Facial Yoga, Botox and Bruno

February 10th, 2008

Annelise Hagen

What is Face Yoga?

According to Annelise Hagen,”…it is a technique for beauty, wellness, and facial rejuvenation through Yoga and facial exercise.” Hagen is a Yoga teacher and author of the book, “The Yoga Face: Eliminate Wrinkles with the Ultimate Natural Facelift.”,

A Manhattan studio hosts Hagen’s Face Yoga classes where she teaches students to exercise the muscles of the face for better circulation, toning and stretching. The class is recommended for students who want to find outer and inner beauty.

It seems a bit of a stretch to me to consider this a Yoga class but I have not attended. It seems to be successful and is appreciated by students.

“Working in New York is very stressful,” Kathy Healey said. ”It’s a perfect way to end the week.” She was quoted in an MSNBC Skin and Beauty article here. In fact a bit of buzz on the topic has begun.

Of course with every buzz there are critics and skeptics. Even I am a bit torn on the topic. Without judgment, I accept that human beings do have ego, are vain and are subject to some societal norm of ‘beauty’. I also feel that taking Yoga classes solely for the purpose of trying to appear younger than you are is not so well alligned with certain Yogic principles; truth, acceptance, contentment and self study.

Apparently I am not alone. Renowned Yoga teacher Rodney Yee is quoted:

“That is the antithesis of yoga, pretending to be something that you’re not,” he says. “There is a beauty in becoming older.” From a Gaiam community article here.

Perhaps Leta Koontz from Schoolhouse Yoga in Pittsburgh has a more balanced or holistic approach by including face exercises in her regular classes. She reminds her students to keep facial muscles relaxed. “It’s very synergistic,” she says. “Whatever the body is doing, it continues into the face.”

Not surprisingly, the majority of doctors polled on the topic were skeptical, particularly, plastic surgeons as reported in New York Magazine here.

Which brings me to another wrinkle related buzz.

What is Botox?

According to the National Institute of Health, “Botox is a drug made from a toxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. It’s the same toxin that causes a life-threatening type of food poisoning called botulism. Doctors use it in small doses to treat health problems, including:

Temporary removal of facial wrinkles ….”

Recent news about the life threatening dangers of Botox reminded me of how I felt when several years ago, I read about this great break through in cosmetic medicine. Cosmetic surgeons injected a strain of botulism to patient’s faces to cure wrinkles!

Are wrinkles a disease? And should we cure them by injecting poison into the face?

Around 2002, a husband and wife doctor team discovered that Botox, which was successfully being used since 1980 to treat strabismus, could be injected into the face to smooth wrinkles by swelling the tissue beneath. The story I know is that they tried it on themselves first.

There are also other, non-cosmetic, medical uses for Botox, including pediatric incontinence, chronic neck pain and other eye disorders. On a personal note, it so happens that in 1983 at 13 years old a nasty stomch virus left me with weakened muscles in one eye causing strabismus (I was cross-eyed). My opthamologist, Dr. Richard Banyard (an excellent doctor and a very kind man in Greenwich, CT) must have considered botox injections as a possible treatment protocol. By then it had been in use for 2-3 years. However, I am glad that he felt more confident in an attempt to surgically shorten the muscles of the weak eye, in hopes that the muscles could then be exercised and strengthened. It was a bit of an experiment and became a case study, and was a huge success. After fewer weeks than predicted performing eye exercises my ‘crossed’ eye was realigned. Surgery is traumatic but my body was able to recover and heal itself from within. The effects of Botox are temporary and maybe it’s my predilection for purity but I am okay with not having put botulism in my body.

There have been medical successes for patients with excessive muscle contractions. In these cases, without other treatment options, it is a miracle that a poison can be used to heal. As is described in this 1995 FDA article which concludes with the warning: Not for Wrinkles …such unapproved use as “an egregious example of promoting a potentially toxic biologic for cosmetic purposes.”

Then in 2002 Botox was approved by the FDA for cosmetic use.

A wikipedia article states that as of 2006 Botox injections were the most common cosmetic operation in the USA.

Now in 2008 the FDA is warning us that injections of the poison, botulinium toxin type A, could have life threatening consequences.

If you are now wrinkling your forehead in worry about that appointment you made for next week, educate yourself well. A Westport, CT plastic surgeon has rebutted this latest news, you can read his comments here.

I admit, I have moments when I don’t recognize the me in the mirror becase it seems overnight she has aged. My daughter and I are conflicted over the right light in the bathroom. I prefer a soft light, I call it ‘gentle’. She prefers the bright day light like bulbs right over the mirror, she calls it ‘truth’. We are human, we age, sometimes it is not so easy to accept the years gone by when we see them represented as lines in our faces, shiny scalps or silvering hair. But Botox, no thank you. Facial Yoga, I will probably pass on that too. I will however, keep up my practice of Yoga and with faith keep workng on my practice of non-judgment, self acceptance and purity.

This is Bruno, a 7 year old Bull Mastiff that is kind enough to share his house with my family.

Bruno's wrinkles make him unique. Ah, to be without ego

Bruno’s worried expression, furrowed brow and droopy jowls make him unique. He gets twisted compliments, ‘he’s so ugly that he is cute.’ or ‘that is a face only a mother could love’.

Could you imagine if dog’s had human like ego? Would Bruno opt for cosmetic surgery? Would he attempt exercises to change his appearance.

I don’t know but he does naturally do a spectacular downward facing dog and I have observed him stretching in the morning, even stretching his face with some similarity to Lion Face.

I do know that if it feels good to stretch, then we should stretch, the spine, the shoulders, the face. I also know it feels good to release tension from the face. Throughout asana instruction in my classes, I often remind students to relax the jaw or soften the eyes.

People can hold plenty of tension and stress in the face and it probably serves our age lines well to keep worrying about the wrinkles that worrying will cause!

So maybe that is a good place to start, let go of worrying about wrinkles.

Then allow your inner beauty to radiate outward by appreciating your compassionate heart, your powerful mind and the miraculous gifts of a physical body that can do so much and is each unique.

What we might consider flaws, faults, scars or signs of old age might really be worn proudly as medals, mementos and reminders of our unique life experiences. Your laugh lines can be a sign of abundant joy in your life. My crow’s feet may be a memento of all the light I witness in my family, my students and of course the ever radiant sun.

Swamiji wrote a beautiful poem here.

“…Accept yourself as you are
Love yourself as you are;
Just be what you are
Just be what you are.”

One Response to “Facial Yoga, Botox and Bruno”

  1. bruno's gurl says:

    what can I say…he’s got the best faces!

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