Last September on the Martha Stewart Show, I had the privilege of showing Martha and actor/comedian Justin Long a series of facial yoga exercises. I wanted to share the video, in case you missed it, and explain in greater detail one of my favorite facial exercises: The Lion's Face, or Simhagarjanasana. (Before I continue, I’d like to note how wonderful Justin and his mother Wendy, who was in the audience, are!)
Just as we exercise the muscles in our limbs and torso to keep them toned and in good health, we can and should workout the 30 some muscles in the face. Practices like lion’s face help prevent wrinkles and sagging as we age – definitely a good thing! While traditionally practiced in padmasana (lotus pose) or virasana (hero's pose) with the knees wide, lion's pose can be performed in any upright position and even heart opening poses like tabletop. Lion’s pose is certainly a unique looking practice! Essentially, the face is stretched by sticking out the tongue and bugging out the eyes while looking at the center brow. To practice: Sit tall and slowly breathe in through the nose. Gently breath out the nose. Once more breathe in and then vigorously exhale with an "aahhhhhhh" sounds out the mouth while sticking out the tongue and bugging the eyes out. As you hold the eyes open, look towards the eyebrow center. Hold for a few seconds, close the mouth, and inhale through the nose. This is one round. Practice at least 5 per day.
In addition to stretching and toning the facial muscles, yogic texts claim that the regular practice of simhagarjanasana alleviates diseases of throat, nose, ears, eyes, and mouth, and removes tension from the chest and diaphragm. It can also alleviate tongue tension, something beneficial for those with speech impediments, such as stuttering.
If you watch the video, you’ll pick up a few other facial yoga techniques to add to your repertoire.
Sophie Herbert is an alignment focused yoga teacher (and perpetual student), a singer-songwriter, and a visual artist. She has lived, studied, and volunteered extensively in India; teaches yoga in Brooklyn and Manhattan; and recently released her first full-length album, "Take a Clear Look." Please visit her website at SophieHerbert.com.