Releasing the Face
“Let a series of happy thoughts run through your mind. They will show on your face.” Norman Vincent Peale
Our face works hard. All day.
The myriad of muscles that make up our face, are constantly and actively engaged with expressions, emotions and moods .. we laugh, frown, scowl and ponder, as well as breathe, see, eat and smell. In fact our face can, in a matter of moments, reveal a multitude of emotions, thoughts and feelings. Humans are capable of making 10,000 unique facial expressions, and the face is one of the most complex parts of the human body with 14 bones, 32 teeth and more than 40 muscles, 21 of which are directly linked to facial emotions (called mimetic facial muscles).
Did you know that it takes 17 muscles to smile but 43 muscles to frown?
And just like other parts of our body, our facial muscles absorb and store stress, and when overworked and tired, our facial muscles become hard and tight, constricting blood vessels and limiting the flow of blood and nutrients to the face. Taking some time to deeply relax your face, will not only help relax tense facial muscles, improve circulation and release stress .. but will also flow to the rest of your body, positively impact your immune and nervous system and making you feel and look more relaxed.
Releasing The Face
* For this practice you might like to lay down, although you can also do this seated at a desk, outside in a park or in a parked car (don’t drive).
* Make sure to turn off any distractions .. so that your mind can truly rest.
* Start by simply observing your body as you begin to relax, noticing how the breath follows in due course, becoming softer and slower.
* Begin by first tensing all the muscles of your face, really scrunching up the face and holding that tension for a few seconds before allowing everything to release.
* Take a couple of longer, slower breaths and notice how different the face feels after that tensing.
* Continue to encourage that softening of the face, with an intention to continue releasing any holding or tightness you find.
We are going to consciously relax the face with each exhalation .. moving slowly and mindfully, attending to each part of your face with lightness and ease, and cultivating an ever-deepening sense of surrender.
* Scalp. Tension headaches are one of the most common forms of headaches and can occur when scalp muscles tense or contract in response to stress or anxiety. Imagine you are breathing into the space between scalp and skin .. breathing softness across the top of the head and down the side and back of the scalp. Loosening. Softening.
* Forehead. Visualise your forehead as a broad and smooth expanse of skin. Loose and warm. Rest here.
* Eyebrows. Raise and stretch your eyebrows, holding for a moment before softening and releasing .. allowing the eyebrows to then slip to the side of the face. Take a few breaths into the space between the eyebrows (the ‘third eye’) also encouraging that stretch of skin to open and soften. Rest here.
* Eyes. Sense your eyes comfortably floating behind heavy eyelids, in a warm and soft bath. Allow the tiny muscles around and below the eyes to relax. Rest here.
* Cheeks. Imagine breathing into the pores of your skin across the face, bringing a plumpness and softness to the cheeks. Rest here for a few breaths.
* Nostrils. Feel the cool life-giving air at the entrance of the nostrils as you inhale, and the coolness touching the nasal passage, before you exhale a warmer breath. Rest here.
* Tongue. Allow the tongue to release and settle into the bottom of your mouth. A tight tongue is often associated with tight thinking. Encourage your tongue to soften and spread, which will encourage a releasing of lips and jaw. Rest here for a few breaths.
* Jaw. Most of us hold habitual tension in the jaw, try clenching then wiggling your jaw to release any holding, and encourage a sense of the jaw ‘hanging open’. Rest.
* Whole face. Continue to breath and scan your whole face for a few moments. Breathing in – sensing a soft and open face; Breathing out – releasing and letting go.
* Smile. Before returning to your day, spend a few moments exploring a half-smile mindfulness practice. Bringing a very slight inward smile to the lips, and noticing how this simple practice can also lighten and soften our face (and mood). Take time to just enjoy this mindful awareness of a smile, before gently returning to your day.
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