Cover (Photo: Courtesy of Koko Hayashi)

Koko Hayashi discusses how face yoga can help lift your face naturally

Koko Hayashi is a Los Angeles-based certified face yoga instructor who has been practising since 2018. She teaches in-person classes, including to the likes of Kim Kardashian West, and also shares her techniques with more than 400,000 subscribers on YouTube. Tatler spoke to Hayashi to learn more about the health benefits of face yoga, techniques to try and how it can change your face for the better.

What should people know about face yoga?

Koko Hayashi (KH): It is a natural solution to maintaining—or regaining—your youthful appearance. By activating the muscles in the face, it lifts and relaxes overworked muscles to reduce wrinkles. 

How did you discover it, and why did you decide to pursue its practice as a full-time career? 

KH: At age 27 I had failed plastic surgery that left me with an asymmetrical chin; I realised I should have pursued an alternative route. In Japan, face yoga has been popular for decades, so I thought I should give it a try. I started seeing great results, and I wanted to share some of the exercises I’d done with others on YouTube. I didn’t expect to get as many views as I did, so I thought it would be the right move to professionally teach this practice offline. I met Fumiko Takatsu, a face yoga legend both in Japan and internationally, and she became my mentor.

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One technique you often reinforce as part of your practice is “mewing”. What makes it so important?

KH: One aspect of face yoga I teach is face posture. That is, demonstrating how to better move your facial muscles when engaging in daily activities that affect your face such as eating and drinking. The most important thing to work on is how you hold your face when it’s at rest, as you do that for so many hours. The best resting tongue position is resting it on the roof of your mouth. This is also known as “mewing”, and is essential to practice because the tongue is the face’s core muscle. 

By practising regular mewing, your face will be lifted, your lips will be fuller, and it can even help you to breathe more easily. Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain and chronic headaches can be caused by excessive use of the masseter muscles, the muscles on the sides of your cheeks—you can feel them when you say the letter “E”. You can reduce that pain by “mewing”, as you will be relaxing your face using your tongue instead of the masseter muscles.

How often do you need to practise face yoga before you see a change?

KH: You only need to practise for 3-5 minutes per day. Unlike body muscles, facial muscles are smaller, so don’t need such heavy lifting. If you practise daily, you should see some differences within between a few weeks and a few months, depending on the individual. Honestly speaking, the saggier the skin, the more quickly you see results.

What’s one thing that everyone can incorporate into their daily routine?

KH: It’s not easy for everyone, but it’s important to keep your tongue up on the palate as long as possible whenever your face is resting. If you frown often, massage the area between your eyebrows with your knuckles when you apply products at night. Apply light pressure, like that of a shiatsu massage. 

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What do you think about the normalisation of plastic surgery? 

KH: Plastic surgery is a choice, but gives only temporary results. Even if you have good results now, the face changes over time, so eventually the results of the surgeries change too. I get excited when I see people incorporate both surgery and face yoga in their routine.

Is there are specific movement that has made the biggest change to your face? 

KH: One of my major concerns was the asymmetry; chewing on both sides of my mouth has made a big improvement. I also try to keep the corners of my mouth slightly raised and not furrow my brows all the time. By doing so, your brain is convinced that you feel positive, even if you are not, so eventually you become more positive. Good face posture helps to create good “mind posture”.

What has the response been from people who practise face yoga?

KH: We get a lot of positive feedback on our social media, but my favourite comment is from a lady who had had a kidney transplant. Because of her medical history, her skin had become delicate and she didn’t want to touch it. It was difficult for her to wear make-up or have medical beauty treatments; she tried regular sessions with me, and in a couple of months, she had achieved healthier, stronger skin and fuller, glowing cheeks.

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