Yoga…it’s not just limber legs and loose shoulders. It’s about what’s above the shoulders, too, and can work benefits on the eyes, jaw and tongue.
Face Yoga can help maintain muscle tone, sensation, and response to improve chewing, swallowing and facial animation for people with Parkinson’s Disease.
Much like a good stretch loosens muscle tension and improves blood flow to areas like the hamstrings or lower back, Face Yoga can relax eye and forehead tension, release clenched jaws, and even loosen rigid necks. Movement and stretching of eyebrows, eyeballs, mouth and tongue may even result in a reduction of wrinkles and lines that accompany squinting and tightening of the face—a possible benefit that helped bring the practice its notoriety.
Combining stretching and loosening movements with strengthening work of the tongue, jaw and throat muscles also may ease problems with chewing and swallowing that are sometimes encountered with Parkinson’s. Strengthening and waking those muscles aids in voice projection, which helps build confidence.
An added bonus of Face Yoga is its impact on the so-called “Mask of PD,” a lack of animated facial expressions that sometimes presents with the disease.
The two cranial nerves responsible for chewing, expression and sensation are the Trigeminal nerve (cranial nerve V), and the Facial Neve (cranial nerve VII). The Trigeminal nerve, the largest cranial nerve, has both sensory and motor abilities. It innervates the muscles we use to chew and swallow and sends pain and touch sensations from the face to the brain. The Facial Nerve, which also has sensory and motor capabilities, has control over facial expression and transmits some facial sensation and taste to the brain.
The poses, movements and sounds made during Face Yoga are designed to inspire those cranial nerves—and, in turn, the brain—by using repeated sensation and movement.
The benefits are clear and while you might have some hesitations, feel free to let them go and feel safe within a Face Yoga class. The practice includes some crazy facial expressions and silly sounds. You’ll be sticking out your tongue, roaring like a lion, rolling your eyes, opening and closing the mouth, moving the jaw from side to side, and animating the eyebrows.
Just like any style of yoga, Face Yoga includes specialized breathing techniques, mindfulness, meditation and deep relaxation. Because the practice can be done while seated, it is accessible even to those with balance and gait restrictions. Once the poses are learned and practiced with a knowledgeable yoga instructor or Yoga Therapist, you will be able to practice on your own.
You can even start right now by simply smiling.
Visit Theresa’s website Yoga For Parkinson’s and check out the Video Library replay of our recent Therapy Break™ program to experience a face yoga routine firsthand!