We know to pay attention to our diet to promote skin health and we exercise our legs and arms, paying attention to our breathing and core strength. We pay special attention to our brain in meditation. Yoga classes often include mudras for the hands and flexibility exercises for the feet, but we often neglect our face.
Habitual expressions can increase the intensity of wrinkles and lack of circulation causes dryness, oiliness and that faded, dull look. Your face needs love too, not just covering with sunscreen or makeup and being critically appraised all the time! Too often we look at ourselves in the mirror and only see the bad things (wrinkles, spots, bags under eyes and hairs where we don’t want them!).
Children love ‘pulling faces’ but as we grow we’re told not to do this; it’s undignified and looks silly. However FACES also make us laugh! Not a bad way to start the day, loving your face and having a good laugh at yourself. You can do these ‘face asanas’ looking in the mirror, or for mare laughs, with a partner. I’ve done them in the car, driving to work (some strange stares from fellow motorists). Many of them are part of yoga asanas or mudras so are genuine yoga techniques. The practices described here are my own tried and true adaptations of face poses and can be done with or without the sound effects. The breathing is however very important, so please pay attention to the in and out breath instructions. Feel free to adapt these Faces for your own use. Comments welcome!
When learning these poses, first stand calmly in front of a mirror, close your eyes and breathe deeply for 3 breaths and feel yourself centred and focussed. Try to release any tension in the neck and shoulders (shrug), then open your eyes, say hello to your image and tell yourself how beautiful you are right now. Notice your good points and smile!
Part 1: Vowel sounds
A. Breath in and as you breath out open your mouth and eyes as wide as possible, with your tongue just behind your bottom teeth. Pull every part of your face away from your mouth saying AAAAh. Relax the face and then repeat at least 3 times.
E. Breath in and as you breath out clench your teeth and turn your mouth down towards your chin, look down. This pulls your neck muscle in tight. Say EEEEh. Relax the face and then repeat at least 3 times.
I. Breath in and as you breath out clench your teeth and turn your mouth up in a fake smile, look up. This also pulls your neck muscles in tight. Say IIIIIh. Relax the face and then repeat at least 3 times.
O. Breath in and as you breath out open your mouth making a round O, with eyes as wide as possible, and your tongue well back in your mouth. Say OOOOh as you breathe out. Relax the face and then repeat at least 3 times.
U. Breath in and as you breath out, pucker your lips tightly, leaving a small hole as though you were about to whistle. Eyes are focussed on the end of your nose (you are slightly cross eyed). Say UUUUh. Relax the face and then repeat at least 3 times.
Part 2. Tongue and cheek movements
Cheeks pulled in. As a variation on the UU above, suck your cheeks in hard and hold for 10-20 seconds. Take your right hand out in front of your face and look intensely at your index finger as you bring it up to your nose. This will help you cross your eyes (don’t do this if it causes pain, or if you have serious eye conditions such as glaucoma). This movement, with cheeks sucked in and nose tip gazing, is known as Kaki Mudra (The crow’s break).
Cheeks puffed out. Puff out your cheeks with air, feeling as though your mouth is full of water and purse your lips as tightly as you possibly can.
Now move the air up and down from under your nose to under your bottom lip. Your nose will wiggle up and down as you continue to do this.
Then move the air from left cheek to right cheek and back again. Your nose wiggles from side to side. Breathe normally but pause if necessary to laugh at yourself twitching your nose like a rabbit! Repeat three times.
Tongue twisters. Breathe in and as you breathe out open your mouth and eyes as wide and poke your tongue out as far as possible. Pull every part of your face away from your mouth saying AAAAh. Relax the face and then repeat at least 3 times.
Breath in and as you breath out roll your tongue (if you can) and poke it out as far as possible. Look down. Take 3-4 breaths in and out then relax the face and repeat. Notice how cooling this breath is.
Breathe in and with your mouth closed roll your tongue as for back in your mouth as possible. Hold the tongue back, pressed in the roof of the mouth, and breathe normally. Note how the airflow at the back of the throat has opened up. This a good exercise for clearing throat and sinuses of congestion.
Part 3. Massage.
Ideally the above exercises (which take 5-10 minutes depending on the number of repetitions) should be followed by a face massage. The basic treatment can be done in 5 minutes and really consolidates the benefits of the exercises. Use a relatively light-weight moisturiser that flows well and initially spread this smoothly over the face and neck
1. With the back of your hands, firmly brush your neck from the throat to the jaw line. Use quick vigorous strokes.
2. With 2 fingers, draw circles on your chin, circling right then left.
3. With both hands, use your fingers to draw firm circles on your cheeks, circling from beside the nose outwards toward the ears
4. Gently smooth the skin of your eyelids, working from the nose towards the ears.
5. With both hands, use your fingers to draw firm circles on your forehead, circling from the eyebrow centre outwards toward the ears
6. With both hands, use your fingers to draw small firm circles in front of your ears, working down to your jaw-line then back up to your temples.
7. Place your hands firmly on the top of your head and move your scalp over the skull. Move your hands to the back of your head and repeat.
To end the practice, again close your eyes and breathe deeply for 3 breaths then open your eyes. Place your hands in prayer pose and say Namaste (to salute the divine spirit within you) to your mirror image. Notice the glow of your face and smile!