Yoga Facelift

Brighten Eyes And Smiles With These Simple Facial Exercises

By Marie-Véronique Nadeau

Originally published in ASCP's Skin Deep, August/September 2007.

As Baby Boomers are turning fifty at the rate of one every nine seconds, many are finding yoga a refreshing form of exercise that replaces joint-jarring activities like running and extreme sports. What could be more natural than incorporating yoga’s gentle ways into a facial fitness program? The Yoga Facelift gives you more tools to enhance the professional work you are already performing on clients.

While the face may get a workout during the day, most of the movements include scrunching up your face—something called dynamic wrinkling. This is evident in many people with furrows between the eyebrows that bespeak years of scowling. The corrugator muscles that pull eyebrows together are very powerful, which explains why many people are turning to Botox to relax that part of the face.

The Yoga Facelift program offers a different perspective on exercise—the no-pain, no-gain rule does not apply here. The first lesson of Yoga Facelift is awareness of how tension is stored in the face, and how it may convey messages to the world that aren’t intended. The Yoga Facelift helps connect your inner and outer worlds in such a way that a more serene face is truly a reflection of what lies within. Try these exercises for more sparkling eyes and smiles.

Scowl-Line Banisher. Frown in front of a mirror to see the scowl lines between your eyebrows. The muscles pulling your eyebrows together are the corrugator muscles. A) Place your forefingers at the inner edges of your eyebrows. Pull your fingers gently apart to smooth out the lines. As you hold your fingertips in place, try to pull your brows together, but not so hard you make the line appear (check your mirror). You are working the muscles around the line. Hold for a count of ten. B) Now move your fingers apart so they rest in the middle of your forehead (see below), approximately above the arch of each eyebrow. Contract your corrugators outward toward your fingers and your temples—counteracting the pulling-in movement with a pulling-out movement. Feel the vertical line being smoothed away. Repeat A) and B).

Lower Eye. This exercise tones the Orbicularis

oculi (the muscle that surrounds your eye), which will help smooth out crow’s feet. Make Vs with the first two fingers of both hands. Place a fingertip at each corner of each eye with slight pressure (see below). Blink upward while keeping the eyes open. It may feel like ordinary blinking, but try to be conscious of the lower lid blinking upward, using the slight pressure of the fingertips to help create resistance. We are not used to exercising control over some of these tiny muscles, so it can be tricky. It may be easier to do one eye at a time. With practice, you’ll feel them working. Blink ten times, stop, relax, then do it once more.

Upper Eye. This exercise tones the upper part of the Orbicularis oculi and the upper lid. With age, brows sag toward the eye, and the distance between the eye and brow gets shorter. This helps prevent crepey-ness in the lids and helps prevent eyebrow sagging. Place the four fingertips of each hand under each eyebrow (see below), pushing the brows up very slightly. Close your eyes and tighten your upper lids while pushing them against your fingertips. Keep fingertips over the eyes so you can feel the movement. You should be able to feel your eyelids pushing on your eyeballs. The contracted lids are actually pushing against your eyeballs, flattening them out.

Droopy Eyes. This exercise takes some concentration, but it is very effective for giving a lift to the corners of the eyes. Place forefingers on the outer corners of each eye (see below), so fingers rest against the forehead just in front of the hairline. Without making lines in your forehead, move the muscles around your eyes upward toward your fingertips, similar to the way your eyes would open and lift if you were smiling. You are not moving your muscles manually with your fingertips. The muscle movements are subtle and you are trying to isolate muscles you don’t ordinarily use, so it may feel like not much is happening. This exercise subtly lifts the whole area. Hold for a count of five, then release. Repeat up to ten times.

Palming. Many of us put in long hours of close-up work and forget to take breaks. Our eyes suffer from overwork. Here is a simple exercise to soothe eyes and optic nerves, and help reduce puffiness. Rub your palms together until they feel warm. Cup palms over your closed eyes so that the heels of your hands are resting directly on your eyelids. Push gently against your eyes. Optional: While the heels of your hands are still against your eyeballs, try to blink but keep your eyes closed. You are contracting your Orbicularis oculi against the heels. You will feel a slight movement underneath your hands as you contract the muscle. Contract and release ten times. Rest. You may repeat each set of ten contractions up to ten times. Relax for five seconds between each set.

Erasing Marionette Lines. The lines you see in the nasal-labial folds from the nostril down to the chin are called marionette lines. Here’s a way to smooth them. Crook your left forefinger and place it along the right nasal-labial fold. The left thumb goes in the mouth. Pinch your forefinger and thumb together to anchor the muscle so it doesn’t move. You are going to be moving the muscles right above it. Place the forefinger of your right hand on your temple in front of your right ear (see below). Contract your right cheek muscles up and toward your ear. The right hand is only there to mark the direction in which you should be trying to contract your cheek muscles. With a pulsing movement that can be felt around your temples, pull your cheek muscles up toward your ear for a count of ten. Relax, repeat twice, then do the other side.

Upper Lip Line Eraser. This exercise works on your Orbicularis oris, the band of muscle that circles your mouth. Toning it helps to smooth out those pesky vertical upper-lip lines—called smoker’s lines—that even nonsmokers get. Place the inside tip of one forefinger just above your top lip, and the inside tip of your other forefinger just underneath your bottom lip (see below). Move the fingers briskly side to side in opposition to each other until you feel a tingle. Pause, then switch fingers and repeat. Repeat as often as desired.

Upper Lip Smoothie. Smoker’s lines may be from bad facial habits. Here’s a test: Look in the mirror and say a few words. Now eat something, or pretend you are eating. Are you puckering up your mouth when you do these things? If so, the puckering is contributing to formation of these lines. Use the upper-lip smoothie to strengthen lip muscles and help create the appearance of a smooth upper lip. Place your forefingers on the sides of your mouth corners to anchor the muscles. Stretch your top lip down and over your top teeth and toward your mouth corners at the same time. Your upper lip should be completely smooth, without puckers (see p. 23). Hold for a count of five, then release. Repeat three times, holding for a count of ten each time.

Carp Curl. The philtrum (the area between the nose and top lip) starts to lengthen and the top lip starts to disappear with age, thanks to that old villain, gravity. The carp curl helps counteract this. Place your forefingers on either side above your mouth, along the nasal-labial folds. This anchors the area as you work your Orbicularis oris. Without making lines in your upper lip (stretch it as in the upper lip smoothie), stretch your top lip forward and up toward your nose (see below). Curl your lip up and out, as if you were a fish sucking in water. Curl ten times, then relax. Curl ten times more, a little faster. Relax. For a real workout, do this one more time, even faster.

Advanced Carp Curl. Assume the Carp Curl position, but stretch your lip down over your teeth (see below). Alternate the positions so they resemble fish-mouth movements. Repeat ten times. Relax. Repeat three times. As you go, make the alternating movements a little more rapid, while trying to maintain a smooth rhythm. When you are done, relax. Wiggle your mouth around to relax the muscle without making lines. When your muscles become very strong you can practice this lifting motion with a pencil on the upper lip.

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With some practice you can get the benefits of the Yoga Facelift. And who knows? Perhaps you’ll find yourself having even more reason to smile.