What Even Is Facial Yoga—and Should You Be Doing It?

Photo: Stocksy/Kate Daigneault

Getting your yoga on comes with a myriad of mind-body benefits, like boosted immunity and more satisfying sex. And (score!) according to a newly published research letter in JAMA Dermatologyyour skin is next in line to reap the benefits of your practice.

Dermatologists and researchers from Northwestern University teamed up with Gary Sikorski, the creator of Happy Face Yoga, to test a theory that facial yoga (it's pretty much just what it sounds like) could “rejuvenate the aging face, presumably by inducing underlying muscle growth." Now, this has been debated for some time with adherents claiming it can improve the skin's appearance, but there's now data to support the theory.

After attending two sessions with Sikorski to learn 32 facial exercises, a small group of women aged 40 to 65 were sent home with instructions to continue the facial poses on their own.

"Assuming the findings are confirmed in a larger study, individuals now have a low-cost, non-toxic way for looking younger." —Dr. Murad Alam, study co-author

Twenty weeks later, researchers asked dermatologists to assess the pictures taken before, halfway through, and at the end of the study, without knowledge of the order in which they were taken, and the analysis will probably make you want to add "skin day" to your usual gym rotation. The dermatologists perceived the average age of participants as 50.8 at the advent of the study, 49.6 after eight weeks, and 48.1 at the end, Time reports. Plus, researchers also noticed that the women's upper and lower cheeks looked more filled out after 20 weeks.

Northwestern dermatologist Murad Alam, MD, the study co-author, believes these results mark exciting progress toward the future of longevity skin-care practices. “Assuming the findings are confirmed in a larger study, individuals now have a low-cost, non-toxic way for looking younger or to augment other cosmetic or anti-aging treatments they may be seeking," he says.

Ready to give it a shot? Here are two cheek-toning moves you can start with. (Hint: There's lots of smiling involved).

1. The cheek lifter

Form an "O" with your mouth, then lay your upper lip on your top row of teeth. Smile, and place your fingers gently on top of your cheeks. Release your muscles and lower your smile. Repeat.

2. The happy-cheeks sculpting

Purse your lips, and smile without showing teeth. Place fingers on the corners of your mouth, and slide them up toward the tops of your cheeks. Hold for 20 seconds.

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