The Jaw & Neck: A Delicate Balance
Consider the relationship between your jaw and the top vertebra of your neck. The TMJ (jaw joints) live on either side of a critical balance point (OA Junction), and many head and neck issues can be connected to jaw misalignment and dysfunction. From a biomechanical perspective, the position of the head relative to the spine is a major factor in posture, comfort and our experience of the world. With most of our senses poised at the top of the spine, it’s in our best interest – in a deeply biological sense- to position the head with ease at this balance point.
From my work and studies as a Craniosacral Therapist, I have come to understand this area from a physiological and a neurological perspective. When the base of the skull and the thick muscles (SCM muscles) at the side of the neck are restricted – the flow of blood and nerves (vagus, occipital, accessory and glossopharyngeal in particular) are compromised; also affected are the brainstem, the autonomic nervous system and the limbic system. Rigid SCM muscles leave us on high alert and keep us suspended in a protective posture, affecting movement, thinking, emotions and our ability to connect socially. Stiff jaws are embedded in the pattern. And so – stress from mild to traumatic can be held – and treated at the jaw and neck. In addition to mobilizing through gentle movement, we can also find our way into these structures THROUGH our sense organs. While this is the topic for another time, and another workshop – the ennervation of the eyes and tongue are part of this conversation.
Two Short and Quiet Movement experiments
- Sitting comfortably, make a delicate contact with your jaw joints and very slowly open your moth and track the details and the restrictions of opening and closing. Always make minimal movements.
- 3 or 4 times, lower your jaw and your eyes,
- Now do a number of jaw movements while raising your eyes gently.
- Now tilt your head a little back as though to see the ceiling as you lower the jaw, a kind of yawn as if the hinge happens at the base of your skull.
- Repeat this action, while allowing your tongue to relax, widen and follow your jaw as it opens. how do your eyes and breath respond?
- Return to the first test movement of opening your moth and see what is new.
- Sitting at the front of your chair, start with a test movement of looking right and left, as if to shoulder check.
- With easy shoulders, hold your cheeks with your hands with elbows hanging down, and turn right and left (without actually turning your neck). Turn your face eyes hands shoulders chest and arms. You can even let your legs and hips help.Rest.
- Holding your cheeks again make a slow very large circle with your elbows- from the floor over to the one side and up to the ceiling. Breathe easily and move with eye open to see and let your whole body help. Reverse it, and rest.
- With your hands on your lap and eyes closed make super soft small ‘nose’ circles (keeping it small invites the top vertebrae to move)
- Repeat in both directions,( adding a circling motion with the base of your tongue if you’re ready to get fancy). Notice what your eyes do!
- After a short rest, return to the test movement and see what has changed.
Using The Feldenkrais Method ® , we can learn to improve alignment and function, while reducing or even eliminating pain and tension. Even better, we build better ‘maps’ of awareness, which always move us in the direction of health and our best movement and performance