Can Yoga Help My Psoriasis?

Medically reviewed by Peggy Pletcher, MS, RD, LD, CDE on November 18, 2015Written by Anna Schaefer on November 18, 2015
Yoga and psoriasis

If there was a cure-all for numerous chronic diseases and acute conditions, it might be stress relief. Stress is a known risk factor or trigger for many illnesses, and psoriasis is no different. Stress can cause psoriasis flare-ups, and psoriasis flare-ups can cause stress. But rather than getting caught up in this vicious cycle, you could find relief for both aspects — the stress and the skin disease — through the practice of yoga.

The Stress-Psoriasis Connection

When you think of psoriasis, you might think of the scaly, painful patches it causes. You probably don’t think of stress. But it’s a well-known fact that managing stress plays an important role in managing this skin condition.

Psoriasis is more than a skin condition. It’s an autoimmune disease that causes the body to attack healthy skin cells. This immune response results in the proliferation of skin and blood cells, leading to raised patches. Though there is no cure for psoriasis, understanding how to best control flare-ups can help you manage the condition better and reduce the pain associated with it.

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Stress is a normal part of life, with real physical ramifications. Your body responds to stress in a number of ways, including increasing inflammation. This inflammation can seriously aggravate your psoriasis, causing a flare-up or worsening one already in progress.

And psoriasis flare-ups can trigger stress. It’s common for people living with psoriasis to suffer from mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and even suicidal thoughts. This can worsen the psoriasis and even impact how a person responds to treatment.

Where Yoga Comes In

There are many ways to reduce stress and the impact it has on your psoriasis. One of these is yoga. Research shows that yoga reduces the body’s stress response, which in turn reduces inflammation — the very thing that can cause a psoriasis flare-up.

Analyzing inflammation-associated markers in the blood, researchers compared a group of Alzheimer’s caregivers who participated in 12-minute yoga sessions with those who simply relaxed to soothing music for 12 minutes. These relaxing sessions were repeated daily for eight weeks. At the end of the study period, those who practiced yoga had reduced inflammation markers.

But you don’t need a scientific study to show that yoga reduces stress. Ask around. In a survey of nearly 4,000 people, Australian researchers found that more than 58 percent of yoga practitioners started yoga for stress-reducing benefits, and nearly 80 percent continued in their yoga practice for this benefit.

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Using Yoga for Psoriasis

Yoga can be a stress buster through:

  • physical exertion
  • deep breathing
  • meditative reflection

Read on to learn how to do three beginner poses.

1. Deep Breathing

  1. If you’re new to yoga, deep breathing practices are a good place to start. Being conscious of your breath is where most meditative practices begin. To try it, find a quiet place where you can practice uninterrupted.
  2. Sit on the floor in a comfortable, upright posture.
  3. Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose, filling your lungs with fresh air for a count of five.
  4. Hold the breath for a few seconds, before exhaling slowly.
  5. Repeat for 10 to 15 minutes.

2. Child’s Pose

Child’s Pose is one of the most common yoga poses, and it’s very easy to do. Relaxation is the goal of this pose.

Image source: Photos by Andrew Warner Photography | Model is Amy Crandall

  1. Kneel on the floor, with your knees about hip distance apart and your big toes touching. Relax your hips and allowing them to sink as close to the ground so that you are sitting on your heels, or as far down as is comfortably possible.
  2. Stretch your hands overhead and slowly lean forward.
  3. Come to rest with your face towards the floor and your arms stretched out in front of you.
  4. Relax. You can move your arms to lie loosely at your sides if it is more comfortable.

3. Salutation Seal

The salutation seal focuses on relaxation and meditation. You can use it in conjunction with your deep breathing exercises.

  1. Sit cross-legged on the floor.
  2. Bring your hands into a prayer position.
  3. Breathe deeply and sit tall, imagining your spine creating a line reaching deep into the ground and straight into the sky.

Check out even more beginner poses here.

The Takeaway

There are many yoga poses that are good for stress relief. These are only the foundation and a good place to start. Remember, the goal of yoga in treating psoriasis is stress reduction, so relax, breathe, and enjoy the quiet time.

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