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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

yoga for your face

who needs a plastic surgeon when you can get a facelift just by doing yoga?

at least that's what anneliese hagen claims revita-yoga, a combination of yoga and facial exercises, can do for you.

here are excerpts from an article that appeared in the new york times last week:

Got Crow’s-Feet? Call the Downward Dog
Published: March 29, 2007

FOR a Friday evening, the small, intimate workout room at the New York Health & Racquet Club on East 57th Street was comfortably full. A dozen people sat, their chins pointed toward the ceiling, their lips puckered as if preparing for a kiss.

Later, they took their index and middle fingers and tapped their mouths five times, with the hope of increasing lip fullness and color. If done each day, they were told, it would be just as if they had been injected with collagen.

"The resistance is what firms the muscles," Annelise Hagen, the teacher, said of Revita-Yoga, which combines yoga and facial exercises and is billed as a way to combat frown lines, wrinkles and sagging. "Each pose, stretch or exercise is designed to relax the muscles and release the patterns people unconsciously etch into their skin."

Want to sculpture and narrow your nose? Alternate breathing out of each nostril, Revita-Yoga teaches. Have crow’s-feet? Open the eyes wide to smooth the lines. As pale as the winter sky? A dose of downward dog can add color to the complexion while oxygenating the skin.

The idea of merging exercise and beauty is not new. Beauty magazines have long carried how-to articles on firming up the face. But the concept seems to have become imbued with new energy in the last year.

Frownies and jowlies are under attack at the Lake Austin Spa Resort in Austin, Texas, where guests are led through a series of 23 facial movements meant to release facial tension, lift droopy mouth corners and iron forehead wrinkles.

The Kapiolani Health Center in Honolulu, Hawaii, has six two-hour sessions designed to create "balanced facial symmetry" while revitalizing and rejuvenating skin.

Gary Sikorski, who is certified in yoga facial toning, gives his Happy Face workshop in the Atlanta area. In a phone interview, Mr. Sikorski sounded, well, quite happy. He had just seen a graduate of his course, and, he said, "she had been practicing a lot on her own, and she looked amazing! The corners of her mouth were turned up, she looked younger and was absolutely glowing."

"Plastic surgery can leave people looking like waxed fruit and doesn’t address long-term sagging," said Marie-Véronique Nadeau, 59, whose workshops at Elephant Pharmacy, an alternative pharmacy chain in the Bay Area of Northern California, draw a standing-room-only crowd. "For some reason we exercise every part of our body but ignore everything from the collarbone up."

But is there any merit to these exercises, and will there ever be a substitute for freezing a muscle?

"Nothing is going to have a lasting benefit like Botox or filler or collagen injections," said Dr. Dennis Gross, a Midtown Manhattan dermatologist, the author of "Your Future Face" and the creator of a skin-care line. But there are short-term improvements, he said.

"Facial stretches and yoga temporarily reduce the neurological impulses associated with stress and the grimaces that lead to the lines in your forehead," he said. "The plumping of your lips is more a massage and only adds color for a few minutes."

"If you already have a wrinkle or a frown line, relaxation isn’t going to erase that," said Dr. Richard Elias, an oral and maxillo-facial surgeon on the Upper East Side.

"Jowls, sagging under the neck, creases at the mouth, are all signs of aging that most probably will not be helped by a yoga class," he said. "If you make the muscles in your face bigger it will not make sagging skin tougher or tighter, nor will it help remove fatty deposits. Only a face-lift can do that. When you do a face-lift, you’re removing fat and loose skin, and pulling some skin back."

Some yoga gurus are skeptical, too.

"We’ve not discovered the fountain of youth, though people are always trying to obtain it," said Rodney Yee of East Hampton, N.Y., a well-known yoga instructor, who was unaware these programs existed. "Yoga will add radiance to your face and relax you, which will make you look younger, but to just focus on the face is too specific and sounds more like a marketing ploy."

Marketing ploy or not, devotees don’t seem to care. This is, after all, a face-conscious nation.

As the Friday class ended and members were putting away their mats, smiles were on their faces, a bounce was in their step and their cheeks were flushed with color.

"When we smile in a relaxed, natural way without crinkling our eyes, we tone and eliminate wrinkles,” Ms. Hagen said as she waved goodbye to several students. “I don’t teach a smiling exercise since it happens naturally when the session ends."