If you think “face yoga” sounds like a fantasy, it’s time to face reality: Exercising specific muscles of the face on a regular basis is not only a smart part of a healthy and mindful lifestyle, it can tone your skin and even keep annoying wrinkles at bay, some proponents say. They also believe you’ll feel and look more refreshed and confident, no surgery required.
It’s relatively easy to learn how to do yoga exercises for the face and neck. Along with eating well and getting enough sleep, these steps can make a big difference in one’s appearance. Still not convinced? Even Meghan Markle has revealed she’s a big fan of face yoga and swears it works, “as silly as you may feel” while doing it, as she said a few years ago in an interview.
But who cares about “silly” if you look and feel better afterward? “I knew that exercise could positively change the facial appearance because the muscles of the face work like the muscles of the body, and respond to resistance and contraction,” says Annelise Hagen, founder and CEO of The Yoga Face.
Not only can exercise help the skin look healthier and more toned, Hagen says that the vast majority of us, no matter how old we are, can benefit from facial and neck revitalization stretches and movements. “Muscles respond to exercise at any age,” she notes.
And with many of us on our devices for the bulk of each day, we need to know how to stretch and maintain good posture that begins, literally, at the top of our bodies. Hagen calls face yoga a “a skill set for life. And just think—it might mean you won’t need injections or fillers as you age.”
What is face yoga?
Face yoga is a series of specific exercises for the face that are done on a regular basis. Many women report looking years younger than their biological age after incorporating the stretches and movements into their days. “It’s the practice of toning the muscles of our face—and we have more than 40 of them!—to create a desired look,” says Fumiko Takatsu, an internationally known anti-aging expert who created The Face Yoga Method.
Takatsu’s holistic approach uses carefully developed facial exercises “that are designed to replace cosmetic procedures 100 percent naturally,” she says. “By toning the muscles beneath our skin surface, we can effectively reduce wrinkles, eye bags, asymmetry issues, double chin, turkey neck, and so much more.”
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But is face yoga backed by science? Actually, yes, there is some evidence it can work. A study from the Northwestern University School of Medicine in 2018, for example, found that 30 minutes of daily facial exercise improved the appearance of middle-aged women across 20 weeks, giving them noticeably fuller upper and lower cheeks.
“There is some evidence that facial exercises may improve facial appearance and reduce some visible signs of aging,” said lead author Dr. Murad Alam, vice chair and professor of dermatology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine when the study came out. “Assuming the findings are confirmed in a larger study, individuals have a low-cost, non-toxic way for looking younger or to augment other cosmetic or anti-aging treatments they may be seeking.”
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Hagen adds that we now have a body of work behind us about face yoga. “We have proof, we have documentation, and we have medical studies.”
The popularity of face yoga might be due, in part, to “a backlash that is going on against a fake look” that injections, fillers, and other artificial fixes can create, she adds, especially if such measures are overused. Women want to look younger and naturally healthy without pricey upkeep or procedures.
“As we age, the skin and muscles on our face and neck naturally loosen due to our habits, loss of collagen, nutrition factors, and other aging issues,” adds Takatsu. “Face yoga works by toning the muscles in our face and neck and improving blood flow and circulation. This results in healthier, glowing skin, and can help us look years younger.”
She says that many women also see “results beyond the physical. Practicing face yoga encourages women to regain their confidence and embrace the aging process.”
How to do face yoga
If you’re not already practicing face yoga techniques, you can start doing so immediately. For best results, set aside some regular time a few times a week to practice facial rejuvenation exercises, the experts advise. Specific exercises are designed solely for the forehead, the brow and eye area, the nose area, the mouth, the cheekbones, the chin area, the neck, and more. In many cases, you hold each facial pose for several seconds or longer, as you would in body yoga.
Most face yoga experts have an array of favorite exercises and routines. Whichever exercises you choose to do, it’w best to begin with fresh, clean skin, with little or no makeup on (but do apply some good moisturizer). Tie your hair back, have a mirror handy to ensure consistency in your exercises, and find a quiet place to practice.
If you do not have much time and just want the basics, Hagen offers a video primer that takes you through the essence of a face yoga workout. “You can do a quickie session”—like the one shown in the video below—“for 10 minutes daily and see great results,” says Hagen. “You can also do longer ones of about an hour a session for more thoroughness.”
And yes, be warned—some of the poses do indeed look “silly”!
Ideally, Hagen says, a face yoga session should last about 20 minutes.
For anyone who might be dubious, Hagen suggests, “Try it and see what happens! I guarantee you that if you do this for a week, you will be a believer. And document your progress. Take pictures daily of your face, in the same light and at the same time of day. I will be shocked if you don’t look better.”
After nearly two decades of teaching her method, Takatsu recommends that for optimal results, people practice face yoga exercises in “sets of three, a few times a day, for a total of 20 minutes.”
“Even doing face yoga just a few times a week will yield results, since we are working with very small muscles,” she adds.
As with any exercise, “consistency is key,” she adds. “Many dedicated practitioners may see results even after a few days.”
All exercises aren’t perfect for everyone, of course, so all those interested in face yoga should proceed responsibly. And the beautiful truth is there are many exercises to choose from—and tons of videos to watch for guidance and inspiration.
Check out this video from Fumiko Takatsu featuring five great face poses:
Next, read up on how to deal with dry, itchy skin this winter.