What Facial Yoga Really Is (and Why You Should Try It)

Did you know that there are 57 muscles in your facial area alone?

I sure didn’t when I stepped into Face Love Fitness’s studio, which specializes in the practice of facial yoga, an up-and-coming, unorthodox (but totally awesome) practice that’s catching on in big cities across the U.S.

What is it, though? Pretty much exactly what it sounds like: moving, stretching and holding your facial muscles in various positions just like you would when you hit the yoga mat. And let me tell you, if savasana has you feeling all warm, tingly and relaxed inside, just imagine how you’d feel if all of those good vibes and chi were targeted to your entire face.

“Just like the muscles in the rest of your body, the ones on your face can be toned, sculpted and defined,” says Rachel Lang, co-owner of Face Love Fitness studio. She also promises that just 30 minutes of face yoga can create a more radiant, healthy glow, improve circulation to the front of the face (which is often restricted from tension, lifestyle and “tech neck”), soften lines, give temporary definition to the chin and jaw, and erase signs of stress like dullness and fatigue. Sounds pretty great, right?

In honor of Stress Month (hello, April) and in the name of journalism (of course), I ventured downtown to Manhattan’s Financial District to visit Face Love’s pop-up studio. Here’s what happened:

First, Lang explained the whole process and why facial yoga is even a thing in the first place. “Your skin is the largest organ of your body, but it’s usually the last to receive nutrients. So even if you ate organically, got 10 hours of sleep each night and didn’t drink a single cocktail, your vital organs will reap the benefits first,” she told me. When you combine your skin’s lack of nutrients with the stress and tension you experience on a daily basis, you can see how it really suffers—especially the skin on your face, which is most exposed to free radicals in the environment and the sun’s harmful UV rays.

In fact, a recent study from Masters University in Ontario found that when researchers measured exercise muscles and skin and the relationship after just two months of exercise, the skin was thicker, had more clarity, less damage and much higher levels of collagen (the natural stuff that fights against wrinkles).

Sign me up.

Once we finished chatting, I dropped my stuff and sat in this lounge-y seat as Lang’s assistant Georgia stood behind me. She asked me to lay my head back so we could begin with a warm up. Sounded just like any exercise class I’d ever taken, except for the fact that it felt like the most amazing head-and-neck massage I’d ever experienced. “We’re going to release shoulder tension to open up your pathways to get maximum circulation the face,” she explained.

Next, she started revving up my muscles with this tool—it was like a gripping and rolling sensation that felt like a textured massage. I was in relaxation heaven. Next up was some muscle interval strength training. This involved Georgia asking me to move my muscles a certain way—scrunch my face like I was angry or lift my eyebrows like I was surprised—and then she practiced resistance against my face muscles with the pads of her hands acting as free weights. And, believe it or not, they even brought in some exercise equipment to maximize my efforts and increase the resistance a step further. Since I was in such a relaxed state from the warm-up, this was not as challenging as I expected. It was more so a continuation of the relaxation I was experiencing in the beginning.

We finished with a cool-down that was just like savasana in regular yoga. “Since we’ve revved up and created a lot of heat and energy, we now want to sedate and bring everything back to a nice, normal facial posture,” she said. “We will put the skin and muscles into a state of rest, which will then trigger cellular repair.” The theory was that my skin would look its best 24 hours later because it needed time to digest and assimilate to all of the many benefits of increased circulation.

I have to say, my skin and face felt amazing as I walked out of Face Love’s studio, and I definitely did see a more enhanced glow and refreshed look the following day. Rachel and Georgia recommend continuing face yoga for at least 15 minutes a week, but you can also do it on your own at home. So in between sessions—be it weekly or biweekly—you can continue the practice. “You can do your lower zone, middle zone and top zone on a different day or you can take 10 minutes and do the whole thing while you’re in the shower or in front of your Netflix,” Rachel told me.

Worth it? Absolutely! Why wouldn’t you want a massage that’s great for your skin and helps release stress? Plus, everyone needs to shake up their workout of the day with a little R&R, right? Try it. 

Jenn Sinrich is an editor in New York City, a self-proclaimed foodie always looking for the healthier version of all recipes, a passionate lover of all things cheese, a friendly New Yorker, Bostonian at heart and proud Red Sox fan. Love cats? Cheese? Mac n' Cheese? Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.