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Face Facts: The Beauty of Chinese Medicine

The eyes may be the windows of the soul, but the face, as a whole, is a reflection of physical and emotional health. Over time, our faces chronicle nutrition, hydration, exercise and sleep habits, as well as stress levels.

To counteract the facial evidence of unhealthy behaviors - and the inevitable signs of aging - Western medicine employs a vast range of cosmetic procedures including surgery, laser dermabrasion, medications, and botox and collagen injections. While often effective in temporarily freshening the face, many of these fixes involve considerable expense, risk and "down time." Traditional Chinese medicine offers a more natural path to lasting beauty. "Chinese medicine has a different conceptual framework than American medicine. It addresses patterns of disharmony and seeks to reestablish a balance in the body that leads to optimum health through moving chi - vital life energy - with the use of acupuncture, Tui Na massage (a form of acupressure) and/or Chinese herbs," says Sunanda Harrell-Stokes, L.Ac., at Canyon Ranch Health Resort in Tucson. Harrell-Stokes is the instructor of Face It, a workshop that promotes a combination of Tui Na (twee-na) self-massage and isometric exercises to firm, tone and tighten the tissue around the eyes, mouth, nose, chin and neck. Harrell-Stokes has developed a streamlined approach that targets 12 acupuncture points involving major muscles in the face. Initially, she helps her clients identify a primary facial area on which to concentrate their first efforts. They perform exercises twice daily, adding new exercises as their routine becomes established. "It needs to become second nature, like brushing your teeth," Harrell-Stokes says. Sound a bit vague? Try smoothing smile lines at home with the following exercise: Locate the crease on either side of your nostril. For most of us, smile lines extend to these creases. Apply gentle pressure while flaring the nostrils and holding for a count of seven. Repeat three times, twice daily, taking deep breaths between each set. If you think you are simply battling wrinkles with Tui Na, think again. Harrell-Stokes says clients who adhere to regular routines not only reap the benefits of facial rejuvenation, they boost their overall health, as well. "Every point on your face is connected to an organ, and as the chi moves and circulates, it strengthens the function of the organ connected to that point," says Harrell-Stokes. The exercise detailed above, for example, targets a point on the large intestinal tract that promotes elimination. It also assists the body in resolving and expelling mucous from the sinuses. Harrell-Stokes encourages anyone who###s interested in taking responsibility for his or her health to explore these techniques and other aspects of Chinese medicine. "There###s an old Chinese proverb: From birth to 25, we have the face that our parents give us. From 25 to 50, we have the face we create (from our life experiences). From 50 on, we have the face we deserve,###" says Harrell-Stokes. "This speaks to our ability to create what we want, to truly take responsibility for maintaining health and balance in our lives." Copyright Canyon Ranch. For more information go to