By Yumi Miyaki / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WriterFacial expressions are formed using muscles. If you look at a computer screen or smartphone all day, your muscles will deteriorate. If you continue this pattern over a long period of time, you may end up looking joyless even when laughing. “Face yoga” is an effective exercise of building up the facial muscles needed for expression, and will help restore your smile.
Though you may smile to create a positive impression during business and other occasions, this is a useless gesture if no one can recognize you are smiling.
“Just like the body, physical training is needed for your face,” face yoga instructor Yoshiko Mamada said.
As muscles deteriorate, a person’s body weakens. Similarly, deterioration of the facial muscles leads to the loss of expression. When Mamada trained as an Argentine tango dancer in her 30s, she was told her face looked stern, which annoyed her. This made her appreciate the importance of exercising her face, and she began going to a face yoga studio at age 38. Afterward, those around her made such comments as “You look more cheerful” and “I like your smile” more often than before, and many people now have a completely different image of her, according to Mamada.
Mamada shared basic face yoga poses with us.
The first pose is “temple stretching.” As the pose adjusts the balance between the right and left sides of the face and sharpens the line of the face, it is effective to do before posing for photos. Place your right hand on your left temple and pull the muscles around your left cheek and corner of your left eye diagonally toward the back of your head. When you lift the corner of your eye and the nasolabial folds (known as “smile lines”) disappear, let your head tilt slowly to the right to stretch your neck. Stick your tongue out, extend it in the same direction as your head and exhale slowly. Repeat this process for the opposite side of your face.
The next exercise also involves sticking your tongue out (Photo 1). Open your eyes wide, before sticking your tongue out and exhaling all at once. As this pose makes your tongue movements smoother, Mamada says it is useful for elderly people whose ability to swallow has diminished.
Next is “the pose of Munch’s Scream” (Photo 2). Stretch the area below the nose as much as possible, gaze at the ceiling, pucker your mouth and hold your lips in the “O” shape for 10 seconds. This pose helps remove eye bags and eye puffiness.
The “yummy face” pose (Photo 3) brightens one’s smile. Lift the corners of your mouth until your upper teeth become visible, stick your tongue out and move it from side to side several times. This exercise facilitates saliva production and is effective in resolving dry mouth, according to Mamada.
Finally, the “dumpling lock” pose elevates the cheeks. Make a big smile, pinch both cheeks with your index fingers and thumbs as if making dumplings, and lift the pinched skin for five seconds. Then release your hands without changing expression and maintain this pose for five seconds.
All of these poses can be easily done by anyone. “If you become more expressive, you’ll feel more cheerful, and others will more naturally like you. This is helpful for improving communication abilities,” Mamada said.
Be aware of posture
Bad posture can also cause a less desirable facial expression.
“Adjust your posture by tightening your muscles, firmly placing your feet on the floor and straightening up,” instructs Mamada.
First, tighten the muscles under your belly button and firmly plant your feet on the ground. This will naturally straighten your torso and raise your face (see photo). There is no need to forcibly lift your chest. Using this method, you can correct your posture when both sitting and standing, according to Mamada.
“Try this technique on significant occasions, like when you meet important people, as it will change their impression of you,” she said.