We’ve all seen people who display jaw tension by clenching their teeth, sticking out their tongue or biting their lip when their trying really hard at something. If you recognise that’s you when you’re exercising then it usually means that you’re lacking a bit of control. Yes, we read them as signs that we’re concentrating but they can also reveal a lack stability that you’re trying to overcome. These appear when we’re not using our stability mechanisms correctly.
As my lovely clients will hear me say regularly, “Everything’s connected” and so fixing the face and jaw has a knock on effect throughout the body. The shoulders and neck tighten, the upper limbs lose their range of movement and the rib cage is so tight that it can affect breathing patterns. It’s like trying to exercise which wearing a suit of armour! In practice you can see that performance can be affected quite a lot.
So just relax the face yes?
Well, as with everything it sounds easy, but the reality is often not quite so simple. As mentioned at the beginning, the act of face fixing can be a coping and enabling strategy allowing you to perform an exercise at a level higher than your body is actually capable of. By taking away the tension and keeping a soft mouth and jaw, you may find that you struggle to perform the exercise at the same level. However, stick with it as you’re now having a better base on which to build your performance in order to take you to the next level.
Help! What can I do?
If you’re struggling with letting go, a simple exercise you might try when you feel you’re fixing your jaw is to take a deep breath and upon letting it out, allow the jaw to drop and the mouth to open. Take a couple more breaths in this position and then close the mouth again. Take another deep breath and again let the jaw drop and this time, you should find that it drops to a lower position than previously. Keep repeating until you feel the tension has gone.
The benefits of a relaxed face are numerous. Runners should be able to gain a better stride length, Lifters and Tennis Players should have better shoulder range, Desk Jockeys may find that their headaches reduce and everyone should be able to get more air into their lungs as the rib cage is allowed to expand wider.
Go on – try it and let me know how you get on at @recoverKerry
Thanks to @JEMSMOVEMENT and Susan Findlay (www.susanfindlay.co.uk) from NLSSM.