Techniques for working with intense tension in the face/jaw?

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.

Techniques for working with intense tension in the face/jaw?

Postby philosopher » Sat Jun 28, 2014 3:29 pm

When meditating the one area of my body that holds a great deal of tension is my face and jaw. I'm able to release or relax into the tension held in the rest of the body, but releasing or simply working with the tension in the face is difficult and becomes a distraction. Does anyone have any techniques for this? I figure there must be some helpful guided meditations out there addressing what must be a common issue...

Thanks in advance!

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Re: Techniques for working with intense tension in the face/

Postby daverupa » Sat Jun 28, 2014 4:29 pm

Sometimes thinking will generate facial tension as though in preparation for speaking; so, limit words, and the ready potential to speak, and relax the jaw around the tongue. I have an old habit of gently resting the tip of the tongue on the roof of the mouth near the front, somewhere comfortable where the palate transitions from hard to soft, because it limits saliva production. Anyway, I use this as an anchor to remind me to let the muscles of the head 'sag' off the gentle post of the spine.

This can also help keep the shoulders down & relaxed, but watch that you keep the lumbar spine curved for proper support - thinking about relaxed sagging can sometimes lead to slouch, which is swinging too far the other way, from tension to flop.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Techniques for working with intense tension in the face/

Postby philosopher » Sat Jun 28, 2014 4:35 pm

daverupa wrote:Sometimes thinking will generate facial tension as though in preparation for speaking; so, limit words, and the ready potential to speak, and relax the jaw around the tongue. I have an old habit of gently resting the tip on the roof of the mouth at the front, where the palate transitions from hard to soft, because it limits saliva production. Anyway, I use this as an anchor to remind me to let the muscles of the head 'sag' off the gentle post of the spine.

This can also keep the shoulders down, but watch that you keep the lumbar spine curved - thinking about sagging can sometimes lead to slouch, which is swinging too far the other way, from tension to flop.


Thank you for your comments. Perhaps I should've mentioned that I usually use a reclining restorative yoga pose for meditation, so my head is actually resting on a blanket, with a rolled portion to support the neck. Perhaps it is the posture itself that is promoting the tension. I do always let the jaw hang very slack and have experimented with various tongue positions. It seems that focusing on breath sensations further down in the body, such as the abdomen, leads to less tension in the face than focusing higher in the body - at the nostrils, say. This issue with face tension does not arise with walking or sitting mediation, but I use those rarely.

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Re: Techniques for working with intense tension in the face/

Postby MrMonkey » Tue Jul 08, 2014 4:44 pm

I’ve the same issue, when I start to meditate my jaw became tense, but also tongue and I produce saliva more than usual. The effort to put attention on the breath cause me tensions.

It is quite frustrating for me …

I’ve also noticed, like you, that if I put attention on abdomen I’ve less tension the if I’m focused at the nostrils.

But I found a method that sometimes works fine: in a first phase, when I start to meditate, for the first ten twenty minutes, I simply stay there without any objectives, just keeping my body immobile, with a background idea of relax it.
Usually this is enough to relax the body, then I start to put effort/attention on the breath.
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