How relaxed is your face? Some of are extremely expressive. We smile, frown, grimace and laugh. We let our surprise, happiness, dismay, fear, suspicion or anger flow freely across our face. Others may contain, suppress or deny expression, either because that’s our nature or it’s not socially or culturally appropriate to express emotion in the moment (or ever). For some (e.g., me) , either the expression or containment of emotion continues during sleep.
So it’s important to learn how to relax your face deeply. This will result in more relaxed facial and neck muscles, and a more peaceful countenance. These relaxation techniques are particularly easy to do as you’re dropping off to sleep. The two easiest steps are to relax your tongue and your eyes.
HOW TO RELAX YOUR TONGUE:
- Keeping the lips closed, let your teeth separate.
- Let your tongue be heavy and fall back in your mouth
- See if you can sense the base of your tongue at the very back of the mouth and let it soften.
- With each breath, continue to let it soften.
The next time you go to the dentist (which should be at least every six months, just sayin’), ask to have your bite checked. If your teeth aren’t aligned, it could cause tension and your teeth to shift. When jaw tension increases, it can create tension in your neck, disrupt sleep, cause cracked molars or crowns, or TMJ (Tempo-Mandibular Joint) problems.
If a night guard has been suggested, make an effort to wear it consistently for a week. Your jaw should feel more relaxed upon waking. That soft feeling should inspire you to wear your night guard more consistently.
Throughout the day, take a few moments to part your teeth (keeping lips together) and relax your tongue. While you’re at it, take a few deep breaths with long exhalations.
HOW TO SOFTEN YOUR EYES
- Close your eyes
- Let your eyes roll down, as though you are gazing towards your cheeks, even though your eyes are closed
- Exhaling deeply, imagine relaxing the root of your eyes, deep in your skull, letting them soften.
- With every exhalation, let your senses travel deeper within your eyes to soften them.
- To help relax your eyes, place an eye pillow (usually filled with lavender or flax seeds or some combination) on your eyes.
BONUS: RELAXING YOUR FOREHEAD
… and confession. I have to make a concerted effort to relax my forehead, and usually get the best results with firm massage (using my thumb knuckle to rub vigourously). An eye pillow placed on my forehead also helps. So put that eye pillow to work!
I have had an expressive forehead for decades, and now there’s no hiding it. I tried a product that looks like small triangles of packing tape that adhere to the skin with a bit of water . I tried these for a few nights, and what shocked me was how relaxed my face felt in the morning. And although in my case the lines were diminished upon arising, once I started reacting to my day, they returned. This demonstrated that I continue expressing emotions WHILE I SLEEP!
I’ve practiced relaxing my forehead, eyes and tongue since teaching yoga many years ago. And because I’m “expressive,” they’ve become part of my daily routines.
As a former yoga teacher, I usually incorporated facial relaxation as the first instruction when students arranged themselves in Savasana (Corpse Pose, or Deep Relaxation), the final pose of the class. Savasana consists of lying on the floor, arms falling at your sides, legs relaxed, eyes closed. All the poses of the class helped loosen the joints and soften the body so one could relax in this pose. Trying to relax the face took just enough concentration that the rest of the body let go along with the face.
So before you leave this post, take a moment to relax your tongue and eyes and allow the softness in your face. And now – back to life!