Updated: Jun 8, 2022
Are you clenching your teeth? Do you grind your teeth at night? Do you lock your jaw when performing certain activities? Is your jaw ‘clicking’?
Bring some awareness to your body at this moment: Do you notice that you are pressing you tongue against the roof of the mouth? Are you holding your lips tight? Is your neck stiff?
Tightening the jaw is often connected to neck tension and rigidity in the whole body.
A tense jaw can be the cause for frequent headaches. It may lead to severe pain in the jaw joint (TMJ) and jaw muscles. The TMJ (temporal-mandibular joint) is the joint that connects the jaw to the skull. It is right in front of your ears. The TMJ is not only a hinge joint that allows the mouth to open and close; it can also slide the jaw forward and back and move it sideways.
Ideally, you can maintain a length in the whole body while moving the jaw with ease.
Opening the jaw is used for breathing, eating, chewing, drinking, speaking, singing and crying. Sadly, we often tighten the jaw unnecessarily during effortful activities such as opening a jar, mowing the lawn or scrubbing the counter.
The jaw may be locked or tight even when performing activities that don’t require strength.
We might play guitar, drive the car or walk the stairs with a tight or locked jaw and tension in other parts of the body. Even when we sleep, many people clench their teeth and hold their jaw tight, so the tension from the day carries over into the night. Excess jaw and neck tension often becomes ‘normal’, and we are not aware of it.
Working hard, not allowing ourselves enough resting time and ‘grinding through life’ might be reflected in our tensed bodies.
Now put your attention towards your body:
Notice how you are sitting or standing. Allow yourself to be in your full length, allow your neck muscles to be easy and the head balance on top of the spine. Notice your breathing for a moment. Let your breathing be calm and easy.
Be aware of your mouth. Let your lips soften. Then your lips get apart just one or two millimeters. Allow your tongue to rest in your mouth. Notice the full volume of your tongue and soften the back of your throat. Be aware of the space between your upper teeth and your lower teeth.
Notice the full volume of your jaw!
Now put your fingertips onto the base of the skull for a moment. Let your fingertips walk over your ear, forward along the cheekbone to the front of the head. Keep the index fingers in front of your ears and the little fingers right underneath your nose.
Everything above your fingers is the head. Everything below your fingers is the jaw.
It is misleading to think ‘upper jaw’ and ‘lower jaw’. Let’s be clear that we only have one jaw and a skull or the head. The upper teeth are part of the head.
Now slowly open and close your mouth. Do it a few times and try to open different widths, experiment a little. Ask yourself: Is my jaw dropping down away from the head? Or am I lifting my head up off my jaw? (Put your hands down again.)
To stay lengthened and easy in your whole body and to be free in your neck, make sure your jaw is just dropping down away from the head. Let your jaw joint be easy, your jaw muscles release and your tongue rest in your mouth. Let your head be balance on your spine. Allow the lips to soften and ease the back of your throat. Notice your breathing. Let it be calm and easy.
It is a good idea to interrupt your activities at times, pause for a moment, be aware of your jaw and the rest of your body, and then continue. The Alexander Technique helps to not only stop clenching your teeth and locking your jaw, but to experience more ease in your body and in your day-to-day life!