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Face your yoga benefits

25 Feb 2016
by Aimée Kuntz

Do you want to get more out of the time you spend on your yoga mat? This does not always mean that you have to do more. It can also be an adjustment in how you practice. Learning to relax my face in my yoga practice turned out to be a game changer for myself. It calms the nervous system, which makes you feel more comfortable, increases the awareness about what is happening (in your body) during the yoga-practice and makes it easier to learn new things.


Especially during those intense yoga classes

My motivation to learn relaxing my face during yoga started a while ago when I had to face a triggered old knee injury. Falling back on old habits, I looked with a harsh focused eye gaze for more details to apply in my postures simultaneously to ‘fix’ my postures. I was afraid for making mistakes. This didn’t change the fact that I was told by pain signals that apparently, I was doing something wrong…


Once I let go of the expectation that I was able to fix it all at the same time, it finally changed. Immediately I felt more relaxed mentally in my yoga classes. Being aware of that turned out to have a major impact on healing my injury.



Miracles can happen with a hint of a smile

Realizing that my practice also felt better physically once I was more relaxed mentally, reminded me that a relaxed face is essential in yoga to receive more therapeutic benefits.


If you can relax your jaw, throat, tongue, eye gaze and forehead, the result is a brain that is more relaxed. This makes it easier to feel what is happening in your body and to work from there, step by step. Rather than from what you 'want' to do and forcing yourself into these figures (or avoiding the postures at all).


In my experience, it also helps to keep the breath flowing. As an experiment, you could try to keep your face relaxed while you are not breathing. Preferably while working on a challenging yoga posture. By keeping a continuous flow of breath, you are calming the nervous system and avoiding a fight-or-flight reaction. A relaxed face therefore also contributes to feel more comfortable in intense circumstances.


In the beginning it can be difficult to feel if all those points on your face (jaw, throat, tongue, eye gaze and forehead) are relaxed. Keeping a hint of a smile on your face can then be more approachable and relaxes these points automatically.


To gain maximum therapeutic benefits from the yoga postures, the alignment has of course a critical role in your yoga postures. A relaxed face (like when you smile) is a tool to enhance the mind-body connection. By improving this awareness, you will learn to feel for yourself what the yoga postures do for you, where you could improve your technique and how you can work from the current capabilities of your body. Step by step. Breath by breath.



Focus inwardly and use an active intent

Your yoga practice won’t become passive by relaxing your face. On the contrary, it will help you to be able to eventually do more. Increasing the mind-body connection through a relaxed face (and through your breath) helps to increase the inward focus. The more awareness you get into the applied technique and how your body responds, the easier it becomes to improve your technique and thereby also your therapeutic benefits.



4 yoga therapy Habits©

  • Use an intention in your yoga practice that is focused on achieving therapeutic benefits from the yoga postures.
  • Become aware of what happens when you accidentally lose that intention for a moment. Does it feel different in your body or perhaps emotionally?
  • Focus with a relaxed face. For example by keeping a (hint of a) smile on your face, like the smile of the Mona Lisa. If you have a mirror available during your yoga practice, you can use it to check if you keep your face relaxed (as it is sometimes difficult to feel this in the beginning). You could pay attention to the following:
     -  The jaw and throat remain relaxed. If the corners of the mouth come a little bit up (like in a smile), this is often easier to obtain. Pay extra attention to relaxing your jaw in forward bends.
     -  Try not to wrinkle the area between the eyebrows and the forehead. Also, keep your eye gaze soft while focusing on one point. Like what happens when you (keep a hint of a) smile. Pay extra attention to keeping your forehead relaxed in backbend (no frowns).
  • Use the relaxation of your face to become actively aware of what is happening in your body (and mind) to keep working on the therapeutic intent. Stay curious. It is an ongoing process of creating awareness, layer by layer (like peeling an onion).

Enjoy your YogaHabits© today!

Aimée Kuntz

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