Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Myofascial Release for the Face: Composure, Aesthetics and Mental Health

Our faces are full of tense muscles that hold excessive tension throughout the day and during sleep. The tension throughout our brow, eyes, nose and jaw causes us to feel anxious, and because of our mammalian heritage, it causes us to breathe shallowly. These tense muscles also go through degenerative processes that involve muscle atrophy, reduced circulation, inflammation, fat deposition, as well as trigger point and scar tissue development. Compression and deep tissue massage are the only real way to get the tension out. Compression will reinvigorate the muscle, reverse the muscle shortening, increase the blood supply, and allow the muscle to grow and thereby eat up the fat that surrounds it. If you want your face to look healthy, and feel amazing, invest some time and effort in my facial massage regimen as described here.
 Me in 2009:

Me in 2015 after 6 months of myofascial release:

If you take your knuckles or a baseball and press them into your brow, your cheeks or your jaw you will feel a dull but intensely aching pain. This pain can be so strong that it makes your breathing shallow and the pit of your stomach tight. When I started compressing my facial muscles it hurt so bad that I questioned whether I could ever make any progress. In fact, you can feel and see the progress every day. Facial acupressure is actually an old art that may have many benefits but is not yet grounded firmly in science. Also it does not aim to fully relieve the trigger points in the face. I think that the regimen presented here targets the most important myofascial restrictions in the face and guides you to rid yourself of them completely.

Bad social environments influence us to tighten up our faces more. Tense interactions make us raise our brows, squint our eyes, purse our lips and tighten our jaw. Over days, months and years this leaves our facial musculature exhausted, and depleted. If you have several stressful days in a row, or don’t get enough sleep these muscles will tense up further and make you look older and sickly. It also makes you feel more anxious, charging your expressions with neurotic pressure. Last year I realized that my tense facial muscles are a “psychological anchor” for my poor mood. I am convinced that they are involved in depression, anxiety, and many other stress related diseases.

Me smiling in 2010 versus me smiling in 2016

My smile at 28 in 2010, on the left, looks sour and unsustainable. I have rings under my eyes, thick lower eyelids, upturned nostrils, deep marionette lines, heavy sneering, and the bulk of the smile is located around the nose rather than on the cheek bones. In the second picture each of those patterns is reversed. The change results from slowly massaging the tension out of the sneering muscles and strengthening the other smiling muscles using firm contractions and deep breathing.

Find out much more at my self care website:

The Brow

The forehead and eyebrows are very tense in most people. They become tense because we raise our eyebrows when trying to make friends, and furrow our eyebrows when we become angry. Different sets of muscles are involved in these two expressions but both become plastered on our face making the brow painful by our mid twenties. Rub your forehead and eyebrows forcefully with you knuckles and you will find that they hurt. It took me a few months massaging about 5 minutes per day but I have absolutely no pain in my brow any longer. For me, the brow directly above the eyes and the muscles under the actual eyebrows hurt the most, but now they are painless. My eyebrows keep still when I talk now, and it actually feels good to raise them. The fact that they are now painless to raise, shows me that they were painful before. Once you have really rubbed out your eyebrows, they don’t react as much on their own, you really need to control them consciously. You do have to teach yourself how to use them again to a certain extent. I had a few bad knots and a good deal of scar tissue around my eyebrows. Because of the compression, they are completely gone now.

It will take weeks or months to remove the tension here. I recommend pressing the full weight of your head into a baseball and moving the baseball all around the forehead, concentrating on the highlighted regions in the figure below. If you do it 5 minutes a day while breathing diaphragmatically you will notice significant relief in a matter of weeks.

One of the most important parts of the brow is right between the eyebrows. This is where you find the procerus muscle. This muscles is responsible for furrowing the eyebrows and the expression of anger. I believe that the tension here makes us feel mad all the time and that relieving this muscle of its tension is very emotionally relieving. I use a metal bar which I place between my brow and my nose to compress the procerus and other soft tissues in this area.

There are a number of tools you can use besides your knuckles. These pictures feature a baseball, eyebolts (which you can find at any hardware store), and a "index knobber," my personal favorite, which can be found on Amazon with the following link:

Below the Eyes

The orbicularis oculi muscles are some of the tightest in the face and tension here makes us look old and tired. You should have four particularly sore spots around the eyes. One an inch below each eye from squinting and one an inch above each eye from raising your eyebrows. Massaging this area will help you to stop squinting. I bought a blue squash ball and worked on these for several weeks. The day after they feel especially sore but you can also feel the relief. Don’t skip a day just because the area is sore, work through the soreness. I would do circular motions putting between 3 and 10 pounds of pressure into my cheek bones. I had a small knot about an inch and a half below each eye and reliving myself of these was very freeing.

When a squash ball becomes too soft, slowly and carefully compress these with your knuckles or a baseball, it might take 6 months to work through them completely but I promise if you do it 5 minutes a day, 5 days a week, you will see significant weekly results. You will stop squinting so much and the bags under your eyes will disappear.
Most people have a crease that runs from the inside corner of the eye down diagonally toward the cheek. This crease is caused from perpetual squinting – tension in the lower portion of the orbicularis oculi muscle. People who squint more are more likely to have a more prominent crease here and more likely to have darker, discolored bags under the eyes. Compression can take this away completely.
Place the fingertips of your pointer fingers along the edge of your eye’s orbits, the bony ridge that encircles the eyes. If you place them along the lower ridge, just under the eye you should be able to feel painful strings of muscle. At first I thought that these were veins and I assumed that I should leave them alone. They are merely tense muscles and they will completely disappear if you compress them. Push down on them with your fingertips and squeeze them against the orbital bone. When they are gone your squint will disappear, and the skin under your eyes will become smooth and will lose its discoloration.
You also want to pay particular attention to the bony ridges of the corners of your eyes, otherwise known as your orbits. We hold a great deal of tension here, as if we were always on the verge of crying. Releasing this tension make you feel wide-eyed and happier. You can also place the section of the orbit associated with crows feet wrinkles between two of your second knuckles and press inward as you stroke up and down. It will feel painful at first but the pain here can be alleviated in as little as two weeks. Your crows feet will also diminish in size and depth as the muscle becomes healthy and circulation improves.

The Cheeks
I like to focus on the corner of the cheek an inch from the eye. I took the picture below after the first day of massaging this area. My cheeks are raised artificially because of the edema but this is the general look that you can achieve as your cheeks start to blossom out from your face. 
Next focus on the zygomatic muscles on the sides of your cheeks. The zygomatic muscles anchor in the corner of your mouth on one end and the zygoma, or cheek bone, on the other. Take a baseball and press it into the lower portion of your cheek bone where the zygomaticus (minor and major) muscles anchor. This was the sorest place in my entire face. Pressing a baseball into it with five pounds of pressure made me want to cry and I thought that this would never change. Again, the pain is gone completely and took me about 4 months, massaging 5 minutes a day, 5 days a week. These muscles hurt because we use them so often, and we use them nervously. Most smiling is nervous smiling and this means that when we laugh or smile socially our hearts are beating quickly and our breathing is shallow and tense. Muscles that are especially tense when our breathing is shallow become even more tense. Because of this I truly had a crippled smile. Most of us do to different extents. In fact, the strained zygomatic smiling muscles pull on their own tendons causing deep pain. The tendon that attaches the muscles to the cheekbone becomes so strained that it builds up scar tissue and undergoes degenerative cellular processes. This makes our smile rotten. You should be able to feel this point of insertion in the cheek and the inflammation and scar tissue under the skin. This is what you want to compress. I spend 5 minutes a day using either a baseball, my knuckles or the backs of my wrists. Now my smile is bigger, it is unfaltering and it feels good.
In order to really free up your eyes and your cheeks you need to massage and compress the muscles all the way back along your cheek bones to your ears. This whole ridge is probably painful and covered in tense muscle fibers that you can feel. Put this ridge between the second knuckles or your middle and ring fingers and stroke it back and forth. You can ease the tension in this ridge in just a few days. Also try placing the ridge on a hard surface and press it into the surface at different angles.

The Sides of the Nose
Take the second knuckle of your forefingers and press them hard into the space between your nose and your cheeks, on both sides. Work your way from the top of your nose down to the corner of your mouth, along your marionette lines. Also press them hard into the muscles surrounding your cheek bones. You want to compress the following muscles: the levator labii superioris, the zygomaticus minor, the zygomaticus major, the risorius, the buccinator, When I started doing this is was a dense, bold pain. As with other areas you can feel the cellular adhesions between the muscles breaking. Soon this won’t hurt at all. Compressing these muscles allows your face to be generally relaxed  and will stop your constant sneering which will help with poise and composure.

Use your knuckles to compress the nasalis muscles the procerus muscles and the levator labii superioris alaeque nasi. Also put a towel down on carpet and rest your head on your nose. Pressing the tip of the nose downwards, rock back and forth to massage and compress muscles throughout the nose.

The Ears
You have three auricular muscles that surround each ear. I use my knuckles to compress these, you can alleviate all or most of the tension here within a week.
The Temples
The temporalis muscle helps in chewing and covers much of the temporal bone. When I started trying to release the tension from this muscle I tried icing it with ice packs. This was unbearably painful at the time, so painful that I couldn’t continue. Now, after compressing the tension from my temporalis muscles they are no longer painful to ice. I used my knuckles using small circular motions all along the belly of this large muscle. Now the side of my face flexes when I chew and talk and a low grade perpetual headache that I used to have is gone. Also try watching TV lying down with your temporal muscle pressed into a softball.
The Mouth and Lips
Tension in the mouth and lips seems imperceptible, I rarely noticed it before. It is there though. It makes your mouth look shriveled and it pulls the blood out of your lips making them appear thinner. The mouth and lips are actually the point of attachment for muscles throughout the face. Muscles from the nose, cheeks, jaw and chin all anchor into the corners of the mouth. Try pressing your knuckles into your lips and the areas above and below them. The pain isn’t as bad here. If you do it for 5 minutes with a good amount of pressure, your lips will fill with blood. Especially focus on the corners of your mouth. You can also squeeze these areas between your thumb and forefinger placing one on the face and the other inside the mouth. Compression here makes your lips fuller and more healthy looking.

The Jaw
The masseter muscles are the last muscles that I was able to rejuvenate with myofascial release. It is not easy and takes patience. There is a superficial masseter and a deep masseter, focus on both but importantly don’t press too hard. Pressing too hard can be harmful, and can also damage the salivary glands there.
First start lying on your stomach with the backs of your wrists placed at the corner of your jaw between your jaw and your ear. If you place the weight of your head on your two wrists and press inwards you should feel substantial pain. It took me 4 months to completely wipe this pain away. I would start up my diaphragmatic breathing application and wrest my head on the back of my wrists while breathing deeply for 5 minutes, 5 days a week. I had temporomandibular joint pain before I started and it was completely gone at the end of four months.
Next you want to focus on the front of the masseter muscle. Press your fingers and knuckles two inches from the corner of your mouth, directly into the side of the masseter. Compress these muscles and stroke your knuckles past them as if you were plucking a guitar string. The tense bands become soft muscle and your jaw will become more muscular and more defined.
You also want to press in to the crease between your neck and jawline. This is the platysma. I will press my fingers against it while watching TV. The more you press into the painful soft tissues the less painful they will get and the more your “double” chin will disappear and your jawline will improve.

The Chin
Compress the depressor anguli oris, the depressor labii inferioris and the mentalis. All will respond quickly to deep compression. Your chin will look lean and muscular. If you focus on bottom portion of the depressor anguli oris you will get the broad, wide chin that many superheroes are depicted as having. 

Keep At It
You really want to compress every square inch of your face, I am just trying to prioritize my focusing on the areas that I think are the most important psychologically and neurologically. When you have found an area of your face or neck that is tender and sore to gentle pressure, you have uncovered a gold mine. You have found an area that, when rehabilitated, will allow personal and spiritual growth. You may experience decreased chronic pain, improved sleep, release of emotional tension, and better skin tone. It definitely did these things for me and I also feel more confident and more outgoing.
My cat got into a bad habit of showing me with his face how hungry, and desperate for food he was. It had to have been partly my fault. His meows would be accompanied by the most pitiful facial wincing. His eyes would be tight and his whole face would crinkle up. When I saw it, my face would sympathetically do the same thing. It pulled at my heart strings. So here is a species, removed from humans by 85 million years of evolution, that uses very similar facial/neuroendocrine signaling. I started feeding him more regularly, but I also started massaging his face. Before dinner I hold him in my lap and use my thumbs to gently press into his orbits, his cheeks, his nose, and his jaw line. He never makes those faces anymore and people always comment on his poise and beauty. The faces of pets, and probably the faces of infants and young children, are easy to mold and manipulate. Squeezing out the tension in the face of an adult is more painful, but just as much like the pruning of a bonsai.

Cosmetic Compression

Botox injection shares some benefits with compression. Botox paralyzes muscle, decreasing tone and metabolic activity, thereby temporarily decreasing the strain in the muscle. It is very popular because it makes the face appear relaxed and reduces the appearance of wrinkles. It also seems to have positive emotional affects as people taking botox report blunting of negative emotions and reduced susceptibility to crying. However, botox does not bring more blood, oxygen, or nutrients to the muscle. Thus, the muscle does not have a chance to increase in strength or size. This also means that it doesn’t metabolize the fat deposits surrounding it. Botox, like cosmetic surgery, creates an artificial look that many people can recognize. Also, tense muscle around the orbits of the eyes contributes heavily to looking and feeling tired. However, botox cannot be injected near the eyes, because there is a risk that it could leak into and paralyze the ocular muscles that control eye movements. Compression has none of these downsides, and it costs nothing. It does take longer, and it can be uncomfortable, but it has much more dramatic, authentic, and long-lasting effects. Also Botox paralyzes facial expressions whereas compression unlocks them.  Compression will give you better motor control of your muscles and increase their range of motion. My chin and cheeks moved sluggishly before and now they are surprisingly brisk and nimble. See for yourself!

Your most beautiful face is not the face that a cosmetic surgeon can give you. The plastic surgeon attempts to create a face that looks muscular, lean and without tension, without actually giving you any of these things. Plastic surgery traumatizes soft tissues, and reduces blood flow, causing muscles to atrophy, and fat to accumulate, while doing nothing to reduce strain. Even the most skilled surgeon cannot come close to creating the all-natural look that comes from the release and strengthening of your own muscles. Today I smile much bigger and much more frequently than I ever have, but my facial wrinkles are less pronounced than they have ever been. That and numerous other observations have suggested to me that wrinkles in the skin don’t come from using the muscles. Rather, wrinkles form over dormant muscles that have been strained repetitively.

Scientists have long questioned what it is that constitutes physical beauty. The consensus now seems to be that aside from youth, smooth skin, and well-proportioned features, that symmetry and averageness are very important. The right and left sides of a beautiful face are usually fairly symmetrical. Also, when images of human faces are averaged together by a computer to form a composite image they are nearly always perceived as more attractive than the faces that were summed together (Valentine et al., 2004). More than these other criteria, I think that the absence of muscular strain is the primary determinate of attractiveness. In fact, the extent of facial tension can probably be seen as a marker of status hierarchy that we wear on our faces. If your face, head, neck, and throat were completely free of muscular tension, you would likely be among the most beautiful people in the world. If they had been free of tension throughout your life, you would likely be the most beautiful person in the world. Charles Dickens said the following about Ebenezer Scrooge: “The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shriveled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue; and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice.”

Social Fatigue and Resting Face

When our face is uncommonly tense others take it as a clear sign of self-perceived inferiority. My face was so tense before that, whether someone was making a joke at my expense or giving me a compliment, I could not help but to respond in a bashful, embarrassed way. This sheepish grimace would betray me constantly by showing others that it is easy to make me uncomfortable. It undermined my ability to stay composed and made me a favored target. Facial compression obliterates this submissiveness. If you never look uncomfortable people learn quickly that they are the ones that will look bad if they try to bully you. Moreover, you will be able to keep a fantastic poker face. The person who can keep a straighter face almost always controls the situation. I only smile when I want to now and I can even tell the punchline to a joke with a straight face. People finally laugh at my attempts at humor. Even after a long day of gregariousness I can easily assume a calm, expressionless demeanor.

Social fatigue occurs when prolonged social encounters become stressful, overwhelming, and cause a person to seek rest from social interaction. Much of social fatigue derives from the fatigue of facial muscles. When these muscles tire, or when their latent trigger points become active, they become debilitating. They are draining to use, and diminish our ability to express, and be friendly. Studies show that the amount that a person smiles and makes socially engaging facial expressions is one of the best predictors of likeability. Using your face makes people want to be around you. But if your facial muscles are in perpetual fatigue you can’t emote and you become dejected and depressed. When you are experiencing social fatigue people can usually see it in your face.

Bitchy resting face (or resting bitch face) is a popular term for a facial expression (or lack of expression) which unintentionally appears angry, or irritated. When we allow our face to relax more than usual, the tense muscles that we are not capable of relaxing become readily apparent and belie our attempt to appear calm. One of my favorite rappers and music producers, Kanye West, has been called a poster child for bitchy resting face. This is probably attributable to the car accident which broke his jaw and introduced extensive trauma into his face. I believe this because I can see what breaking my nose did to me. Before I started this regimen no one ever saw my bitchy resting face because I never allowed my face to rest, even when alone. I was so self-aware of how bad my face looked at rest that I always sported a compensatory grimace. Our goal should be to let the face rest as much as possible and rehabilitate the face until a complete resting face is no longer bitchy. We want to shoot for a wide-eyed, peaceful resting face. Unbracing and compressing your face will make it so that you rarely experience social fatigue and so that your resting face is inviting and receptive rather than contemptuous.


All of us are constantly making microexpressions with our facial muscles. A microexpression is a brief, involuntary expression that is evoked by emotion. They are very brief and last between 1/25th and 1/15th of a second. It is thought to be very difficult if not impossible to completely suppress microexpression reactions (Ekman, 2003). These genuine reflexes are usually helpful and largely dictate our emotional reactions to our life’s events. Sometimes they turn out to be premature, or socially unacceptable, and in these cases we inhibit them and replace them with something else. If you find yourself compulsively thinking negative thoughts during the day, this suggests that many of the automatic microexpressions that you make are negative. Most mammals, that are not primates, only wince when they experience pain. Primates take the innate facial reflex of wincing to physical pain and generalize it to social pain. Humans take it another step further. We wince when someone chastises us, but many of us learn to over generalize our facial analogies, and wince even when someone congratulates us. Maladaptive microexpressive habits like this are caused by facial strain. Compressing the muscles in the activities above will remove the frown, the cry face, the squint, the blush, and the sneer from the involuntary microexpressions that flicker across your face.

Bullet Points

·         Deep tissue compression will reduce bracing and hypertonia in the facial muscles

·         Pressing firmly into the aching muscles while breathing diaphragmatically will reverse this making you more attractive and better composed

·         You want to compress each muscle for a few minutes a day until none of the facial muscles are sore, stiff or hard when compressed.

·         Your facial muscles will become stronger, more prominent and have increased range of motion

Find out much more at my self care website: