I am clenching my what??  Jaw clenching, eyes straining, forehead furrowed. What are we to do?  Try these relaxation and strengthening techniques for the face.  They can be done any time of the day or right before savasana to deepen your relaxation. 

Work the muscles with facial yoga

The age-old concept of yoga for the face has enjoyed newly fashionable status recently. Yoga teacher and coach Vernette Butler shares some simple facial exercises.
We spend hours working the muscles in the body to keep to be toned and  fit, yet rarely consider exercising the face.
yoga for the faceIf toning the muscles in the body keeps everything taught and lifted, why wouldn’t we want to apply this concept to our face?
There are about 16 major muscles, 14 bones and assorted arteries, veins and blood vessels that help your face do the things it does. 
Muscles connect to both the skin and the bone, and form the ‘cushion’ on which the skin rests. If this cushion is flat or worn-out, the skin will not look its best and will start to sag, causing lines and wrinkles. 
Like the muscles in our body, our facial muscles absorb and store a lot of stress and tension, which then constricts blood vessels, limiting the flow of blood and nutrients to your face. What’s more, the tension can cause headaches and spread down into our neck and shoulders.
Unless you relax those muscles, they get stiff and hard and look strainedd. Like all exercises, they must be done regularly to achieve and maintain results.
Every good yoga class should end with relaxation, tensing and releasing all muscles including the ones in the face. On this basis we can go a lot further with facial exercises.
Below is a complete facial exercise programme, mostly derived from yoga exercises that relax tense muscles, release stress and improve circulation. You don’t have to do the whole lot; find the ones that work for you: 
Sequence One – Warm ups, massage and ‘comfort’ moves.
The Great Rub 
Benefits: Releases stress and tension, particularly in the temples and jaw.
Place the index and middle fingers of both hands in the middle of your forehead. Rub your forehead by making small circles with your fingers. Move your fingers across your brow and to your temples, pausing there to give them a gentle massage. This is an area where we hold stress and tension that can often lead to headaches. Then move down from your temples to the hinge of your jaw, pausing to massage your jaw muscles. From there, move across your cheeks and up along the side of your nose to your forehead. Repeat. 

Eye Palming

Very beneficial if you’ve had a long day staring at a computer screen or TV.
Find a comfortable seated position, either on floor on a cushion or in a chair. Sit with your back straight. Begin with your eyes closed. Focus on your breath as it moves in and out of your nostrils. Cool air in, warm air out. Rub your palms together very fast until they feel warm. Then cup them over your closed eyes. Repeat. Benefits: Soothes the optic nerve, eyes and area around the eyes. This can be done with warming the hands gently by a fire and placing them over the eyes. 

Socket massage

Benefits: Relaxes the eyes and surrounding areas, and relieves stress and tension. 
Take your index and middle fingers of each hand and place them on either side of your nose just below the bridge. Rub your fingers up to the bridge of your nose and along your eyebrows. You’ll feel a notch in your eye socket where the bone begins to turn downward. Rub the notch gently for a moment. Then follow the line of the socket rim down beneath the eye and back up along the side of your nose. Repeat 3-5 times. 
Benefits: Increases circulation, relieving stress and tension.
Scrunch your face real tight. Purse your lips, draw your cheeks in toward your nose, pull your eye brows down and bring the flesh of your chin up toward your mouth. Hold…and release. Repeat. 
Cheek Pinches
Benefit: Improves circulation. Pinch your cheeks, by grabbing bits of flesh and giving them a squeeze. 
Exercise Sequence Two – specific areas
A lot of these exercises will seem as though they are the same, well they are very similar but do work on slightly different areas and like any exercise, they take time and practise so don’t be put off first time if you aren’t sure what you’re doing, just keep at it as all exercise is good.

Smiling moves
1. Sit upright facing forward and keep your lips closed and teeth together. Smile as broadly as possible, without opening your lips, keep there for 5 counts and when relaxing start puckering your lips in a pointed kiss. Keep there for 5 counts and relax – repeat 10 times.
2. Clenched smile – Grit your teeth and open your lips as wide as they will go. Feel your lips, cheeks, chin and neck stretch to their limit. Hold…and release. Repeat. 

Cheek Exercises
1. Sit upright facing forward with lips closed but relaxed. Pucker and pout your lips using the muscles in your cheeks. (Feel with your fingers that you are using your cheek muscles.) Keep puckered for a count of 10, relax and repeat 10 times.
2. Have a relaxed smile with your lips closed and then suck in your cheeks towards and on to your teeth. Hold this for 10 counts, relax and repeat 10 times.
3. Look in a mirror while doing this exercise. Pout your top lip, turning the corners of your lips upwards and move your cheek muscles towards your eyes. You should at this stage try to get your top lip touching your nose. Keep in this position for 10 counts, relax and repeat 5 times.
4. Look in a mirror while doing this exercise. Smile as widely as possible – while keeping your lips closed and your mouth corners turned up. Try to make your mouth corners touch your ears. Next wrinkle your nose and see your cheek muscles move upwards and feel these muscles work. Keep for 5 counts, relax and repeat 10 times.
5. Keep your teeth and lips closed and blow air under your top lip and keep it there for 10 counts, then move it to your left cheek, hold for 10, to your lower lip, hold for 10 and then to your right cheek while holding it for a count of 10. Repeat 5 times.
Eye Exercises 
The skin around the eye, is the thinnest and most fragile skin found on the body, and wrinkles in this area cause great aging of the face, as the eyes are the central point where most people focus when talking to you. Baggy eyes can be helped with facial eye exercises.
1. Gently tone the muscles of the eyes by pressing two fingers on each side of your head, at the temples, while opening and closing your eyes rapidly. Repeat 5 times.
2. Sit upright with your eyes closed and relaxed. While keeping your eyes closed the whole time, first look down and then look up as far as possible. Repeat the facial exercise 10 times.
3. Sit upright with your eyes closed and relaxed. Keep your eyes closed while lifting your eyebrows and stretching your eyelids down as far as possible. Keep in this position for 5 counts, relax and repeat 5 times.
4. Sit upright with your eyes relaxed and open. Lift your eyebrows while closing your top eyelids until about halfway closed, then open your eyelids wide until the white of your eye shows over your iris.
5. Sit upright looking straight ahead with your eyes open. Look up then down, while keeping your head still. Repeat 10 times. Then look left and right – repeat 10 times.
Forehead Exercises 
The area on the forehead, between the eyebrows, can easily become lined and full of wrinkles and for this facial exercises can be a great help.
1. Frown as much as possible and try to bring your eyebrows over your eyes while pulling the eyebrows toward one another. Then lift your eyebrows as far as possible while opening your eyes as far as possible.  Repeat 5 times.
2. Lie on your bed facing the ceiling your head hanging over the edge. Lift your eyebrows as high as possible, with your eyes opening very wide. Relax and repeat 10 times.
3. Sit upright facing forward and while bringing your eyebrows down over your eyes, wrinkle your nose as far up as possible while flaring your nostrils. Keep for a count of 10, relax and repeat 5 times.
Neck / Throat Exercises
There’s the old saying of if you want to know a persons age, look at their neck and throat!
These exercises will help relieve and prevent a double chin, loose skin on the neck and throat area and will also assist in toning these muscles. A double chin is not simply excess weight manifesting itself – but its also is the manifestation of loose skin and terrible muscle tone. 
1. The Lion – A true Yoga move that should be fun so please be sure to make it so, although its not probably best not to do this in the company of others as it does look strange! Take a deep breath. All at once, exhale forcefully, open your mouth wide, stick your tongue out as far as it will go, say “Aghhhhhhh,” and open your eyes wide and look up. Repeat 3 times. Benefits: Relieves tension in the throat and face, stimulates the eyes and improves circulation.
2. A great exercise is to sit upright, tilt your head back looking at the ceiling while keeping your lips closed and then start a chewing movement. You will feel the muscles working in your neck and throat area – and will be truly amazed at the results. Repeat 20 times.
3. Sit upright, tilt your head back looking at the ceiling, while keeping your lips closed and relaxed. Start puckering your lips together in a kiss and stretch the kiss, as if you were trying to kiss the ceiling. Keep your lips puckered for 10 counts, then relax, bring your head back to its normal position and repeat 5 times.
4. Sit upright, tilt your head back looking at the ceiling, while keeping your lips closed and relaxed. Open your lips and stick your tongue out as if you were trying to touch your chin with the tip of your tongue. Keep your tongue out in this position for 10 counts, and then return your tongue and head to its normal position.
5. Sit upright, tilt your head back looking at the ceiling, while keeping your lips closed and relaxed. Next move your lower lip over your top lip as far as possible and keep it there for a count of 5. Relax and repeat 5 times.
6. Lie on your bed, with your head hanging down over the edge. Slowly bring your head up towards your torso and keep it there for 10 counts. Relax and lower your head towards the floor again – repeat 5 times.
7. Sit upright and face forward and while keeping your lips together, separate your teeth by dropping your jaw and then push your jaw forward, keep for a count of 10, bring back to starting position and repeat 5 times.
And that’s it! Do some of these regularly, and the practice will make a difference.
Vernette is a Life and Fitness Coach. Her therapy and fitness business, Vernyoga Ltd and her website are entirely run by herself dedicated to yoga, fitness, counselling and alternative therapies. Call Vernette Butler on 07906 337594 or email at vernette_thecounsellor@yahoo.co.uk  www.vernyoga.cd2.com

The Poses
Mountain Brook
Props: 2-3 blankets, neck roll, one bolsters

Benefits: counteracts the slumped position of our posture from sitting, computer use, driving, everyday activities. Opens the chest to help breathe easier. Improves digestion, reduces fatigue and can lift your mood.

Just like a babbling brook with boulders (soft ones!), imagine your body like the soft rushing waters laying over those boulders, smooth, flowing.  It will allow the natural curves of the body to be held up gently and the breath to flow.

On your mat, place one bolster where your knees will be and another where your lower legs can rest, one blanket rolled up where the bra line is (base of scapula), and a neck roll for the cervical spine.  Shoulders rest on the floor, arms to side with palms facing up or come into Goddess arms.  If ankles need support, use rolled-up blanket or dish towel.  Eye pillows can lightly rest on eyes or even be used on forehead (useful for headaches) or even on shoulders (wherever you need to release tension). To begin with stay in pose for 10 minutes working up to 20 minutes.  Great to use in savasana. Feel the heart open, the strain from holding yourself up all day evaporate.
Variations: Feeling cranky in the lumbar spine? Place blanket to fill the curves.  Want to feel more grounded while still opening the heart? Place rolled up blanket against wall and soles of feet touching blanket.  Need to feel cuddled? Swaddle your head in a blanket cradle.

Sublime Side Lean

Props: bolster or 2 or 3 pillows or blankets

Benefits: Stretches the torso and provides a gentle twist which allows a release in tension in the lower back area.

Place bolster or the 2 or 3 blankets or pillows horizontally on your mat or floor. Lie on right side with hip at the base of the blankets or pillows.  Torso should rest on the stack.  Right arm rest on the floor with the palm up.  The left arm can reach over the head to increase the stretch.  Close your eyes and allow your body to relax and release any stress or tension. Slowly sit up and switch sides for the same amount of time.
Focus on your breath.  Breath into your right side allowing that gentle stretch to travel from the tip of your fingers down your lower spine.  Sense the left side of your body gently melting and surrendering to the ground beneath you.  All tension and stress being recycled by mother earth.  Sense the gentle letting go of your muscles and knowing that you are safe and supported.  Breath deep and exhale soft and long.

Belly Down Pose with Hip Opener

Props: 2 blankets, neck roll or small pillow for head
Benefits: gently opens hips, lengthens leg muscles and tops of the feet, soothing for the belly, shoulder opener, grounding, lessens anxiety

Stack one or two blankets to the side folded in half. As you release to the floor, lengthen the body and then bend the leg at 90 degree angles to lay on the blankets to the side. Arms can come to goddess position, head turned to the side or stack hands as a pillow.  For those with tight shoulders, extend arms by the sides of the body.  When you need to turn the head, do so with a soft inhalation.