Is there a healthy, natural alternative to surgery or injections for achieving a more youthful looking face? Do-it-yourself facial exercise programs have been in existence for years. When Gary Sikorski, founder of Happy Face Yoga, first tried to promote his program to the medical community and media, they refused him saying there was no proof that it worked. Several years later he got the proof he needed. Researchers at Northwestern University conducted a clinical study using his facial exercises. Results showed the participants’ faces did appear younger as determined by dermatologists. Participants were women aged 40 to 65 years. The study results were published in JAMA Dermatology. Sikorski says the program strategy is simple: keep your facial muscles fit. Some users have described it as a natural face lift.
Sikorskihas been teaching facial exercises for 13 years to men and women. In this sample video he demonstrates two of his exercises. Because we’re always on the prowl for science-based, natural solutions we called him to learn more about the program and how it might complement a natural skin care routine.
How is Happy Face Yoga different from other programs?
It emphasizes muscle resistance facial exercises. Your fingers, hands, palms apply resistance on the muscles which builds the muscle faster and better. Others use pulsing, light touch, massage. It’s a different technique.
In the study, sixteen participants received the full 20-week intervention, but eleven dropped out. How do people stay motivated to complete the program?
The challenge is to practice on a daily basis. You have to learn the exercises. In the first couple of weeks you will see a difference in your complexion due to increases of blood flow to the face which boosts collagen and elastin, making skin cells healthier. Between 6 to 12 weeks the more you do it, the better the results. It’s like going to the gym to work out your body. You have to put the time in.
Is the Happy Face Yoga program appropriate for all ages?
Yes. Young people can start early and maintain their muscle tone. Many people in their 40s and 50s notice signs of aging and become concerned. Factors such as heredity, sun exposure, nutrition, and hydration have an impact. But as we age the muscles weaken, so it may be harder to strengthen them if you are in your seventies, but not impossible.
You include yoga type breathing in the exercises. Why?
Some people hold a lot of stress in their face. Yoga breathing helps them relax and slow down. The exercises should not be rushed. It also helps in keeping the poses, some of which are held for 30 seconds.
Is there a regimen or routine you would suggest when using the program?
Everybody is different. Some people want to work on a certain area, so they choose those exercises first to meet their goal. Two exercises are for the whole face that I recommend everyone do. There’s no downside. Just remember that the muscles of the face need to be worked daily. It can be at any time of day. The exercises can be broken up into different segments if you don’t have time to do them all at once.
Happy Face Yoga includes a lot of smiling. Will that form crow’s feet around the eyes?
That’s a myth! Smiling is good for you. Touching your face while applying resistance to your muscles is also okay. Facial skin attaches to your muscles, so toning muscles actually tightens and smooths out fine lines.
The more we talked with Sikorski the more we got interested in seeing for ourselves how well it works. He was kind enough to send us the Happy Yoga Face written exercise card package. We will try it and report back on the experience in an upcoming blog. Until then, keep your smile on. (photography: Tom Ward)