Oct 06, 2016
Jaw tension is often an issue of posture and cannot be remedied without attending to that underlying problem. Despite the best efforts of excellent voice teachers, many singers who attend my workshops display lower jaw tension. These singers have been given appropriate directives such as “idiot jaw” or “let the jaw fall back and down.” In my workshops, I do not find singers whose teachers have encouraged a tense, forward jaw position. And yet tense, forward jaws are common.
I believe this happens because you can’t fix the jaw with the jaw. When the jaw is tense there is an underlying cause outside of the jaw that makes it impossible for the jaw to fall down and back into a relaxed position. You can manually release the tension in the jaw, and that is something I heartily advocate and teach in my workshops. I believe manual release of tension should be the cornerstone of a daily bodywork practice for everyone. However, manual release, by itself, is a temporary fix because it treats the symptom, not the cause of the problem. Releasing the tension manually will bring temporary relief, but the only way to find permanent relief is to retrain the posture of the whole body.
Your head is like a 10-15 pound bowling ball trying to balance at the top of your spine. The muscles on the head and in the neck are insufficient to support this weight. The skull needs a partner, and that partner is the pelvis. Being upright is not yet a no-brainer for us humans. Animals and babies have perfect posture; adult humans do not. We need to wake up every morning and remind ourselves of the relationship between the skull and the pelvis.
If we leave our alignment to chance, the odds are the pelvis will not be in position to allow the skull to float at the top of the spine. In that case, the weight of the skull presses down on the neck and jaw. In this alignment, it is not possible for the jaw to release, and in truth it has no space to fall back into.
There are many useful directives and exercises to improve the support of the skull. Releasing the temporalis, masseter, and neck muscles--along with a posture that reunites the skull with its true support, which is the pelvis--allows the possibility for the student to follow those excellent directions the teachers are providing. An easy, low-tech way to a released yet supported skull is simply to balance a book on top of your head. This will reduce any holding in the neck and encourage the connection of the skull to the pelvis, through the spine. In this posture, the skull will be more upright (not tilted forward or back), and the neck will be slightly longer, creating a lovely space for the lowering of the jaw.
If you have jaw tension that you just can’t seem to release, just remember that you can’t fix the jaw with the jaw--you have to look to the whole body.