Do you have a handle on your mandible and your maxillary, your masticator? These parts put together are commonly known as the jawbone. Your mandible gives the jaw it’s form and the maxillary holds your teeth in place. Together, they masticate, chew, crush, ground, and grind…but not always on food, which just isn’t good.
It’s quite common to hold unconscious tension in your jawbone. Ever wake up in the middle of the night with clenched teeth or sore gums? Perhaps you suffer from some form of bruxism, the gnashing of teeth. Whether it’s from stress or anxiety, bruxism is a habit that’s hard to kick, since it mainly comes into play without one realizing it. We express our emotions through body language and facial expressions, so when angered, upset, or sad, you might not notice your jaw locking and your face clenching up. Not only can jaw tension create severe dental problems, but it leads to further stress due to headaches, facial pain, and overall uneasiness.
It’s important to take in the advice during yoga of releasing unconscious tension in your jaw and face. Yogic breathing and alignment are helpful methods to begin correcting poor habits of jaw and facial tension. Simply starting with posture exercises will help align the head, back, and shoulders, which will in turn alleviate the face and jaw. Deep meditation and deep breathing will help you ease into a state of relaxation and awareness where you can notice how your muscles are acting and how they ease up when given a chance.
One pose to get your facial muscles loose is Simhasana, Lion Pose. With a straight back, kneel on both your knees, hold the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth, take a strong, deep breath in. You can take your hand to your thighs and extend your fingers for this pose. Then let go with a strong exhale, almost hissing with your tongue sticking out. There’s a more step-by-step detail of this pose available at CNY Healing Arts.
Feel free to let out a roar while you’re at it! And remember, don’t over-masticate, appreciate and be aware of the power and proper use of your jaw. Give your platysma, a key muscle in frowning a break, and practice using your zygomaticus by smiling more, too!