Illustration: Erin Petson
Ranjana Khan, 52, is a New York City–based businesswoman and mother of two grown boys. She is also gorgeous and charming and very engaging, and an ardent practitioner of face yoga, which she speaks about with unreserved zeal. Khan believes that regularly practicing certain facial asanas (poses) for several years has lifted her features, given her more control of her expressions, and will help her avoid plastic surgery.
Khan asserts that face-yoga poses stimulate the glands in the neck and throat—the thyroid and parathyroid—which helps balance the hormones. During my brief visit with her in her downtown loft one recent afternoon, I couldn't tell whether her hormones were balanced, but I could see that she's remarkably agile and flexible, and her face is largely unlined. I wondered: Would she like to show me how she got that way?
She starts me off with the tongue lock, in which you curl your tongue as far as you can into the back of your throat while staring cross-eyed at the tip of your nose, and breathe through your nose. After five breaths, I have to stop; I become afraid my face will freeze that way, and also, my tongue and eyes feel very tired. Khan, who does the pose with me (and holds it for many more breaths than I), looks rejuvenated, energized. She asks me if I think my circulation has improved. I wish I could say yes, but… So we try another pose, the eyelid lift, good for fending off drooping lids. I close my eyes, stretch my upper lids as high as I can, let my eyeballs roll up into my head, and breathe, again, through my nose. It's difficult to hold my face in this position for more than a minute (try it; you'll see), but Khan seems to do it effortlessly. When I come out of the pose, my face feels anxious, as if it's afraid I'm going to do something strange and scary with it again. Khan, though, has an open, totally relaxed and pretty look. For the lip lines around my mouth, Khan instructs me to puff out my top lip with air, then my bottom lip, then both together as if I were blowing up a balloon, holding two fingers to my lips to keep the air from escaping. My lip lines disappear, but they reappear as soon as I relax my mouth. I'll see changes if I continue to practice, Khan assures me. I'm not convinced, but I'm still making faces (nowhere, though, where I might terrify small children). If you want to read more about face yoga, get The Yoga Face, by Annelise Hagen.