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Can face yoga exercises make you look younger?

Younger-looking skin in just minutes a day -- with no expensive creams or invasive procedures: That's the promise of Facial Yoga, a method of breathing and stretching exercises developed to rejuvenate and firm up facial muscle and tissue. But does it really work?

Facial yoga was developed by Annelise Hagen, a yoga instructor in New York City. "I started seeing signs of aging in myself in my mid-30s, and in a lot of my clients," says Hagen. "I had taken yoga classes where the face would be mentioned briefly by the instructor -- they'd remind you not to scowl or to relax your facial muscles during certain poses, for example -- but I wanted to go deeper and learn more about yoga's potential benefits."

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After much research, Hagen came up with a method involving several minutes a day of face, head, and neck exercises, along with breathing, stress-relief techniques, and traditional yoga postures. She began incorporating the moves into her classes and workshops, and soon she was teaching separate facial yoga sessions twice a week in New York City. In 2007, Hagen wrote a book on the subject, The Yoga Face: Eliminate Wrinkles With the Ultimate Natural Facelift.

There are several reasons why Facial Yoga works, says Hagen: First, regularly exercising the muscles in the face and neck can improve muscle tone, just as it can in other parts of the body. Second, stimulating muscles and nerves improves blood flow to the area, stimulating collagen production that keeps skin tight and less prone to wrinkles.

Another large part of Facial Yoga is helping to relieve tension from the areas we tend to squeeze and scrunch all day long -- like the forehead, eyebrows and around the jaws and mouth. "A lot of wrinkles are the result of the facial habits associated with emotions," she says, "so part of the training is to relax your face and clear your mind."

Doctors believe that some aspects of Facial Yoga -- specifically the relaxation parts -- can be helpful in staving off wrinkles. [Sources: Drosu] Most seem less certain about the effectiveness of exercises meant for toning and rejuvenation, however; in 2010, cosmetic surgeon Joseph Eviatar told CBS 2 New York that "this notion that you should exercise your facial muscles like you exercise the rest of your muscles for the gym is really not true."

Eviatar did said, however, that there's no harm in trying Facial Yoga -- as long as you don't go overboard and pull or strain your facial muscles too hard. So on that note, we asked Hagan for a few of her favorite anti-aging exercises to do at home.

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Three Simple Facial Yoga Exercises

While she doesn't have studies to back up her claims, Hagan says she's seen great improvement in the appearance of her clients who do regular Facial Yoga. Want to judge for yourself? Practice these exercises for five to 10 minutes a day for several weeks and see if they make a difference for you.

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Baby Bird: Tilt your head back slightly and point your chin upward toward the ceiling. Touch the tip of your tongue to the roof of your mouth, smile, and swallow. Try this several times centered and several times each with your head tilted slightly left and slightly right. This will tone the muscles under your chin and jaw that tend to sag with age.

Smiling Buddha Face: Look at yourself in the mirror and watch yourself smile: Do you notice a contraction in your forehead? This can contribute to crow's feet and wrinkles. For several minutes, practice smiling gently while keeping your forehead smooth. If you can train yourself to find a neutral smile with a smooth forehead, this can serve as a "reboot" throughout the day when you feel tension coming on.

Satchmo: Take a deep breath in through your nose and hold it in, letting the air fill your cheeks. Slowly puff the air from side to side, letting one cheek puff out and then the other, until you run out of air; then slowly exhale. This move keeps your buccinators, or cheek muscles, strong and full, helping to maintain a youthful, round appearance.

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Sources:

  • CBS 2 New York. "Facial yoga a Growing Anti-Aging Trend." December 2, 2010. (March 31, 2012) http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2010/12/02/facial-yoga-a-growing-anti-aging-trend/
  • Drosu, Alexandra. "Can Yoga Save Face?" Los Angeles Times. November 9, 2008. (March 29, 2013) http://articles.latimes.com/2008/nov/09/image/ig-beauty9
  • Golodryga, Briana and Singh, Natasha. "Face Yoga Is the New, Natural Anti-Aging Trend." ABC News. November 2, 2012. (March 23, 2013) http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/lifestyle/2012/11/face-yoga-is-the-new-natural-anti-aging-trend/
  • Hagen, Annelise. Personal interview. March 21, 2013.
  • Hagen, Annelise. "The Yoga Face." Avery Press, 2007.

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