Tight Jaw, Tight Body, Tight Actor
How is your jaw jamming up your body and tightening your emotional freedom?
We’ve all been told how important it is to take care of your body as an actor. How many of us have a tight jaw, tight body and experience tight moments when accessing emotion.
The benefits of a practice like yoga, Feldenkrais – improving human life through better movement, sensation, posture, and breathing – and Alexander technique – changing your habitual ways of moving to more efficient ways – are countless.
I have been a professional actress for the past 20 years, along with extensive dance, circus, and physical theatre training. I’ve spent years exploring how my body moves, how my connection to my body strengthens my connection to my acting, and how emotions can be expressed through movement.
Since completing my Kinesiology training, I have continued to be amazed and intrigued by the connection between our bodies, our emotions, and healing, and the positive impact this can have on your acting craft.
BALANCE THE JAW, BALANCE THE BODY.
In Kinesiology, and specifically Kinergetics, we work on the principle “balance the jaw, balance the body”. 90% of the muscles in our body are related to our jaw – so if your jaw is tight, then chances are your body will be tight and compensating in other areas.
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) consists of the muscles and jaw joints that move your jaw around on your skull. TMJ pain, teeth grinding, headaches, tinnitus, jaw tension, and clicking are common symptoms of a jaw that is out of balance.
Deep trauma is held in our jaw and when jaw problems are left unattended, stress continues to build, causing further dis-ease which manifests into deeper physical stress on the body. TMJ issues are often triggered by adrenal stress and fight, flight, freeze, survival responses – this can be due to major/minor trauma or more mundane things, like dental work or holding back from voicing your thoughts. Literally “holding your tongue”, as it were.
Physically, TMJ issues are linked to the psoas (the pair of muscles that run from your lumbar spine to your groin, the ones that flex your body forward when you go to bend down and pick something up off the floor, stabilizing your core and spine) and upper trapezius muscles (the broad, flat muscle that stretches from the back of your shoulder to your neck)
The psoas and upper trapezius muscles relate to the kidneys, including both the organ function itself and the kidney energy meridian. The kidneys are responsible for filtering waste products from your blood, regulating blood pressure, balancing water and activating Vitamin D. The Kidney Meridian is considered the Root of Life – connecting us to our willpower, regulating circulation, energy, sleep, and vitality.
The knock-on effect for the body from being out of balance is extensive. A tight jaw leads to headaches, teeth grinding and tightening your Psoas. This, in turn, leads to lower back pain, a tilted pelvis, knee, neck and ankle tension, and stressed kidneys (both the organ and energetic meridian function). All of a sudden, we wonder how we ended up in pain and feeling anxious, stuck and frustrated!
HOW IS THIS CONNECTED TO ACTING?
Another method that I work with, and which is based on similar mind/body principles, is Niki Flacks’ acting technique, “Acting With Passion”.
Rooted in the work of Wilhem Reich and Alexander Lowan, both pioneers of bio-energetic therapy and the mind/body holistic movement, Niki’s work uses physical cues to access emotion held in our bodies. One of these movements is to lightly tap your chin and open your jaw as wide as you can, as if taking a big bite of a large apple, and taking an inhalation of breath to the back of the throat.
This simple action, when combined with a series of verbal and physical cues, begins to access your “emotional dungeon,”. Your feelings start to flip around in your gut, allowing your actor-self to use them as fuel to speak your lines.
In both Niki’s work and Kinergetics, we access trauma through the jaw.
It’s fascinating that in both Niki’s work and Kinergetics, we access trauma through the jaw. Our throat, neck and jaw muscles have become highly skilled in holding back sounds and feelings. This is also a reason why actors have voice problems. The muscles we want to relax have learned to “bite down”, “hold our tongue”, push our instinctive cries back, and use words instead.
By accessing and releasing these we are on the road to balance, wellness, and emotional connection. For actors, a jaw that is free of pain and tension also means you’ll have access to a richer emotional palate. So, a tight jaw = tight body = tight actor.
WHAT DO YOU DO NOW?
If you’re having TMJ pain or issues with your Psoas, Upper Trapezius, then it’s possible Kinesiology can help you. With kinesiology, we are essentially rebalancing your body’s energy so it can flow freely, moving through emotional, physical and spiritual stressors to achieve a more peaceful, pain-free life.
I’ll continue exploring the mind/body connection in this blog to provide awareness and understanding to assist other performers to find balance in their life and work.
You can read more about my Acting with Passion training HERE.