For years I’ve been telling students that tension in the jaw is connected to tension in the pelvis and hip joints. But where did this idea come from?
I always assumed Moshe Feldenkrais made the original observation, but I’ve never been able to find a reference. And, when I looked several years ago, all I came up with was a reference to natural childbirth expert Ina May Gaskin’s, “Sphincter law,” which states that, “If the mouth, jaw and throat are relaxed, then so is your bottom.” This might have more to do with symptoms of a generalized relaxation response, then literal “sphincters.”
Nevertheless, good to know.
A link between the jaw and pelvis makes sense if we view hypothalamic drive states as the underlying model for unconscious tension habits. That is, the 5 F’s – Fight, Flight, Fright, Freeze and Reproduction – with all their attendant muscular, neural, hormonal and mental activation. Tension (or relaxation) is rarely regional (although we can also blame furniture, culture and our iPhones).
A 2009 study conducted in Germany showed that myofascial release of the TMJ joint significantly increased range of motion in the hip joints. This was true for participants both with and without chronic pain. Additionally, voluntarily clenching the jaw reduced hip joint mobility for all subjects. Caveat: these findings might only describe a generalized relaxation response, not a direct link between the jaw and the hips. Perhaps if the researchers had asked the participants to clench their fists they would have discovered the same decrease in hip mobility.
Have you ever tried to open a jar without tightening your jaw or fists? Try it. How about your hips? This suggests a little home Alexander Technique project.
From an Alexander Technique standpoint, a free neck, a free jaw, and free hips all go together. It’s hard to release the jaw in isolation.
If you have trouble with jaw tension, try relaxing your feet, and then your legs. See if your breath doesn’t then drop into your pelvis, which then relaxes your hips.
How’s your jaw doing now?