Ever since yoga namaste-ed its way into pop culture and made the leap from your auntie’s favourite exercise to becoming the ultimate pastime of an activewear-clad Gwyneth Paltrow and friends, the centuries-old holistic practice has helped loosen hip abductors, increased core strength, and introduced at least four go-to poses for Instagrammable beach holiday snaps. And given that yoga delivers age-defying benefits for the body, it’s not too large of a leap to suggest that your face could see similar invigorating results, thanks to a yoga regime dedicated entirely to the complexion.
While ‘The Giraffe’ and ‘The Swan Neck’ both sound like legitimate body-bending poses, they’re both attributed to the art of face yoga. Counting Stella McCartney, Naomi Campbell and Jennifer Aniston among its celebrity followers, the mat-free method makes a pretty compelling argument for encouraging good skin health. Danielle Collins, creator of the Danielle Collins Face Yoga Method, describes it as ‘a natural face lift’, promising results for those who are diligent in their practice. The British specialist says her method, developed alongside years of experience as a yoga instructor, can even reduce the temptation of a face-lift, or fend off the Botox needle, with her clients finding themselves happier in their own skin. Face yoga ‘is a natural way of looking and feeling younger and healthier with an added sense of relaxation and wellbeing,’ explains Collins. ‘It is a combination of face exercises, face massage, face acupressure and face relaxation, [and] also focuses on well-being techniques for the mind, body and soul.’ The London-based therapist says that her routine takes just 20 minutes to complete, with ten minutes each dedicated to your face’s upper and lower portions, and working all 57 muscles in the face and neck.
It’s fair to say that we’re no strangers to trifling skincare trends (hello, vampire facials, snail slime creams, and nightingale poop masques), but face yoga goes one better, with its roots firmly planted in both the holistic practice, and traditional massage techniques. Face yoga works with the muscles on the bottom layer and the collagen, elastin and connective tissue in the middle layer of skin so it gives your face structure, support and strength as well as lifting, firming and smoothing. ‘Our faces benefit from exercising the muscles,’ explains Collins. ‘It is also important to relax these muscles to smooth the skin.’ She says that the gentle movement helps to reduce and prevent lines and wrinkles, by encouraging production of collagen and elastin in the face, which plumps and firms, and boosting circulation for an immediate healthy glow. We won’t be binning our night cream in favour of pulling funny faces either, with the slow movements working as an ideal companion to your usual moisturising routine, enhancing the effectiveness of both the product and the exercises. ‘Many skincare products just sit on the top layer of skin, which means your skin gets hydrated but you don’t see results in terms of lifting, firming and smoothing,’ explains Collins. She says that a rich oil, lipid or cream will absorb into the skin better thanks to the repetitive motions, and warmth of your hands and face, allowing the product to sink deeper into the skin.
Massaging and stretching the face is hardly a new concept, with spas and salons incorporating their own techniques into treatments. Iryna Holovan, founder of Splendida Ladies Salon and Spa Club in Dubai, says that she includes an aspect of massage in each of her spa’s facial treatments, due to a multitude of benefits. ‘Facial massage helps to lift the muscles of the face, to brighten and tone up the skin [and] it also helps the treatment ingredients to penetrate deeper into the skin tissues for a better result,’ she points out. ‘It improves the natural production of collagen and elastin [adding to] the elasticity and softness of the skin, as well as reducing the fine lines and wrinkles. It also improves facial blood circulation and helps reduces migraines.’ Holovan combines a number of facial stretching and massaging techniques, with staff trained in effleurage (which consists of light tapping or pounding of the skin), vibration (a fine tremulous movement made by hands to cause the skin to vibrate), and friction (repetitive, non-gliding technique that produces movement between the fibres of dense tissue).
But taking to facial yoga with a little too much vigour could have the opposite effect, warns Renata Muszula. The beauty advisor and trainer for cosmoceutical skincare brand Biodroga MD, which is launching its facials menu at Browz in The Mall, Jumeirah, says that rough handling can reduce elasticity, damage the skin’s natural collagen and even break capillaries.
‘Pulling at the skin is not good for its flexibility and texture,’ she says. ‘It is important to be very soft and very gentle with the face, and not to roughly pull or poke it.’ Muszula agrees that face yoga has skin-firming and de-stressing benefits, but says it’s important to know how to perform the movements correctly as to not have the opposite effect. ‘The skin on the face and neck is very fine, and it’s best to be shown by a professional how to handle it. For example, now at Browz, we would use an essence, and would apply it at the base of the neck and stroke upwards to help tighten the skin in that direction. If you were to pull down, this would do more harm than good.’
Convinced? Follow our easy exercises below to get a feel for face yoga. This simple daily routine takes mere minutes to follow, whether during your PM skincare routine, at your desk, or while stuck in traffic (better do the stress-reducing one twice, then).
To firm up the forehead: The Owl
Make a big ‘C’ shape with your thumb and index fingers. Place your index finger just above and parallel to your eyebrows and your thumbs on your cheeks. Start to pull down with the index fingers while trying to raise your eyebrows and making the eyes wide. Hold for two seconds, relax and repeat for a total of five times. Finish by holding this position for ten seconds.
To reuce puffiness and to relax the muscles: Circle the eyes
Place your middle fingers at the beginning of your eyebrows. Start to gently tap around your eyes following the top of your eyebrow and then continue under your eye just at the top of your cheekbones. Then continue to the inside corners of your eye. Then repeat, going in the opposite direction, making little tapping motions. Then with your index fingers very gently stroke just under your eyes from the nose outwards four times to warm up and relax the eye area.
To lift and tone the neck muscles: The Swan Neck
Begin looking straight ahead with your chin level. Turn your head to the right so that it is even with your right shoulder and then tilt your head backwards. Hold for six to eight seconds. Return your head to the forward position with your chin level, before repeating on your left side. Repeat up to three times.
To release neck tension, tone and lift the neck area: The Giraffe
Looking straight ahead, place your finger tips on the top of your neck and lightly stroke the skin down as you tilt your head back. Bring your head back down and repeat twice more. Then jut your lower lip out as far as possible, place your fingers on your collarbone and point your chin upwards, pulling the corners of your mouth down. Hold for four deep breaths.
Download the Danielle Collins Face Yoga Method app for more exercises.
Add a lush cream or opulent skin oil to boost the benefits of facial yoga
Hydrating Facial Oil, Dh90, Innoxa
Apply this blend of pomegranate and chia seed oils in soothing strokes to moisturise normal to dry skin types, before applying your usual moisturiser.
Oils of Life Intensely Revitalising Cream, Dh249, The Body Shop
Infused with three precious oils – Chilean rosehip seed oil, Chinese camellia seed oil and Egyptian black cumin seed oil – this hydrating cream slips easily across the skin, making it ideal for an evening session in the face yoga studio.
Dream Oil Serum, Dh402, Heaven by Deborah Mitchell
This light conditioning oil softens and repairs the skin, soothing redness and eczema. Scented with organic lavender, geranium and sandalwood oils to help you relax and unwind.