What Is Face Yoga?

woman's face close upFC asks: “Do you know anything about face yoga?”

Face yoga is a new invention no doubt inspired by a combination of our country’s fixation on yoga and our rapidly aging population. From what I have found, there is little or no connection to the Hindu practice of yoga for most of these exercises with the exception of the “lion face” which is derived from the yoga lion pose.

According to one of the alleged inventors, Annelise Hagen, a New York yoga instructor who appeared on Good Morning America (GMA), facial yoga is designed to be “a natural, non-invasive alternative to Botox, fillers and plastic surgery” and consists of a series of facial exercises designed to tighten the muscles of the face. 

Hagen is the author of the bestselling Yoga Face and claims to be “deeply interested in the connection between the spirit and the body, especially with regard to fertility, aging, and beauty.” She calls Yoga Face the “ultimate facelift” and says the exercises tone and lift the muscles of the face.

In order to accomplish this, Hagen recommends daily practice of the “fish face” which firms the cheeks and lips; the “bumblebee” which affects the cheeks, lips and jaw; the “satchmo” which targets the cheeks; and the “lion face” which supposedly stretches all the facial muscles and releases tension.

“It’s been scientifically proven that the muscular activity helps to prolong the production of collagen and elastin, which makes your face firm and springy,” Hagen claims.

GMA managed to find a doctor who (sort of) supported her claims. Dr. Neil Sadick, a dermatologist popular with the stars of The Real Housewives of New York, says face yoga promotes collagen stimulation.

“Although there’s not great science around it compared to other technologies like chemical peels or Botox, we know that by stimulating any component of your face like your muscles you’re going to have a beneficial effect in terms of your overall appearance,” Sadick says.

In other words, it doesn’t have to be “Yoga Face” – it can be any kind of stimulation for your facial muscles, including massage.

But there are plenty of dermatologists who don’t agree.

Dr. Francis Papay, Chairman of the Dermatology and Plastic Surgery Institute at the Cleveland Clinic, told the LA Times in 2011 that there have never been any studies showing that facial exercises work.

He also argues that the premise behind the exercises is fundamentally flawed because heavily used facial muscles are the cause of wrinkles, not the remedy.

As an example, he refers to people who have suffered a stroke that left half of their face paralyzed. Over time, it becomes clear that the paralyzed side becomes smoother and less wrinkled than the active side. In fact, Botox injections actually mimic this reaction by paralyzing the muscles that cause wrinkles.

So exercising the face could have the exact opposite effect, he say, and claims that the only exercises that work are those that tone the muscles of the neck.

But that doesn’t stop other so-called “face yoga” founders from hawking their wares, including Fumiko Takatsu, creator of the Face Yoga Method, who offers a $120 course on the practice.

Danielle Collins is the founder of the Danielle Collins Face Yoga Method which includes derivatives of several animal yoga poses such as the Owl and the Giraffe.

An International facial yoga expert named Ruchika Sharma, aka Mrs. South Asia International, earned a spot in the Guiness Book of World Records last year for hosting the largest face yoga gathering in history.

Although many of these programs are using the name “yoga” in order to appeal to our yoga-crazy market, only some are actually using poses associated with the Hindu practice.

Because the majority of dermatologists believe these exercises may actually exacerbate rather than improve aging skin, we recommend sticking to neck toning exercises. A Google search of “neck toning exercises” turned up nearly a half million hits. Simply avoid those that claim to be “yoga”.


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