More than a decade ago, I was sitting around the table with the siblings of my boyfriend at the time when the teasing began. They knew I practiced Yoga regularly, so his sister shared her wild idea: Face Yoga.
As everyone laughed, she contorted her face into funny shapes.
She pursed her lips and sucked in her cheeks. She raised her eyebrows and jutted her eyeballs from side to side. She opened her mouth, stuck out her tongue, and crossed her eyes.
“Your face is going to stick like that!” we all screamed, remembering the old parental adage.
Well, her face didn’t stick like that.
And now, Yoga teachers are integrating a version of her silly idea into serious classes all over the globe.
Known simply as “Face Yoga,” these facial exercises and self-massage techniques are designed to relax and tone the important muscles and fascia we often take for granted until it’s too late.
It’s easy to include Face Yoga “poses” in a traditional class, as well as practice them throughout the day.
There’s even plenty of scientific research that supports the benefits of these exercises. Plus yoga insurance to cover this growing popular style.
Why Face Yoga?
Wrinkles are caused by many factors, including exposure to the UV rays of the sun, smoking, and the natural aging process.
But we also start seeing the fine — and not so fine — lines with repeated facial expressions. I’ve dubbed my least favorite the “mom brow.”
This is the overuse of the frontalis muscle in between the eyebrows that manifests as an expression of worry, seriousness, or stress. It could also be called “bouncer brow,” except I’m around more mothers than I’m in bars.
All I know is I don’t want it.
And for good reason: A 2020 study showed that our facial expressions affect our success in exercise and elsewhere.
For example, if your face shows pain and misery when in Eka Pada Rajakapotasana or Kumbhakasana, the pose will feel infinitely more difficult. Face Yoga helps you to become aware of these expressions and unlink your facial muscles from unconscious and unnecessary strain.
By training your facial muscles, you’re able to put more energy into the task at hand — be it mastering a challenging Yoga pose or wrangling your kids. But there’s another, more selfish reason to try Face Yoga.
A 2018 study found that facial exercises can contribute to facial rejuvenation. You’ll look younger and feel more relaxed.
3 Examples of Face Yoga Poses
There isn’t a set routine or sequence for Face Yoga.
Instead, yogis are encouraged to create their own set of “poses” to address specific problems, such as frown lines, crow’s feet, or that deep line that forms between the brow from too much worry.
Some exercises that are easy to integrate into a yoga class include:
Eye Circles and Massage
While seated comfortably, actively relax your facial muscles.
Keep your face and neck centered while you stretch your eyes and look toward the sky.
Then, rotate your eyeballs clockwise to stretch your vision periphery.
After three rotations, change direction.
Close your eyes.
Bring your palms together and rub vigorously before placing your warmed palms on your eyes. Then, bring your middle finger to the inside corners of your eyebrow and press upward.
This alleviates nasal pressure and naturally relaxes the brow.
Tap your finger along your brow toward your temples, lingering there before taping the bottom of your eye socket.
Make a few rotations before lowering your hands, closing your eyes, and breathing.
Lion’s Pose and Neck Massage
Kneeling (or seated cross-legged if that is uncomfortable), extend your arms toward your knees as you lean your body forward.
Inhale through your nose, then open your mouth and stretch your tongue outward toward your chin.
At the same time, center your gaze toward your third eye and exhale strongly through your mouth, making an elongated “ha” sound.
Once the breath is complete, return your face to a relaxed position.
After practicing Lion’s pose for three rounds, bring your fingertips to your jawline.
With gentle pressure, massage the lymph nodes in your neck downward toward your collarbone. Repeat three times.
With your mouth closed, stick your tongue into the right side of your inner cheek to create a bump on the side of your mouth.
Rotate your tongue to provide an inner-cheek massage for 10 seconds. Switch sides and repeat.
Next, open your mouth and stick your tongue out to the right as far as you can.
Look to the right and hold for five breaths.
Switch sides and repeat.
To intensify the exercise, extend your right fingertips toward the ground and reach your left arm over your head to grasp just above the right ear.
Use gentle pressure to stretch the right side of the neck while also looking to the right and sticking your tongue out to the right.
Release and repeat on the left side.
Tips for Teaching Face Yoga
Stretching and contorting the facial muscles is something that can be done by every Yoga student, from beginners to teachers. But that doesn’t mean it will come naturally.
Some people have spent years (even a lifetime!) unconsciously holding tension in their face.
It will take time for them to retrain the muscles and fascia. Keep the expectations of your students realistic.
There’s a lot of talk of “non-surgical facelifts” that come from Face Yoga, but that motivation is akin to going to class only for a “Yoga booty.”
It may be a good way to market to newcomers, but with practice, they’ll discover this is just another way of creating the mind-body connection.
Encourage your students to become aware of the facial expressions they make both in class and out of class.
The more aware they are of the frowns, furrowed brows, squinting, and unintended looks of disgust, the more they’ll also be aware of their underlying emotions.
By working to control their facial expressions, your students can discover a deeper ability to identify and overcome uncomfortable emotions. That way, when a boyfriend’s siblings start teasing you about Yoga, you can show a big, toothy smile — or stick out your tongue!