Face Yoga: Om Away Sagging?

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

If you want to look up to three years younger, facial yoga may be the answer. Purported to tone the facial muscles and provide facial rejuvenation, facial yoga involves following a regimen of facial movements and poses to provide results.

Gary Sikorski, founder of the Happy Face Yoga method (happyface.com) in Cleveland, Ohio, has been training adherents in the practice since 2006.

“The Effects of Facial Exercise on the Appearance of Aging,” a small study by Northwestern University Medicine published in JAMA Dermatology in 2018, demonstrated that a 30-minute daily then alternate-day facial exercise program for 20 weeks helped middle-aged women improve their fullness of their upper and lower cheeks.

“I’m the first person to medically prove my techniques work,” Sikorski said. “I teach muscle resistance facial exercise. There are 57 muscles in the face, neck and scalp. As you strengthen those muscles, that’s what helps bring a more youthful appearance as it lifts the cheeks and strengthens the jawline. Also, it can improve blood circulation to improve the complexion. As those muscles are lifted and toned instead of sagging, it tightens the skin which helps soften those fine lines. It’s all these things that add to aging.”

He eschews gadgets advertised online as he believes these are ineffective because they don’t strengthen the muscles, although they can stimulate blood circulation.

Gary Sikorski, founder of the Happy Face Yoga in Cleveland.

“That helps with brightness, but it won’t tone the face, so they don’t offer lasting results,” Sikorski added. “Some just do stretching, which won’t add a youthful look to the face.”

His program uses the fingers, hands and, for resistance, the teeth.

One of the criticisms of face yoga is that repeatedly making the same facial expressions will cause wrinkles. However, Sikorski said that in 16 years, no one has complained about wrinkles forming from following his program.

He said that how quickly adherents see results depends upon the condition of their face initially and their age. Factors such as smoking, drinking alcohol, lack of sun protection and poor diet can affect the skin also. Those following the program should perform the exercises daily for six to 10 weeks.

“The more exercises you do, the faster and better the results,” Sikorski said. “Once you achieve the maximum success, then maybe one or two times for 20 minutes per week.”

He likened the effects to people who work out at a gym. Stopping the workouts will mean lower muscle tone.

“As we age, facial muscles weaken and begin to sag,” Sikorski said. “Weakened muscles will cause many aging problems in the face. These problems can be corrected, or for younger people, prevented, by practicing facial exercise.”

These include eyes that appear narrow, sagging cheeks, downturned corners to the mouth, jawline jowls and pouches.

Kristine Koch, NYS licensed esthetician, owns and operates Nickel City Skin Spa in Buffalo, practices facial yoga and recommends it to her clients.

“You’re tightening and toning the muscles through stretches and holding poses, just like traditional yoga,” Koch said. “You use your facial muscles in the same way all the time. Deeper lines are on the face, particularly the lines around the eyes because those muscles are used in the same way all the time. To counter that, you have to use them in a different way.”

She includes face yoga with her cleansing and moisturizing routine to save time. In addition, she said that using a jade roller and other tools can help sculpt the face.

“When people ask about Botox, fillers or plastic surgery, my first suggestion is to use seven to 10 minutes a day to incorporate the poses, massages and facial roller,” Koch said. “With the tools and stimulation of the skin, it encourages blood flow to the area, which oxygenates it. You’re encouraging your skin to generate more collagen, which creates elasticity.”

She added that because the effects of facial yoga are cumulative, those who practice it must do so for weeks to see results and continue to do so to maintain the effects.

Most skin damage comes from sun damage, smoking, pollution, consuming too much sugar and alcohol, and skimping on water. Preventing and minimizing the signs of aging rely upon avoiding excess sun exposure, healthful diet and hydration.

A Few Happy Face Yoga Exercises:

• The Cheek Lifter: Open your mouth to form an “O” and fold your upper lip over your teeth. Smile to lift cheek muscles up, then put your fingers on the top part of the cheek before releasing the cheek muscles to lower them. Lift the cheeks back up and repeat by lowering and lifting 10 times.

• Happy Cheeks Sculpting: Smile without showing your teeth. Purse your lips together and then smile — forcing the cheek muscles up. Place your fingers on the corners of the mouth and slide them up to the top of the cheeks, holding for 20 seconds.

• The Eyebrow Lifter: Press three fingertips under each eyebrow to force your eyes open. Smile while trying to push your eyebrows down against your fingers. Close your eyes and roll your eyeballs up to the top of your head, holding for 20 seconds.