Acne is a common skin condition characterized by pimples, mostly on the face, upper chest, shoulders, and back. It occurs in adolescence around puberty when the body starts secreting the sex hormones. It is caused by an interaction between hormones, skin oils and bacteria that result in inflammation of hair follicles leading to black heads or cysts that may go on to form abscesses that are pus-filled pockets.
Sebaceous glands, which secrete an oily substance called sebum, lie in the middle layer of skin (dermis) and are attached to the hair follicles. The Sebum that provides the healthy protective coating and luster to the skin reaches the surface through the pores in the skin. The secretions by these glands as well as the sweat glands that produce the watery sweat are in dynamic balance. This responds to both environmental changes (outside) and mood changes (inside). Acne is caused by excessive production of sebum that commonly happens due to the hormonal changes of puberty. Our mind controls the function of these glands through the messages that reach the skin via the nervous system and also through several chemical messengers of the immune system (called cytokines). The internal violence produced by the uncontrolled emotional surges that go with adolescence release abnormal amounts of these messengers that suppress the immune system. This results in a collection of dried sebum that blocks the free flow of the same and promotes overgrowth of the bacteria; Propionibacterium acnes, which are normally present in the hair follicle. These bacteria break down the sebum into substances that irritate the skin. The resulting inflammation and infection produce the skin eruptions that are commonly known as acne pimples. If the infection worsens, an abscess may form, which may rupture into the skin, creating even more inflammation. The situation becomes worse with depression and the anger that follows when the person starts worrying about the facial appearance . Several types of lesions can occur in acne. Whiteheads and red papules are non painful rashes that are elevated above the surface of the skin that heal quickly leaving no scar if they are not handled and squeezed. Blackheads occur when a pore is only partially blocked, allowing some of the trapped sebum to slowly drain to the surface. The black color is not caused by dirt; it is a reaction of the skin's own pigment, melanin, reacting with the oxygen in the air. Pustules are painful rashes with a red circle and a white or yellow center. These are the once that can leave a scar when they heal.
Yoga can be of great help to people who suffer from problems of acne. It is important to avoid constipation by a healthy vegetarian Satvic diet. Reduce the use of heavy spices such as Chillis, onion and garlic and increase the use of healthy spices such as turmeric, Jira and coriander. Use Tulsi tea and apply Neem leaf paste (Neem based creams) to the face. Avoid non-veg, fried food, milk products and chocolate. Cleansing techniques such as kapalabhati several times in the day and practice of Neti Dhouti once a week are very useful. One hour of daily session of yoga should include dynamic Suryanamaskaras(12rounds), Pavanamuktasana, standing forward bending postures(Trikonasana, Parivritta Triknasana, Prasarita Padahastasana, Ardhacakrasana) and inverted postures (Viparitakarani, Sarvangasana, Matsyasana, Halasana and Sirsasana) followed by ten minutes of deep relaxation in supine posture. These help in better circulation of blood to the upper part of the body and promotes free flow of the sebum and prevents the clogging of the pores.
Pranayama(Chandranuloma Viloma 12 rounds four times a day, Nadisuddhi 12 rounds four times a day, Shitali, Seetkari and Bhramari), OM meditation (including Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi components as described in our publication “yoga for positive health”) are essential components of the daily practice to help unwind the stresses and get better mastery over the violent surges of emotions. Understanding the concepts of karma yoga and bhakti yoga helps one to move towards a balanced functioning of the mind which reflects in healthy harmonious production of the chemicals that is at the root cause of acne.
PADMA MATSYASANA – Fish in Lotus
Starting Position: Supine posture
- Lie on the back. The legs are straight; the arms are beside the body. With the help of the elbows raise the chest far enough from the floor so that the top of the head rests on the floor.
- Place the left foot on the right thigh close to the hip joint and similarly the right foot on the left thigh. Hold the feet firmly with the hands.
- Inhale deeply through the nose and slowly exhale through the mouth.
- Remain one minute in the position. Slowly return to the straight position.
Has a very relaxing and balancing effect upon body and mind. Especially beneficial for relaxing the supine, hips and knees. Relaxes the digestive system and deepens the breath and promotes concentration.