You’d need several pairs of hands to list all the benefits yoga can have on your health, but what can it do for your looks? Turns out, a whole lot. Those who have been reading this column for some time will know that we advocate lifestyle and diet changes as much as we do using nontoxic cosmetics; the three are inseparable when it comes to living a cleaner, more sustainable lifestyle. A natural shampoo is great, but it won’t do much for your stress level, which can wreak havoc on your skin if it’s not kept in check. Similarly, you could chow on the best organic produce available, but if you’re using a petrochemical-loaded moisturizer, we’re going to bet your skin won’t be as supple or silky as it could be.
When it comes to exercise, stress relief, and overall health, very little beats out yoga. Here’s why: Contrary to the belief that yoga is a lot of lying around and ohm-ing, it can be a rigorous full-body exercise regimen that strengthens the body (and the mind!) and brings with it all kinds of unintended side benefits—like glowing skin, slower aging, and, yup, better sex.
It makes you better at other sports Yoga is proven to help prevent injuries by increasing flexibility and focus—but it’s also proven to bebetter than some sports in its ability to reduce anxiety and bad moods. The fact that it complements so many other sports—from dance and hockey to soccer and basketball—makes it a great supplemental workout for athletes and gym rats alike. And for those of you who think yoga is for wimps, look no further than Shaq and Amani Toomer—yogis both.
It helps you sleep better And sleeping better makes your skin (and your entire body) function more efficiently. A study at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center came to the conclusion that just 20 minutes of yoga a week helped cancer patients fall asleep faster and sleep longer. More sleep means giving your face muscles a rest, while also promoting cell turnover—which happens more at night that during the day.
It helps your sex life There are some obvious benefits here like strength, greater flexibility, and more comfort with your body, but there are some real studies behind the idea that yoga can better your bedroom life, too. One study showed that 75 percent of the women who practiced yoga experienced better orgasms, and a recent Harvard study found other sexual benefits. For men, a 2007 study where men were offered Prozac or yoga as a tool to counter premature ejaculation, those who chose the latter “had both subjective and statistically significant improvements” as compared to the guys who picked the drugs (though those helped, too).
It helps you breathe better. And breathing deeply is a key to relaxation. And relaxation is a key to good skin. The end.
It can help detoxify your skin. Between the twisting, the bending, the sweating, and the breathing, you’re actually getting a lot of internal work done: You’re massaging your organs, bringing more oxygen to the body, circulating blood to undernourished areas, and ultimately improving lymphatic flow. This can help balance hormones and detox the body through sweating.
It can slow aging. One study showed that people who exercise are biologically nine years younger than their non-exercising counterparts. This is empirically true, and especially true of yogis. Just look at Russell Simmons or any over-50 person in your yoga class. Instructors like to say that inversions—headstands, handstands, shoulder stands, and forearm stands—are the great antiagers of yoga. We have no idea why this is true, but we believe what we see.
This is a series inspired by No More Dirty Looks: The Truth About Your Beauty Products and the Ultimate Guide to Safe and Clean Cosmetics, a book by GOOD’s features editor Siobhan O’Connor and her co-author Alexandra Spunt.
Illustrations by Brianna Harden