Throughout my years teaching voice and presentation skills, I have had scores of women complain of tightness and soreness in their lower jaw which I refer to as ‘lockjaw.’ While the true definition of the word refers to the inability to open the jaws due to tetanus, I use the word to describe women who place their tension in their lower jaw, neck and shoulder regions. What results from ‘lockjaw’ is not only soreness in those areas but often poor articulation.
What is fascinating about my study is that ‘lockjaw’ is rarely seen in men: men carry their stress differently. Women, on the other hand, are affected by stress that manifests itself in their shoulder, neck and mouth areas nine times out of ten.
If you experience ‘lockjaw,’ there are several things that you can do to remedy the problem, the first of which is to learn how to breathe with support. Shallow or lazy breathing, which is characteristic of the majority of the population, increases your stress which in turn increases the tension in those regions.
By learning to breathe with the support of your diaphragm, a muscular partition separating your chest from your abdomen, you will notice an immediate difference because your body will begin eliminating the nasty toxins that shallow or lazy breathing cannot.
Clench your teeth together and lock your jaw, holding that position for 5 seconds. (Place your hands on your cheeks directly under your ears and feel the knot in your jaw.) Now, unclench, unclasp your jaw (you will feel the knot disappear) and drop the lower portion of your mouth. Hold that position for 5 seconds. Your mouth should be open. Again, tighten your jaw, hold the position for 5 and then unlock the jaw again for 5. Repeat several times.
When you do the above exercise, notice the difference in how your mouth and jaw feel when it is locked versus when it is relaxed. Becoming aware of the difference in those two situations is critical in recognizing when stress is interfering with your jaw, neck, and shoulders.
Add diaphragmatic breathing to the picture and you will begin to experience a fantastic release of the tension you have carrying.
If stress rules your life, it is time to put an end to ‘lockjaw’ and enjoy the many benefits of deep, supported, relaxed breathing. It can change your life!
The Voice Lady Nancy Daniels offers private, corporate and group workshops in voice and presentation skills as well as Voicing It!, the only video training program on voice improvement. Visit Voice Dynamic and watch Nancy as she describes Your Least Developed Tool!