Are You Aware How Much Tension Your Hold in Your Jaw?

Plastic teeth bite food
Do you hold tension in your jaw?

Raise your dental night guard* if you hold excess tension in your jaw! (* mouth piece worn to help protect one’s teeth from grinding when sleeping)

Some of us are all too aware we hold tension in our jaws—jaw pain, stiffness, difficulty chewing or joint popping let’s us know.

However, many people don’t even know they clench their jaw. When your tension is so habitual, it just feels normal and so can go unnoticed. Sometimes we don’t know because our clenching and grinding happens at night when we’re asleep. For others, the symptoms they experience seem unconnected to the jaw even though they very well may be. For example, headaches, earaches, neck/shoulder pain, fatigue and even dizziness can be caused by jaw tension or other jaw issues.

3-Minute Exercise to Release Jaw Tension

Use the following exploration to help reduce tension and increase mobility in your jaw.

Woman clenching jaw
Use this 3-minute exercise to release your jaw —plus reduce your stress!

Even if you don’t have jaw issues, the jaw is an effective place to start unraveling patterns of stress and strain. By softening in your jaw and face, you’ll likely find your breathing improves, your neck and shoulders are more comfortable, and your overall mood lightens.

You can do this exercise sitting or lying down. Make the movements small, slow and gentle—a little goes a long way with the jaw.

Take a “Before” Snapshot

First, just notice how your jaw and face feel at the moment—relaxed, tense, comfortable, sore?

Then open and close your mouth a few times a very easy, comfortable amount. Observe how far your jaw opens, how smooth the movement is, and anything else that strikes you.

Move Your Jaw Forward

Giraffes releasing their jaws
Move your jaw gently a small amount

With your mouth slightly open (so there’s space between your upper and lower teeth) move your lower jaw forward a small amount and return. It’s as if your lower jaw is a drawer being pulled open. You might place a finger on your chin to help you find the movement.

Does your jaw move straight forward or veer to one side? Where is the movement smooth vs not? Rest after a few movements.

Move Your Jaw Forward and Right

Imagine you’re wearing a clock as a hat. 12 is in line with your nose, 3 is near your right ear and 9 is near your left ear.

Move your lower jaw forward toward 12:30 (i.e., a few degrees right of center) and return. With each movement take your jaw a little more to the right—to 1, 1:30, and maybe even 2 o’clock. Then return to 12 o’clock, revisiting each line along the way.

Go slowly and give yourself time to find how to lengthen your jaw along each angle. You can place a finger on your chin to help your aim.

Giraffe rests its jaw
Is there less tension in your jaw?

Rest and Compare Sides

Rest and compare the two sides of your face, jaw and neck. Do the two sides feel different in any way? Again, open and close your mouth a few times. Is the right side a little freer than before?

Move Your Jaw Forward and Left

Move your jaw forward to 12 o’clock. With each movement, take your jaw a little to the left, visiting 11:30, 11, 10:30, and maybe even 10 o’clock. Then return to 12 o’clock, revisiting each line along the way.

Take an “After” Snapshot

Close your eyes and take a moment to notice: what feels different in your jaw and face from the beginning? Where is there more ease?

Again, open and close your mouth. Has the movement become easier, larger or improved in any way?


Want More Relief for Jaw Pain/Tension?

Come to My Easy Jaw Class: I invite you to attend the How to Ease Your Jaw for Happier Neck and Shoulders series (4-wk class starts Tuesday Sept 4, 2018).

Jaw Relief Videos: Check out these helpful short videos from my FeldenkraisCM colleague Cathy Paine:   Part 1 |  Part 2Part 3