Your face works hard. All day long it helps you see, breathe, chew, speak, laugh, cry, kiss, grin, grimace, smile, frown, sneeze and whole lot more. It gets hit by sun, rain, wind, snow, rubs, scratches, scrapes, make-up, grit and grime, as well as smiles, stares, glares and other looks from friends, family and strangers.

There are about 16 muscles, a dozen bones and assorted arteries, veins and blood vessels that help your face do the things it does. Like muscles in other parts of your body, your face muscles absorb and store a lot of stress and tension. Unless you relax those muscles, they get stiff and hard and look strained. Tense muscles also constrict blood vessels, limiting the flow of blood and nutrients to your face. What’s more, the tension in your face muscles can cause headaches and spread down into our neck and shoulders. A few simple exercise can help relieve facial tension and help you look and feel more relaxed.

Your face deserves a break. Below are a few simple face exercise that help relax tense muscles, release stress and improve circulation.

1. Palming. – Find a comfortable seated position, either on floor on a cushion or in a chair. Sit with your back straight. Begin with your eyes closed. Focus on your breath as it moves in and out of your nostrils. Cool air in, warm air out. – Rub your palms together very fast until they feel warm. Then cup them over your closed eyes. – Repeat. Benefits: Soothes the optic nerve, eyes and area around the eyes.

2. The Great Rub – Place the index and middle fingers of both hands in the middle of your forehead. Rub your forehead by making small circles with your fingers. – Move your fingers across your brow and to your temples, pausing there to give them a gentle massage. This is an area where we hold stress and tension that can often lead to headaches. – Then move down from your temples to the hinge of your jaw, pausing to massage your jaw muscles. – From there, move across your cheeks and up along the side of your nose to your forehead. – Repeat. Benefits: Releases stress and tension, particularly in the temples and jaw.

3. Eye socket massage. – Take your index and middle fingers of each hand and place them on either side of your nose just below the bridge. Rub your fingers up to the bridge of your nose and along your eyebrows. – You’ll feel a notch in your eye socket where the bone begins to turn downward. Rub the notch gently for a moment. Then follow the line of the socket rim down beneath the eye and back up along the side of your nose. – Repeat 3-5 times. Benefits: Relaxes the eyes and surrounding areas, and relieves stress and tension.

4. Clenched smile. – Grit your teeth and open your lips as wide as they will go. – Feel your lips, cheeks, chin and neck stretch to their limit. Hold…and release. – Repeat. Benefits: Increases circulation, relaxes faces muscles, relieving stress and tension.

5. Scrunches – Scrunch your face real tight. Purse your lips, draw your cheeks in toward your nose, pull your eye brows down and bring the flesh of your chin up toward your mouth. – Hold…and release. – Repeat. Benefits: Provides a counter stretch to the “Clench” exercise. Increases circulation, relaxes faces muscles, relieving stress and tension.

6. The Lion. – Take a deep breath. – All at once, exhale forcefully, open your mouth wide, stick your tongue out as far as it will go, say “Aghhhhhhh,” and open your eyes wide and look up. – Repeat 3 times. Benefits: Relieves tension in the throat and face, stimulates the eyes and improves circulation.

7. Cheek Pinch. Pinch your cheeks, by grabbing bits of flesh and giving them a squeeze. Benefit: Improves circulation.

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