Face Yoga 101: All Your Face Yoga Questions, Answered

Woman performing face yoga

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From Gwyneth Paltrow to Meghan Markle (and many a YouTuber), Face Yoga has picked up steam over the years.

Which of course has us thinking: While we’ve long known the positive effects of yoga on the mind and body, have we been missing a trick by omitting the muscles of our faces and necks from the process? While science has yet to prove long-term changes, there are many folks who swear by the practice.

We spoke to a few of them—as well as a dermatologist—to get the scoop on the potential benefits (and negatives) of face yoga. Read on to learn more.

What Is Face Yoga?

Much like yoga for the body, face yoga consists of exercises and stretches that work the muscles in your face. "The facial movements are like resistance training for the muscles," says BABOR expert esthetician Kimberly Keelan. "And as you work them you see a lift and tone to the skin." 

What Are the Benefits of Face Yoga?

If you're looking to get rid of fine lines or wrinkles, you might not want to cancel your Botox appointment just yet. While those such as Keelan and Fumiko Takatsu, the creator of the Face Yoga Method, say a few minutes of daily stretching will lift and tone all over, the scientific backing is a little murkier.

Though an oft-cited 2018 study found "a regimen of at-home facial exercises maintained for 20 weeks seemed to improve mid-face and lower face fullness," the sample size was small and homogenous, and the study had no control group. Indeed, an earlier study noted that the insufficient evidence to support the effectiveness of facial rejuvenation exercises is due to the lack of large, randomized controlled trials.

Beyond the debatable physical impact, there are psychological reasons to practice face yoga. Melissa Murphy, a face yoga instructor and yoga teacher of 15 years, says facial exercise can impact our health and bodies. “The head and face contain most of our major sense organs—the eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and skin,” she explains. “They’re inextricably linked to the whole body. Position yourself in front of a mirror so you can see your face and neck. Put your lower jaw forward gently so the teeth show and lightly press the teeth upwards.

“Even with this light pressure, can you see the muscles in the neck tense up? The tension in the face transmits to the whole body, and most of the time, we do nothing about it. We exercise the torso and limbs and we might—if we do yoga—relax them, too. But the face and head are sadly neglected, despite them being an area with a fascinating array of possibilities for movement and relaxation,” she says.

What Are Face Yoga Classes Like?

“My classes run once a month and contain an eclectic mix of practices and activities to help relax the face and calm the mind and body,” says Murphy. “There’s a blend of facial exercises, breathing practices, sound work, acupressure, and simple massage techniques along with short meditations and affirmations.”

“While the format is similar each time—an introduction, a standing warm-up, seated facial exercises, and practices ending with meditation—each session is different,” she adds. “There might be more emphasis on massage/facial exploration one month, sound work the next, and expressions another."

Four Face Yoga Moves to Try

We asked Takatsu to give us four face yoga moves you can try at home. Before we move forward, a caveat: As stated above, the efficacy of face yoga for wrinkle reduction is up for debate. "Please keep in mind that many of these moves offer minimal-to-no real benefit, and some are counter-productive and create new lines," says New York City-based dermatologist Dr. Rachel Nazarian, MD.

01 of 04

The Forehead Smoother

The Eye Lift

Instructions:

  1. Press your shoulders down and lift one arm straight up, and then drop that arm over your head to place your fingertips on your temple.
  2. Gently press down with your fingertips to lift your face up and back, and then drop your head over to your shoulder, keeping your chest open.
  3. Hold this pose while you slowly breathe out through your mouth. 
  4. To take the pose a step further, reach your other arm out at a 45-degree angle and when you exhale stick your tongue out down towards the ground.
  5. Do the other side and repeat all the way through. 

Skin Benefit? "This movement encourages facial relaxation specifically with the frontalis muscle that gives us forehead wrinkles," says Nazarian. "The steady reminder to stop contracting can promote behavioral changes that lead to fewer wrinkles over time."

02 of 04

The Neck Lift

The Neck Lift

Instructions:

  1. Pucker your lips over to one side as much as you can (you should feel a stretch in your cheek).
  2. Turn your head to that side, lifting your head up at about a 45-degree angle. Feel the stretch in your neck.
  3. Hold for three seconds. Repeat.
  4. Repeat on the other side.  

Skin Benefits? While this move aims to tighten the neck and jawline to prevent sagging and firm up double chins, Nazarian warns it "likely creates lines around the mouth as a substitute." 

03 of 04

The Face Lift

The Face Lift

Instructions:

  1. Place both palms on your temples.
  2. Push your hands up and back, lifting the sides of your face.
  3. Open your mouth and make an “O” shape. Drop your jaw to make your face as long as possible.
  4. Hold this pose for five seconds. Repeat two more times. 

Skin Benefits? Nazarian says this move "may temporarily improve puffiness by encouraging lymphatic circulation." 

04 of 04

The Eye Lift

The Eye Lift

Instructions:

  1. Press your shoulders down and lift one arm straight up, and then drop that arm over your head to place your fingertips on your temple.
  2. Gently press down with your fingertips to lift your face up and back, and then drop your head over to your shoulder, keeping your chest open.
  3. Hold this pose while you slowly breathe out through your mouth. 
  4. To take the pose a step further, reach your other arm out at a 45-degree angle and when you exhale stick your tongue out down towards the ground.
  5. Do the other side and repeat all the way through. 

Skin Benefits? While Nazarian says that "stretching this skin or applying pressure does not improve elasticity," it "may temporarily improve puffiness by enhancing circulation." 

Eye Lift Finger Placement

Your finger placement is key for this exercise, so be sure to check your form in the mirror. You’ll want your ring finger placed at the outer corner of your eyebrow and your ring finger on your temple. Hold that placement as you move through the pose.

Photographer: Kat Borchart

Hair and Makeup: Barbara Lamelza

Producer: Jenna Peffley

Model: Shiya

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. Alam M, Walter AJ, Geisler A, et al. Association of facial exercise with the appearance of agingJAMA Dermatol. 2018;154(3):365-367.

  2. Van Borsel J, De Vos M-C, Bastiaansen K, Welvaert J, Lambert J. The effectiveness of facial exercises for facial rejuvenationAesthetic Surgery Journal. 2014;34(1):22-27.

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