For singing, chanting or theatrical speech, it is very important to learn to relax the jaw. Many people suffer from jaw tension and any tension in the jaw can directly affect the voice. The Italian singing master Francesco Lamperti said, “On the freedom of the jaw depends the freedom of the larynx.” The bottom of the jaw has muscle attachments to the hyoid bone that the larynx is suspended from. Tension in the lower jaw will pull on the hyoid bone and put tension directly into the larynx, which can result in the throat feeling constricted. Some of the best exercises for a tight jaw come from Feldenkrais.
Feldenkrais Jaw Exercises
You can do these exercises sitting or lying down. Sitting: sit in a straight-backed chair with your hands on your thighs and feet flat on the ground. Lying down: lie on your back with your legs outstretched or bent, with your feet flat on the floor, hip distance apart.
*Turn your head to the left and right to relax the neck between exercises.
*Open your mouth (does your jaw open evenly)? Does your lower jaw move downward to open? Close your mouth and relax.
*Instead of lowering the jaw to open the mouth, open your mouth by tilting head backward as your eyes go toward the back of the wall (if lying down) or toward the ceiling (if sitting in a chair). Bring your head back. Do this again, but make sure to relax your neck first.
*Open your mouth a little and very slowly move your lower jaw to the right (very slightly) and then return it to the middle, and close your mouth.
*Put your forefinger on the left side of the jaw to feel the movement more closely. Once again, open your mouth and move your jaw to the right and then back to middle and close your mouth. Is the movement smooth or rough and uneven?
*Open your mouth a little and very slowly move your lower jaw to the left (very slightly). Return it to the middle and close your mouth.
*Put your forefinger on the right side of the jaw to feel the movement more closely and, once again, open your mouth and move your jaw to the left, then back to the middle and close your mouth. Is the movement smooth, or rough and uneven?
*Rest for a moment.
*Open your mouth a little and move it very slowly, slightly forward. Does it move forward or does it veer to one side? Move your jaw back, close your mouth and relax.
*Open your mouth a little, move your lower jaw forward and keep it there. Then move your lower jaw slowly to the left and slowly to the right. It will be moving side to side. Close your mouth and relax.
*Turn your from head side to side to relax the neck. Open your mouth again. Does your jaw feel more relaxed? Can you open your mouth more than before?