Exercise Cluster: Jaw, Neck and Shoulders
The lower jaw is the only bone in the head that can move independently of the skull, because it is hinged to the upper jaw. This mobility is partially because the ligaments and muscles of the jaw are powerful enough to pull an automobile, or, in Jack La Lanne’s case, a small tugboat.
In addition to chewing, we use the jaw for speech and expression. Jaw tension can cause a lot of unpleasant symptoms: TMJ, a condition in which chronic grinding of the teeth can lead to headaches, loss of tooth enamel, wearing down of the teeth, which can cause nerve exposure, and, by extension, root canals and nerve pain, and unattractive facial wrinkling around the mouth, lips, and nasal-labial area. Luckily, there are many ways to free tension from the jaw, and in doing so release the facial muscles from uncomfortable and unattractive clenching and tightness. Relaxing the jaw through the following exercises will help your face to look much smoother and more youthful. Some of these exercises involve sound, which travels in waves, and vibration, which can subtly release tension as well.
Do not forget about your health
It is important to note that it is imperative to leave the rest of the face and head as relaxed as possible when working with jaw-releasing techniques that involve vocalization. Don’t jut out your neck as you perform the exercises. Keep releasing your lower jaw and the back of the throat and palate as well.
Exercises for your beauty
1 Warm-up: Slack Jaw Involuntarily gripping the jaw is an indication of frustration and tension. It can also signal a type-A tendency to want to be perfect, to hold it all in, to control. Think of the classic military face of General Patton as portrayed by George C. Scott. Also, when sadness and grief are repressed, the jaw clenches as though to swallow the emotion.
Mechanics: For this exercise, give yourself permission to let it all hang out— literally. Release your lower jaw from the upper so that your teeth are parted. You can let the tip of the tongue rest behind your lower teeth. Let your head be centered on top of your spine. Let your eyes relax in their sockets, and relax your face. Consider this the neutral posture that you can start your jaw-releasing work from. Place your fingertips on your lower jaw to facilitate this release.
2 Bumblebees This exercise helps work the cheeks, lips, and jaw muscles, while simultaneously releasing jaw tension. It employs vibration as a method of disarming tension. Pay attention to the vibratory quality of the sound as you chew, and notice how the vibration produces a fuzzy tingle as it resonates and bounces off the bones of the jaw and cheeks. As you become more adept, start to play with vibrating sound from all areas of the head—even try to vibrate your scalp and the base of the skull. Place a hand on the area you are working.
Mechanics: Inhale through your nose and begin to make a chewing sound. Use all the muscles of the face. Vibrate the sound mmmmm through your nose as you exhale and chew. Repeat for three or four full breaths. Experiment with different pitches, perhaps high, then low. Then repeat the exercise, but this time incorporate gibberish words. Using the word why as you chew can be especially cathartic, as it allows you to release any self-pity or dramatic feelings you sometimes may need to repress. Go ahead, emote and express, be dramatic—you probably will crack yourself up!
3 Open Wide and Say Aaaaah You probably have released quite a bit of tension, and you should see instant results. Gripping in the jaw is often a sign of unexpressed emotion—particularly the taboo emotions of anger and grief. If you have ever felt like bursting into tears or giving someone a piece of your mind, but instead had to hold your tongue or swallow your words, chances are those unexpressed emotions are literally lodged in your jaw.
At the more extreme end of this syndrome are those who clench habitually or grind their teeth at night. Those who experience this level of jaw tension will enjoy considerable release from the jaw-releasing work employed here. Having suffered from a lot of jaw tension during my performing career, and also being a nocturnal jaw grinder, I cannot recommend highly enough the tooth guard my dentist prescribed for me. I sleep much better and awaken more refreshed. Also, consider letting go of chewing gum, as it adds to jaw tension and literally can help to set more tension in the face.
Mechanics: Now vary the sound so that it is mmmmmmm-aaaaah mmmmmmmaaaaah mmmmmmmm-aaaaah. As you alternate between humming mmmmmm through the nose and opening the mouth to say aaaaah, notice the variations of the sound vibrations. When you say aaaaah, let your lower jaw release, and tuck the tip of your tongue behind the lower teeth. This will allow your jaw to release even more, and sound will come out with less inhibition. This exercise cycle is a mega-release and should be practiced as much as possible. Notice how your face looks after several minutes.
4 Heart Chakra Opener Producing the sound aaaaah will also create vibration in the chest center. Perhaps it is for this reason that the aaaaah sound is considered to be a heart chakra opener. You may experiment with this further by taking Easy Pose (Sukhasana) and chanting the aaaaah sound while placing your left hand on your crown center at the top of the skull and your right hand at the center of your chest.
Make sure your mouth is wide open and that your tongue is low and relaxed in your mouth to get the maximum jaw release and best quality of sound. Chant aaaaah and rub your hands to coax the vibration out more fully. Try this two to four times, then close your eyes and experience the warm and radiant quality of an open heart. An open heart will instantly transform the face from a shut-down, pinched mask to an open, radiant, and glowing goddess face.
Your beauty depends on you and only on you
5 Baby Bird This exercise will assist in firming the chin, neck, and cheeks. It helps prevent jowls from forming and is a good antidote for existing ones.
Mechanics: Tilt your head back and look at the ceiling. You must be relaxed when doing this—it is a bit challenging at first. Swallow while pressing the tip of your tongue to the roof of your mouth. Then tilt your head slightly to the left and swallow. Tilt your head slightly to the right and swallow. Do three to four times in each direction.
6 Head and Neck Rolls The tension this exercise releases will illuminate your face by lifting pinched or glum expressions, and it will also tone the neck, throat, and chin. Releasing head and neck tension serves to “prime the canvas” of facial release. Once you have loosened up this area, you will find your head sits more easily upon your shoulders and your posture improves. Improved posture helps the entire body, as the spine is freed from constriction and the abdominal muscles are properly engaged to support the spine, translating into a slimmer, more sculpted physical profile. You will also create a new sense of lightness that releases the sense of burden that a tight neck and shoulders produce. Your face will automatically release and look less pinched and constricted, ultimately resulting in fewer wrinkles.
Mechanics: Keep your head squarely perched on top of your neck, and imagine a silver thread connected to the crown of your head on one end, and to a point at the top of the sky on the other. Imagine the thread lengthening and lifting your entire spine. Now gently roll your head from shoulder to shoulder, leading with the chin. Make the motions small and precise. Then explore small circular motions—by performing full head rolls—but if this bothers your neck, stay with half-circular motions instead.
7 The Lower Jaw Grip and Shake This exercise is a mega-release, and will help anyone who suffers from pucker lines around the lips—when it looks like you’re sucking a lemon, permanently—as well as worry lines between the eyebrows and above the brows. Releasing the jaw also unburdens “trapped” emotions of anger, repressed desire, and sadness that tend to lodge in this area.
Mechanics: Interlace your fingers (but not the thumbs). Tuck your thumbs under your lower jaw, in the indentation behind the lower jaw ridge. Place your interlaced fingers (index fingers on top) under your lips, on the chin, like you are lightly grabbing a handle. Let your lower jaw loosen and drop down, becoming slack. Lightly gripping your lower jaw, move your interlaced fingers up and down, saying aaaaah as you go. This is a huge jaw release and may be a gauge of how tense you are. If you find it almost impossible to isolate the lower jaw’s movement from the upper jaw’s, you have a lot of jaw tension, and this exercise is for you! The jaw is a hinge, so let the other exercises be a lubricant that starts working the jaw. Even if it feels daunting now, with practice, you will be able to perform this more advanced exercise. Remember, easy does it! Practice this three to four times in a row, for about two minutes or so.
A wonderful example from an author of this book
8 Sandbag This exercise stretches the neck, shoulders, and jaw, and will let your head sit more effortlessly on your neck, reducing the appearance of jowls or double chins, and preventing them from forming through the practice of good posture.
Mechanics: In a seated pose, walk the fingertips of your left hand along the floor ten inches or so to the left of your hip. Rest lightly on your left fingertips. Extend your right arm up with your palm rotated in toward your right cheek. Then bend your arm at the right elbow and clasp your left ear with your right palm. Keeping your head aligned on your neck, drop your head toward the right and apply a gentle pressure, or sandbag, to the left ear. If you want to go deeper with this stretch, take your left fingertips (palm-down) to your left upper arm and apply a little pressure. Hold for five to seven counts, perhaps increasing the sandbag weight, then repeat on the other side.
Annelise Hagen «The Yoga Face»