Yoga, thus far known as a way destressing in the West, is coming in for other interesting uses too, for facials, to wit.
Yoga instructor Annelise Hagen teaches upper class New Yorkers several facial exercises designed to stretch and tone facial muscles.
A group of women practice moves including "The Lion," showing the tongue hanging out and eyes rolled up. Hagen encourages class members to hold the position for 60 seconds, joking: "You can do this any time. It really helps you get a seat on the train."
Hagen recently released a book, "The Yoga Face: Eliminate Wrinkles with the Ultimate Natural Facelift." She said she developed a workshop using facial yoga because women wanted to look their best, "but they weren't really thinking about how to exercise their facial muscles."
She said facial muscles become weak and flabby and need regular workouts and circulation to reduce wrinkles.
Besides "The Lion," other exercises include "Satchmo," in which the cheeks are blown out Louis Armstrong-style, and "Marilyn," in which glamorous kisses are blown to strengthen mouth muscles for full and firm lips.
"It uses the same principles of exercise you would use for any other parts of your body," Hagen said. "Facial muscles also become more toned, so it is a natural way of getting a lift."
Hagen recommends facial yoga for those wanting to find outer and inner beauty, saying, "the emotional aspect is just as important as the physiological."
But she does not rule out plastic surgery or Botox. The latter treatment seeks to arrest the release of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter, that is essential for muscular contractions. If there is no muscle contraction, there can be no wrinkling, that is the idea.
"I don't rule it out for myself. One day I may feel like I need that. But regardless, maintaining elasticity and tone is really crucial, especially if you have had Botox and plastic surgery," she said.
While making faces in front of strangers might intimidate some, those who attended the class thought it the perfect way to combat busy New York lifestyles.
"Working in New York is very stressful," Kathy Healey said. "It's a perfect way to end the week."