In Your Face!

Did you know that your face is effecting your yoga?!?! Smile to improve your yoga! Read this next blog to learn the effects of smiling.

Soft Faces of Yoga



How many times have you heard this cue from a yoga instructor? If you are hearing this command in class, then likely the last thing you are thinking of at the moment is a cheekish grin. Maybe you’d oblige to showing your teeth, and maybe let out a little growl to express your disdain for the asana that you may find yourself in. This is really a nice cue, and though I will admit, it’s one command I loathed for some time, it takes a bit of deeper understanding of how a smile in yoga can empower your yoga practice. I’ll take a step back from smiling, and use the word softness since there are some of us that just take things too seriously to smile randomly, and some of us may take our yoga so serious, that a smile is not warranted. I like to think that there are poses that need a very serious gaze, or dristi, yet there are some that are complimented with a soft face or a warming smile.

A person’s facial expression is always the fastest response of the mind’s input and the most universal form of communication, transcending all language barriers between human beings. You have more facial expressions than you probably realize and they include expressions of pleasure or  displeasure , judgment or approval, understanding or disagreement.  Facial expressions send messages to those around us, but there is also two-way communication between the face and the mind.  You can test this yourself . Take a moment to cultivate a sense of awareness in the body and turn your attention inward. Experiment with different contortions of the face and watch where the mind goes. What happens when you smile? What feelings arise when you furl your brow? Does frustration arise when you clench your jaw? Do you feel attractive with fluttering lashes and a coy smile?

I’m asking you to experiment with facial expressions and their accompanied emotions, thoughts and feelings because this is a counterpart to your internal dialogue, or your mind chatter. Yoga teaches us that where the mind goes, the body follows and vice versa. But often, facial expressions are left out of this teaching.  Smiling is one of the self-evident principles taught in yoga. This is why you hear it so often.  When students are in difficult postures, the teacher may likely see contorted faces, clenched jaws and expressions that tell the story about what is going on inside the student’s body. When we smile, we instantly feel uplifted, lighter, etc, and this is due to the chemical response of the brain in reaction to a smile.

Give smiling a try. Or maybe even your version of a soft facial expression. Next time your internal voice is screaming, “I HATE THIS POSE!” See what happens if you smile. Can you tell yourself that you hate something while you are smiling? In yoga,  your face always tells the story. Change the expression on your face, change the story of your practice.

The 20 muscles of the face.

  • Occipitofrontalis
  • Temporoparietalis
  • Procerus
  • Nasalis muscle
  • Depressor septi nasi
  • Orbicularis oculi
  • Corrugator supercilii
  • Depressor supercilii
  • Auricular muscles (anterior, superior, posterior)
  • Orbicularis oris
  • Depressor anguli oris
  • Risorius
  • Zygomaticus major
  • Zygomaticus minor
  • Levator labii superioris
  • Levator labii superioris alaeque nasi
  • Depressor labii inferioris
  • Levator anguli oris
  • Buccinator
  • Mentalis

LithoGraph Plate Of Grey's Anatomy

This faithful reproduction of a lithograph plate from Gray’s Anatomy, a two-dimensional work of art, is not copyrightable in the U.S. as per Bridgeman Art Library v. Corel Corp.; the same is also true in many other countries, including Germany. Unless stated otherwise, it is from the 20th U.S. edition of Gray’s Anatomy of the Human Body, originally published in 1918 and therefore lapsed into the public domain.

This article was originally published on September 24, 2012 at:


Bikram Yoga - "It's Like a Cruise Ship!"

Bikram Yoga Paradise Valley's October 2012 Student of the Month, on yoga.  When David heard about Bikram Yoga more than a year ago from another BYPV student he decided to give it a try. 

He says that before starting yoga he was "out of shape, more of a couch potato, no motivation, and lots of stress". Now, he says he's in much better shape. "My stress level is way down and in general I just feel better.  Yoga has definitely helped my knees after years of karate and many operations. My knees feel 'younger' and I'm still working on locking them! I have also had six shoulder surgeries that have not helped my flexibility, but by practicing yoga my shoulders are starting to feel more limber."

David says his favorite postures are in the spine strengthening series. "I like all of the postures done on the belly. It stretches me out and I can feel my back getting stronger when I do them."

When asked what advice he would give new students, David says, "Just stick with it. It's like a cruise ship, the more you participate the more fun you have!"

Bikram Bungy Jumping

By P.J. Stuart Thank goodness for Pranayama breathing … or I may not have kept my cool.

Standing on top of the world’s tenth tallest structure – the Macau Tower in Macau, China – I could feel small beads of sweat running down the small of my back, quickly mounting in succession.

My palms were clammy and my heart rate increasing, while I tried to suppress the nausea I felt as I peered over the edge. I was about to surrender myself to a dizzying sensation, as I prepared to plummet down the side of this 1,109 foot building, with a bungy cord attached to my legs.

It’s no big deal if you’re skydiver Felix Baumgartner, who broke the sound barrier this month during his record-setting jump from the edge of space.  Peanuts to him, perhaps. But in my world, this was a much feared item on my “bucket list,” and one I stubbornly pursued despite the naysaying voices in my head telling me to hold back.

In fact, that’s precisely where I can credit my Bikram Yoga practice for pushing me through. Ignoring those pesky voices and continuing to breathe, despite my discomfort.

Forget locking my knees. They shook and trembled, while staff members on the tower clipped me into a harness. I inhaled deeply through the nose … releasing a steady exhale through my mouth. Again and again, as the seconds leading up to my “plunge” ticked by slowly.

Then that familiar feeling came. The one where you need to make the decision – are you gonna do it or not?  Grab your foot for standing head to knee and get in, no hesitation? Step into balancing stick pose quickly or let those ten seconds pass you by? Unfurl yourself into a camel pose or timidly stay seated on your mat?

I guess I could have turned around. But I’d come this far. My heart rate was up, and, though it wasn’t pleasant – I knew I could sustain myself through the anxiety and prevail. All those hours in the torture chamber had prepared me for this.

Three, two, one … and I was flying. Lost my breath for a moment in exchange for a death-defying scream, one I didn’t’ know I had inside of me. And then, once I got used to the unfamiliar feeling – pure joy. Laughter. Giggles, even. A beautiful release, despite the suffering I went through to get there. Sound familiar?

It’s just another reminder – it’s never as bad as we make it out to be in our tricky little minds.

Get the "Yoga Glow"

By Dr. Paul Jerard Yoga provides many physical and mental benefits. One of the most overlooked benefits of Yoga is healthy and beautiful skin. Most people do not decide to practice Yoga for skin benefits. However, you need only to look at mature Yoga practitioners to see the amazing effect that Yoga has on the skin.

While it takes regular Yoga practice and a healthy diet, many people experience a remarkable improvement in their facial complexion and overall healthy appearance of their skin. Yoga increases blood flow and removes toxins from the body. This increased blood flow develops a youthful appearance and reduces the toxins that are released through the skin. The toxins are damaging to the skin, often creating a dry skin surface, with a dull appearance. In addition, the increased blood flow provides essential nutrients to the skin and also aides in collagen production. Collagen is essentially the elastic in the skin. As people age, collagen production diminishes and supple skin disappears.

Yoga develops a healthy mind, body, and soul. This practice relieves tension and stress. Tension and stress are two significant factors in the aging process. If you compare two people of the same age, similar jobs, and similar environmental factors, you will clearly see a stunning difference between the person who practices Yoga and the person who does not engage in physical activity. The person, who practices Yoga, will look significantly younger, which results in a much healthier appearance.

The skin is the largest organ of the human body. If the body is ill, the skin reflects this. You rarely see an ill person with radiant skin. If the inside of the body is healthy, then the skin will reflect that health. Many people are beginning to recognize Yoga as one of the best natural anti-aging tools. The health benefits of Yoga, for improving one’s skin, are drawing many people to the practice. In this youth driven culture, Yoga is becoming the most popular method for staying healthy and looking younger.


To achieve the “Yoga glow,” requires a regular practice of at least two times per week. Of course, avoiding excessive sun exposure, alcohol, and smoking plays a role in developing healthy skin and maintaining a youthful appearance. A regular Yoga practice, with a balanced diet and consumption of good quality drinking water, will help one achieve the best possible appearance. This formula will gradually translate into a healthy and radiant appearance. The benefits of Yoga for skin are a bonus for those who have incorporated Yoga into their daily lives.

All of the techniques learned in a typical Yoga class will help practitioners achieve radiant skin. Pranayama techniques increase oxygen flow throughout the body. Asana techniques strengthen, stretch, and tone the body below the surface of skin, but they also relieve tension and stress. Relaxation and meditation enhance mental health, while keeping emotional health in control. Finally, the Yogic lifestyle of moderation helps practitioners to form good dietary and exercise habits.

© Copyright 2011 – Paul Jerard / Aura Publications

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Call to Action

 By H. J. Klingman Most of us do more to care for our automobiles than our bodies.  Would you put sugar in your gas tank? Of course not! But we’ll put sugar in our body’s “tank” day in and day out, though it can not process it as effectively as other fuels. Would you drive for miles on a flat tire and let your wheel rim grind into the ground? NO! But we'll let a persistent pain or injury in the body go untreated for years before taking action?

Taking action to participate in maintaining our health is not a luxury or a burden; it is our duty, a call to action, our Karma Yoga. Karma yoga is our duty to care for our bodies and our health. Bikram reminds us constantly of the importance of caring for YOUR LIFE. Nobody else can take care of your life for you, it is your own effort required to fulfill this aspect of your Karma Yoga.

The word “Karma” translates literally to “action”.  When we begin to practice the physical, or “Hatha” yoga, we are taking action by caring for our bodies, fulfilling our Karma by doing our duty. Taking action to keep your body and mind healthy and functioning, allows you to perform the other kinds of yoga in your life.  Both actions and the results of those actions are Karma. According to Bikram , “Karma Yoga is number one; nothing is more important in your life, in my life or in this world than fulfilling your duty. This is what maintains balance and harmony in the universe.”

By practicing Hatha Yoga (the physical aspect of yoga) and Raja Yoga (the mental aspect of yoga), we prepare the body for Karma Yoga.  When we practice Hatha Yoga we can discover where our Karma lies, and how to carry out our life’s mission. So, if ever you are feeling lost or without direction, all you need to do is roll out your yoga mat and begin practicing Asana (postures) and Pranayama (breath control). When you care for your mind and body your mission will come to you. Through patience, practice, and persistence you can begin to perform your Karma Yoga and fulfill your life’s mission one posture at a time.