Breathing Exercises

Emblem for Skin Support Module - Breathing Exercises for Skin Health

Executive Summary

Regular practice of controlled breathing exercises has been shown improve mental stability, immune function and hormone production; all of which can lead to healthier sebum production and reduced skin sensitivity.


Even though breathing is an essential part of life, many underestimate it’s role in both psychological (mind) and physiological (body) regulation.

Breathing exercises have been practiced in many cultures and by many religions throughout history. The belief was that these simple exercises can clear the mind, balance the body and help refocus our thoughts.

There are lot of breathing exercises that exist today, most of which have studies that document their effectiveness and potential.

A few prominent examples include:

  • Transcendental Meditation – an Indian meditation practice centered around breathing [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]
  • Relaxation Response – a more modern variant [7, 8, 9, 10, 11]
  • Sudarshan Kriya Yoga – another popular Indian breathing exercise [12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17]
  • Shaolin Dan Tian Breathing – Chinese breathing exercise [18]

Some are more popular then others, but this doesn’t necessarily mean they are better. It just means they have more individuals that practice them throughout the world.

Many of them are centered around meditation and contain religious components, but this isn’t always the case.

The truth is, many of these practices are quite similar. At their core, they utilize controlled breathing and four basic elements [19]:

  • Relaxed muscles
  • Complete focus on the technique
  • Quite environment
  • Mental repetition

Nonetheless, the impact of breathing exercise on skin conditions (such as seborrheic dermatitis) has not been established.

What has been documented, is that skin conditions can:

  • Be aggravated by stress [20, 21]
  • Cause social stigma which itself leads to stress, anxiety and depression [22]
  • Result from self-inflicted damage (scratching, picking) [23]

As a result, using breathing exercises to reduce stress, improving immune function and become more comfortable with or skin is likely of benefit. And since these exercise are absolutely free, easy to practice and the potential benefits are impressive, why not adopt them to improve are state of being and use them to overcome life’s challenges.

Documented Benefits

This includes beneficial effects on:

  • Immune function and stability [24]
  • Autonomic nervous system imbalances [25]
  • Psychological disorders, stress, anxiety and depression [26, 27]
  • Oxidative stress [28]
  • Hormone regulation/production [29]

Why It’s Important for Inflammatory Skin Disease

Characteristics most important for individuals affected by inflammatory skin disorders:

  • Reduced stress levels
  • Improved hormone production
  • Healthier immune system function

Expected improvements:

  • Improved sebum composition and barrier function
  • Reduce skin sensitivity

Ideas for Integrations

  • Finding a breathing exercise that suites your own personal preferences should always take priority.
  • Many of the breathing exercises list earlier can be quite complex and daunting. To overcome this barrier to entry, it may make sense to start slow and incorporate a basic exercise to begin with.

Here is a simple breathing exercise to help you get started:

  1. Find a quite space with access to fresh air
  2. Close eyes and position hands on diaphragm
  3. You can sit or stand, but make sure you have good posture
  4. Inhale through your nose for 4 seconds
  5. Exhale for 6 second through either your mouth or nose
  6. Repeat for a predetermined duration

As you get more comfortable with this approach, feel free to customize it to your liking and preference.

Additional Notes:

  • Best performed morning and evening
  • Set yourself a goal of at-least 5 minutes
  • Count your breathing to keep your mind clear of distraction
  • Short controlled breathing sessions can potentially be used throughout the day to quickly regain focus and fight off bouts of stress
  • Any breathing exercise can be customized based on your own requirements and comfort level
  • For additional inspiration you could replace the counting in any breathing exercise with your own mantra or phrase
  • Work your way up to more advanced breathing exercises for a sense of progress and accomplishment

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