Face is the index of the vital force within us. Mental and physical health remains interconnected to decide the contours of face. The face contains 57 muscles besides the jaw muscles which stand out as the strongest muscle in the entire body. It is not merely the ageing process that pulls down the face but several illnesses damage facial muscles as well. Face yoga falls under Aṣṭāṇga Yoga of Patañjali and holds an effective set of toning exercises. The Ministry of AYUSH is propagating the usefulness of Yoga all over the world so much so that 21st June has been declared as the International Day of Yoga. Despite being a health topic, All Ladies League of ASSOCHAM included face yoga in their Women Economic Forum2016 with participation of over 100 countries.
Face yoga exercises like all yoga postures, increase blood circulation, oxygenating the muscles more and thus making the body more responsive and helps in regenerating cells. Functional MRI scans have shown increased blood circulation to the brain around the pineal and pituitary glands. These glands are responsible for a person’s daily biological clock, as well as the entire hormonal balance of our bodies. The hormones in turn, play a key role in healthy sleep, aiding in a deep sleep and boosts the immune system. A simple set of targeted movements of facial muscles activate the hormone secreting glands and stimulate different parts of the brain and nerve endings. This leads to improvement in attention span, heart control and even lung functions.Face Yoga is very powerful in stress management too. The movements of face yoga while targeting the forehead and the eyes, decrease the harmful incidence of stress, anxiety and convulsive effects. There is better release of Gama Aminobutyric Acid (GABA) helping in the reconstruction and functional recovery of the nerves.
‘Collagen is the natural filling substance in skin to check against wrinkles and sagging of skin. Face yoga proves highly effective to address this issue’, maintains regenerative medicine expert Dr Prabhu Mishra. Sunken eyes, dark circles, under eye bags, sagging neck muscles are some common conditions that find a natural rejuvenation with specific facial workout. Mumbai based face yoga instructor, Minal Potnis asserts, ‘ I work with doctors and therapists to use face yoga to successfully treat facial morphea, Bell’s palsy, facial spasms, nervous ticks, stress-induced anxiety, facial paralysis and other facial muscle-related issues’. Saliva is an accurate indicator of how healthy we are. Facial yogic exercises help in saliva production.
Dr Prabhu Mishra observes, ‘Face yoga helps to remove free radicals thereby eliminating chances of cancer. It can certainly be preventive to Alzheimer’s and dementia or mental retardation, however no data exists. Any neuro-degradation gets slowed down if not arrested completely. Neurosurgeons and oncologists have referred brain tumour patients and their caregivers to consider using face yoga. ‘I suggest a combination of stem cell therapy and yoga for a better rehabilitation and in cases of post brain tumour operation’, adds Dr Mishra.
What it takes to do face yoga? Yoga instructor, Minal Potnis devises – ‘Try the sour smile! Close your lips hard. Tighten the corners of your mouth and smile pulling the corners of your mouth towards your ears. Hold the position till counting 15. Keep breathing forcefully. Relax breath till counting 10. Repeat 5 times the sequence. This wide sour smile tones and strengthens your cheek, lip and jaw muscles. Exercises need to be suggested individually as per the medical condition by isolating the facial muscles and exercising them.’
Face Yoga is finding favour with the neurologists and dermatologists for the rehabilitation of their patients. Dr Aloke Sharma, Head of Neurosurgery Department at Lokmanya Tilak Municipal General Hospital, Mumbai says, ‘ the ability to co-relate modern medicine and alternative medicine needs to be implemented more, and the overall holistic approach of this program, with focus to increasing facial blood circulation by stimulating these muscles has far reaching benefits’. And indeed, even common ailments like acidity in stomach find a solution. Face Yoga trainers are interfacing with neurosurgeons, physiotherapists, cosmetologists, speech therapists to align yogic face therapy with their respective medical vertical. Ensure you work within limits and with an expert.
Face yoga is effective in auto immune conditions. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive neurological disorder which may affect speech, swallowing and breathing. Patients may not be able to speak clearly and over time can also lose the ability to speak. ‘Face yoga works to improve the muscle strength of face, mouth, neck and scalp. Increased blood circulation leading to hectic oxygenation brings a difference. Exercises involving lip, cheek and tongue help to improve speech and swallowing difficulty’, says a rehabilitation advisor.
*The writer is a senior journalist, author and a documentary filmmaker. Views expressed in the Article are personal. Please consult a qualified expert before undertaking any exercise suggested in the Article.