When a yoga instructor asks you to set an intention for your practice, do you ever think: “To get rid of this huge pimple on my face”?
I’m not going to lie—I’ve jokingly wished for that (along with more serious things, of course). But little did I realize that it’s not such a crazy idea. According to the ancient Indian healing tradition of Ayurveda, certain yoga poses actually are believed to fight acne.
There are several reasons why yoga is so closely linked with the skin in Ayurvedic custom, says Shrankhla Holecek, founder of Ayurvedic beauty brand Uma. For one thing, breathing techniques, like the ones you do in yoga class, are major stress busters—and we all know how stress impacts the complexion.
“Pranayama—a breathing meditation within yoga—can be deeply balancing to the mind and body, alleviating the stressors that cause acne,” says Holecek. (In fact, she adds, breath work is often the first thing an Ayurvedic doctor will recommend if you’re struggling with acne.)
The movement side of yoga also affects skin. Take sun salutations, for example: Though we often think of them as energy-boosters, in Ayurveda they’re so much more than that. “Sun and moon salutations can expedite the body’s detox processes, helping rid you of acne-causing toxins,” says Holecek.
It stands to reason, then, that other poses could also play a role in fighting pimples. After all, Holecek says, “Acne is considered to be an imbalance, and generally, yoga practices are all about bringing you back to balance.”
As is always the case within Ayurveda, the right yoga prescription for you varies depending on your predominant dosha, or mind-body constitution. (If you don’t already know yours, take this quiz.) I know it sounds a little out-there, but even if you’re skeptical, know this: Getting more yoga in your life is never a bad thing.
Keep reading for the yoga poses you should practice to get rid of your acne, according to an Ayurvedic expert.
Pitta: Red, angry pimples
“Pitta-type acne is often triggered by emotional imbalances such as stress or anger,” says Holecek. This dosha is especially prone to “fiery” emotions, which lead to imbalance overall.
To soothe your emotions: “Poses like hidden lotus (above) and fish (top) have a deeply calming effect on [emotions], alleviating acne triggers,” says Holecek.
To relax the mind and body: There’s a reason why your yoga instructor saves shoulder stand (above) and half-wheel (also known as bridge pose) for the end of class—they put you in a totally Zen state. “These are excellent circulation boosting poses, but double in their efficacy for pitta types because of their deeply relaxing nature on the mind and body,” explains Holecek.
Vata: Whiteheads, blackheads, and milia
When airy vata types experience an imbalance, it can often result in digestive issues—and, according to Holecek, this can lead to fermentation in the gut and toxin buildup.
To amp up your digestion: “Poses like lotus (above) are excellent in aiding digestion,” says Holecek, who claims that this will lead to better toxin elimination and nutrient absorption.
To reduce constipation: “Headstand, backward bends (above), and plough (top) further alleviate constipation—a common problem with vata types—and boost circulation to the face, delivering vital nutrients for resolving acne,” Holecek says.
To bring circulation to your face: “Cobra (above) and locust poses deliver the unexpected benefit of stimulating facial and neck muscle, which aids in detox and cellular turnover,” explains Holecek. (A welcome bonus, if your gut issues are showing up on your skin.)
Kapha: Deep-rooted acne
Many skin-care experts will tell you that cystic acne is related to off-kilter hormones, and Holecek is one of them. She adds that this kind of imbalance is connected to the kapha dosha, which tends towards stagnation.
To help regulate hormones: “Poses like lion (above) and boat (top) can have a stimulating effect on glands, which is especially beneficial for kapha acne,” says Holecek.
To detox: “Kapha-type acne finds great relief with a good detox, and spinal twists (above) are excellent for that,” Holecek notes.
To improve circulation: “Half wheel [or bridge pose] (above) helps boost circulation and furthers detox, which is good for healing acne,” says Holecek.
If you want to keep fighting breakouts after savasana, check out our guide to facial oils that target acne. Then figure out how to use stress to your advantage (rather than as a pimple stimulator) with these six mindset resets.