We can apply yogic exercises to attaining healthy skin, no different from our muscles or our minds. With careful attention to kinesiology and the anatomy of our facial muscles, we can keep our skin healthy and our pores clear by habit.
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I have had inflamed, acne prone skin since I was around 14 years old, and I have found that the best thing you can do for your skin is maintaining good facial posture for as much of the day as possible. This keeps your pores open, allowing your skin to release oil and shed skin cells freely and actively.
These are important, practical habits that are not typically taught as a formal study in most school or youth curriculum, and I hope that by illustrating through practical examples and facial anatomy, I can share some helpful techniques I've picked up on my journey with very frustrating skin, ranging from barely there to severe acne.
Know your face
Pay attention to the shape of your pores and how you allow your jaw to sit at rest. A moderate, symmetrical jaw posture allows your pores to naturally sit at their most open and permeable angle.
When I am distracted, I tend to tap my leg, bite my lips, and sit with poor posture. These are nervous behaviors we should learn to direct and manage, especially if one is prone to anxiety and inflammation. Attention alone is all that is needed to influence your subconscious mind. With practice, and under the right conditions, you can regulate anxiety and reduce inflammation on a systematic basis.
Relax the muscles and salivary glands deep in your cheeks and your jaw, just in front of your ears. Specifically, notice that you have salivary glands called parotid glands in your cheeks, and that there are deep muscles surrounding them called the zygomaticus and buccinator that pull your cheeks up against your face and allow you to smile.
Notice the oval-shape of the muscles around your lips, and how you can lift each corner of your mouth evenly. You should notice that the corners of your lips sit at a natural, even posture relative to the tip of your nose, and that the cartilage inside of your nose rests in the center of your nostrils.
Learn to use all of these muscles evenly and without strain to help your skin be as relaxed and healthy as possible. If you notice bad habits in your facial posture, attempt to slowly correct them by comparing muscles in opposite sides of your face.
When eating, notice asymmetries in how you put food in your mouth and chew. These small habits like licking specific corners of your lips, preferences for different sides of your mouth, different surfaces on your tongue, etc., add up and allow canyons to form in the lines on your face. It is necessary to chew with a full stroke, symmetrically, and with alternating direction to activate the natural shedding of your pores.
Wash your face gently with a sponge and any ordinary facial cleanser, encouraging all of the pores on your face to open. Apply enough pressure that your fingers or sponge drag and gently stretch the pores, but not enough that you are scraping your face. Use circular motions out from the center of your face, with the grain of your pores. Chew in wide and alternating strokes while you wash to activate your pores.
If an un-covered blackhead is protruding from the surface of your skin, attempt to remove it by gently pulling the surrounding skin outward on opposite sides of the pore with a light, flat finger-touch. Gently oscillate each side up and down to encourage the plug to push itself out of the pore. If this motion, performed very gently, is not sufficient to remove the plug, assume your skin is not yet ready to release it.
Do not attempt to clear closed lesions, including covered blackheads, whiteheads, or red marks. These are indications that your immune system is already responding, and opening or squeezing these lesions will cause scabbing and slow down healing. Your skin naturally ejects foreign material in a very specific way, and it releases the surface layer of skin when it is ready. If you cannot remove a “plate” of skin with a gentle circular sponge stroke, assume the immune response is not yet complete.
When looking in the mirror, do some slight bookkeeping for where the cludgy pits in your face form due to smile lines, chewing, and asymmetry. Avoid washing or analyzing your skin for extended periods, and do not give yourself complexes about different parts of your face that you worry about throughout the day. Instead, collect actionable information about where your skin folds too much and how you can improve your facial posture to relieve it.