
- Bikram® yoga – includes a sequence of 26 poses in humid, high heat over the span of 90 minutes
- Hot yoga – while it is similar to Bikram® with its high heat and humidity, it also allows for more flexibility and variety of poses
- Kundalini yoga – a more spiritual yoga focused on pairing poses with breathwork, chanting, and meditation
- Yin yoga – a slow form of yoga to help calm body through longer-held poses
- Restorative yoga – a subdued form of yoga to help encourage relaxation of the body
How Can Yoga Help Diseases?
While many of the studies of yoga in medicine have been conducted in India, the growing number of studies in the rest of the world have demonstrated that yoga has consistent health benefits. Yoga can be utilized as a stress-reducer; it can be used to help alleviate stress associated diseases and conditions. This type of mind-body connection of yoga can reduce biological stressors which in turn can help reduce inflammation and can lead to a reduced risk of inflammation-related diseases.[10,11] Yoga can help with diseases such as coronary heart disease, depression, high blood pressure, as well as other diseases.[12-14] In a Harvard study, up to 80% of visits to a care provider were due to stress, but often less than 3% of those care providers provided stress counseling for their patients. While yoga itself may help improve medical conditions, patients who utilize yoga may also be more likely to have a healthier lifestyle overall than those who don’t practice yoga.
How Can Yoga Help My Skin?
Although yoga is not a traditionally accepted treatment for skin diseases, many skin diseases are often related to stress and yoga can be used to help alleviate the stress that is commonly associated with skin diseases.[10,15] Patients suffering from acne had more positive perceptions about the use of yoga and other complementary medicine therapies because it helped improve the psychological implications of the disease. Yoga can help improve skin diseases not only through the reduction of stress but also through improved fitness and circulation.[18,19] Your skin condition can be caused by stress and also psychologically cause more stress due to the appearance; yoga can potentially help with both aspects.[18,20-22]
Can Yoga Hurt My Skin?
One of the yoga styles is hot yoga, practiced in sweltering heat designed to increase sweating during the physical fitness activity. The heat from the steam can irritate skin, and the dilated blood vessels can potentially darken skin spots as well.[23-25] In a case study, the hot temperatures of Bikram® yoga worsened one patient’s rosacea; while her care provider permitted her to continue practicing yoga, she was advised to avoid the high heat and instead practice another type of yoga. Be sure to rinse your body after practicing sweat-inducing activities to avoid potential development of rashes and infections.
If you are new to yoga, please be advised to follow your teacher’s appropriate instructions. Beginning yoga students should proceed with caution and avoid extreme poses and forceful breathing in order to avoid injury.
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