Your face is made up of 40 major muscles, and—much like your glutes, core, and other muscles in your body—they go slack when they’re neglected.
“The face is unique in that it’s the only area of the entire body where the skin and muscles are directly attached to one another,” says Shelly Marshall, a holistic esthetician based in New York City and the founder of Beauty Shamans.“This means that where the muscles go, the skin goes too.”
With that in mind, Marshall has spent years practicing facial yoga, and has found it so effective for keeping her skin taut that she no longer uses injectables. “Because face yoga movements help increase circulation to the entire face, the skin starts to take on a more hydrated and glowing complexion from the increased blood supply,” she says, “Facial movement also gets our lymphatic system moving so our skin will appear less puffy and much tighter.”
She has even seen it eliminate some of the pesky symptoms of tech neck like stiffness, sagging, lines, and more. Ahead, we spoke with Marshall about her practice and the moves she recommends for fighting sagging skin and tech neck.
What is facial yoga
Like sourdough starter and TikTok, facial yoga gained popularity during the 2020 lockdown when estheticians started showing off their moves on Instagram and offering Zoom sessions to guide people through the practice. But for Marshall—and many others—face yoga is so much more than a beauty trend.
“It is a transformative practice that deepens the interconnections between mind, body, and spirit while delivering amazing benefits for the face,” she explains.
In other words, the same principles of body yoga apply—sans downward dog. The practice uses stretches, poses, and facial expressions to lift, tone, and sculpt the face while smoothing fine lines and wrinkles. “It works by deliberately relaxing facial muscles that carry stress while exercising and toning the muscles that don’t get enough movement,” says Marshall.
Beyond just the movements, face yoga also utilizes breathwork. “Breathing deeply through each pose releases stress, stimulates the lymphatic system, relaxes the nervous system, and oxygenates the cells that make up the structure of the face,” says Marshall.
The practice can be helpful for sculpting and strengthening your facial muscles, but Marshall especially loves it for staving off the effects of “tech neck.” The catchy term describes the soreness, stiffness, and pain you feel from bending your neck to stare at a screen for a long period of time, and can cause sagging skin, lines, and wrinkles (plus headaches and improper posture).
“Held in a downward position, the front of the neck becomes short and tight while the back of the neck becomes hard and stiff,” says Marshall, “With less space for the tissue to move, you will begin to see lines across the front of the neck as the muscle begins to fold onto itself—there is nowhere else for the skin to go.”
The longer you keep your neck muscles in this position, the stiffer they become, which pulls down on the face and causes sagging. Marshall also points out that a prolonged lack of movement restricts our circulatory and lymphatic systems which can cause fluid retention and prevent oxygen from getting to the skin. That’s where face yoga comes in.
3 facial yoga moves to prevent tech neck
1. Kiss the moon
Place your hands at the base of the front side of the neck to stabilize the platysma muscle. Then, slowly bring your head back so you are gazing up at the sky. For an extra stretch in the front of the neck, make a soft pucker with your lips, and try to ‘kiss the moon’ about 10 times.
“This helps stretch and lengthen the neck, aligns our posture, relieves pain, eliminates necklines, clears facial puffiness, reduces a double chin, and shapes the jawline,” Marshall says.
2. Touch your tongue to your nose
Start by interlacing your hands behind your back, and pull your arms as far away from your body as you can. Then, as you feel your shoulder blades come together behind you, push your chest and stomach out and take a deep breath into your lower lungs and belly.
Slightly lift the chin and push your tongue up into the inside of your upper lip and try to touch each nostril with the tip of your tongue. Alternate reaching for each nostril five times on each side for the duration of three big breaths and then come out of the pose. Repeat one to three more times with a rest period of about 10-15 seconds between each set.
3. Rainbow roll
With one hand on top of the other, place your palms at the base of the neck and pull down slightly to stabilize the neck muscle. Keeping your shoulders faced forward, turn your head to one side so your chin hovers right above one shoulder. Nod your head slowly up and down five times. After the fifth nod, take your gaze upward (nose should be pointed to the ceiling) and slowly rainbow roll (the top of your head should make the shape of a rainbow as it moves) your head all the way to the other side and nod five times over the other shoulder. Repeat as many times as you like or until you feel the release of tension in the back of the neck.
For a deeper stretch, incorporate a face yoga pose at the same time. Press your lips together as if applying lip balm. With your lips glued together, lift the corners of your mouth and smile. Lift as high as you can but be careful not to allow wrinkling around the eyes. Hold this pose while you perform the above neck movement.