I most likely made a few unpleasant faces when I first came across the idea of face yoga.
They were probably similar to the ones I made when I heard about laughter yoga. I’m not sure when we decided to stick the word yoga behind everything and call it good. But maybe I’m just being a jerk about it. Summer heat can make one crotchety.
My first thoughts about yoga for your face: How could contorting our faces into weird shapes possibly be good? Logic tells me this might create more wrinkles upon our visage, something many of us do everything in our power to fight until death do us part.
Danielle Collins, who’s based in the United Kingdom, has taught her Face Yoga Method for 15 years. You can find her online at faceyogaexpert.com. While you’re there, you’ll no doubt notice she does have taut, gorgeous-looking skin. Of course, this could be the work of stealthy, under the cover of night Botox injections and fillers, but let’s give the benefit of the doubt, shall we?
In her bio, she mentions a study done by dermatologists at Northwestern University that concluded face yoga can make you look three years younger in 20 weeks. According to Collins, it can also help reduce lines and wrinkles, lift and firm, improve skin tone, reduce headaches and eye strain, and provide a healthy glow.
Who’s going to say no to that? I’m in.
I fired up “Face Yoga for Smoothing Frown Lines,” one of Collins’ many free YouTube videos. I’m open to anything that promises the disappearance of my archnemesis, those No. 11 lines battling for residence between my eyebrows. Six minutes later, I’m a face yoga devotee. OK, that’s an exaggeration, but I cannot lie, the exercises felt good. Soothing.
As we used our index fingers to massage little circles into the space between our brows, Collins talked about how massage can help produce more collagen and elastin in the skin and, therefore, less wrinkles. Then we tapped on the spot with the same finger. (Mmm, yes.) Then we put a fingertip on the inside corner of each eyebrow and pulled gently outward. (I like.) There were a few more exercises followed up with light tapping up and down our whole forehead with the four fingers on both hands. (Going to do this all day.)
Yes, I enjoyed my tiny taste of the method, but I have issues with the wording. I’m no yoga scholar, but face yoga really doesn’t have anything to do with traditional yoga. I’d feel more comfortable calling them facial exercises or facial massage after learning more about the techniques.
And my fear of birthing new wrinkles with all the facial expressions? Well, first of all, don’t fret. You’ll just scrunch up your face.
“Not if you do them in the correct way,” writes Collins. “All the techniques work the face and neck in a controlled way. When you go to a gym or to an exercise class and work the muscles in the body, you firm up the body and improve skin texture and tone. The same principle applies for the face and neck.”
There are 57 muscles in your face and neck, she says, and as they get worked and get stronger with exercise, they are lifted and firmed. The skin attached to the muscles is also lifted and tightened, which reduces lines and wrinkles.
And because those 57 muscles are much smaller than the other muscles in your body, it takes less time to increase in strength and tone. (There seemed no opportune moment to crack wise with Collins about the sad, long, lonely and seemingly fruitless journey to perk up the muscles in my derrière.)
But OK. I understand how building muscle in other parts of the body works. Perhaps the same principle can work for your face, too. I’m open to it. But I still don’t think it’s yoga.
And what happens if I do the exercises in the incorrect way? Do I automatically morph into a 95-year-old overnight? Not that there’s anything wrong with being 95 or having wrinkles, in general. I have a love/hate relationship with wrinkles. I love them on other people and hate them on me. And yes, I work every day to expand that love to include myself. But I do enjoy gazing upon a face for a good, long time (please tell me when it gets creepy), and noticing which wrinkles are where, how deep they are and how they smooth out or not.
Years ago I stumbled upon Jean Haner’s 2008 book “The Wisdom of Your Face.” She explores the 3,000-year-old practice of Chinese face reading, which she learned from her mother-in-law after marrying into a Chinese family. I know, it sounds a little mumbo jumbo-y, but I found it fascinating as I applied the information to the real faces I saw in the world, including my own.
I now think, whenever I see somebody who smiles and gets a million crinkles at the outer corner of their eyes, that this is a person who seeks and finds joy and laughter in their life. And when I see a photo of myself and curse the vague outlines of those No. 11s, I remind myself to relax, stop worrying, soften and smell the proverbial roses.
The etchings we create on our lives are, Haner argues, a blessing. Naturally, she’s not a fan of erasing lines, as many of them are hard-won and represent markers on your life path — victories achieved, losses grieved, lessons learned.
I wonder how she might feel about face yoga?
Collins recommends doing face yoga for 20 minutes a day, six days a week. That’s quite a commitment, but seems doable while you’re binging Netflix.
Or scrap it altogether and we’ll all work to embrace the faces we have and the lives that created them. I would love to gaze upon the lines Father Time has carved into your beautiful mug.
And I’ll let you have a peek at mine, too.
Contact the writer: 636-0270
Tighter face muscles, less wrinkles with face yoga