Jaw tension ~
A huuuuge amount of people I meet in my coachings deal with jaw tension. It’s the worst. Especially for a singer, since opening your mouth is kinda sorta an essential part of singing. But… I’m one of those annoying people that believes there is a solution for any problem. Let’s get to it!
My original remedy for jaw tension was inspired by…the Kardashians. True story. When I think of Kim, Khloe, Kourtney, Kendall & Kylie, the first thing that pops into my head is the typical Valley girl mantra: Oh…my…Goddd-ah!
Lol, you said it in your mind, didn’t you? GOOD! Now, say it out loud, and really drop that jaw. Go over the top with it!
Besides that it’s kinda fun to do, it’s also one of my most effective and probably most mentioned tips I give to my vocal students. A good ol’ jaw drop creates space, and encourages the larynx to stay relaxed, amongst other things.
Easy enough, right?
Turns out, MANY people deal with severe jaw tension, making it pretty difficult to ‘just’ relax the jaw. In fact, it can cause a lot of problems in their daily lives. Jaw lock, migraines, teeth grinding… That sh*t sounds awful!
What surprised me was that, despite the fact that SO MANY people deal with jaw tension, there was barely any useful info out there! Most sources said something in the realm of: “well…just relax and massage the sides of your face” (Gee, thanks Karen, I totally didn’t think of that on my own *eyeroll*) Uhm…well, I felt that just massaging the sides of your face wasn’t cutting it. There had to be more to it. So I researched by booty off and…I think I found the solution.
Now, there are 2 parts that work together: there is a physical component and an emotional component. Both are important here!
Let’s start with the physical part:
The physical part: Self-massage (that actually works)
Are you ready for the greatest tip ever? You should massage the ~other~ side of your jaw. That’s right. Inside your mouth. Weird? Nope. Imagine asking your boyfriend for a back massage and he only did the left part. (Instant deal breaker.)
So, here’s how you do it:
1) Take your left pinky and massage the left side of your jaw, on the inside. Find the tender spots (the joint where your jawbone connects with your cheek, but also around it), and gently massage them. Chewing a bit helps too. Make sure to keep breathing, and to relax your neck and shoulders. Then, take your right pinky and do the same for the other side.
2) Place your right index finger and middle finger on your left cheek (‘fake gun’ style). Then, take your right thumb and massage the left side of your jaw, on the inside. I find that the pinky gives you more control, and the thumb allows you to apply more pressure. The combo of the two allows you to reach all the tender spots. Start at the joint again, but also massage your whole cheekbone and any other spots you can reach. Then, take your left thumb and do the same for your right side. All other rules apply (chewing, breathing, relaxing).
It might feel a bit strange at first, but give it a try! You’ll notice a huge difference immediately in your jaw tension, especially if you make it a habit. Most of my students do it 3 times a week, and totally miss it when they skip it.
The emotional part: reframe your beliefs
In my experience, the main thing that people who suffer from jaw tension have in common is a 2 part feeling. First, there is a belief that ’things should be different’. The ‘thing’ in question varied from: ‘my house is not tidy enough’ to ‘people in the music industry are snakes’ to ‘I’m not being seen’.
Secondly, this belief was paired with a strong emotion that was being repressed.
- ‘My house is not tidy enough…but I don’t wanna come across as uptight’
- ‘People in the music industry are snakes…but I want to be considered professional and made of steel’
- ‘I’m not being seen…but I’m not gonna complain. It’s fine.’
In other words: ‘Things should be different. But I’m not convinced I have the power to change them. So I’ll just chew on it for a while, until I can swallow it.’
What if you didn’t have to chew on it at all? What if you could reframe whatever’s causing your jaw tension? What’s the fear behind the anger? If you figure out ~that~ part, you’re well on your way.
If we take a closer look at one of our example beliefs: ‘I’m not being seen, but I’m not gonna complain. It’s fine.’ What is the opposite of that belief? Perhaps something like: ‘I am celebrated for exactly who I am. I share what’s in my heart, and other respond positively.’ You are longing for a synergy, a two-way street of expressing positive emotions.
The only part of that synergy that you can control is ~your~ half. That’s your responsibility. So, how come you don’t share what’s in your heart, loud and proud? Fear of rejection? Fear of doing it wrong? Fear of not being good enough?
I used to have a deep-seated core belief that I wasn’t a ‘real’ singer, that I was faking it, and therefore things would never work out for me. Even when life proved me otherwise, I still believed it. I felt nervous when I got ‘lucky breaks’. That didn’t align with my beliefs, I was supposed to be a failure! Get this: I felt ~better~ every time things fell apart.
Then, one day, I had ~had~ it. I promised myself to stop being a victim, and I started actively thinking: ‘I assume and expect things to work out. I accept that life is easy.’
I started feeling less anxious. I started to trust myself and the course of my life. I started to relax, mentally and physically. A belief like ~that~ removes tension and resistance over your whole body, including… your jaw.
Could it really be that simple?? YES.
Simple. Not necessarily easy (it takes focus, courage and time), but definitely simple:
The ~real~ key to removing your jaw tension is to remove the source of your tension in general. Reframe the negative beliefs that fuel your everyday outlook on life. What’s the fear behind those beliefs? And how can you tell yourself different things, that also feel true, but are way more empowering? Go talk to yourself, and actively try out your new beliefs for the next few months.
Or, in Kylie Jenner’s words: Make this your year of, like, realizing stuff.
Want to learn more ways to make the most of your voice? Check out our Vocal Technique online course, or our Vocal Psychology online course. Want a more personal approach? Book a Strategy Session here.
Medical disclaimer: The information contained herein is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment in any manner. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding any medical condition. All information in this blog and on the Vocal Psychology website is intended for informational and educational purposes only and any use thereof is solely at your own risk.