Deep Dive:

Jaw, Neck, and Shoulders

Our Deep Dives gather standalone Feldenkrais Project lessons into themed courses of study. Newcomers, we recommend exploring our primary collections first for a more generalized intro to Feldenkrais.

I have TMJ pain and my neck and shoulders carry a huge amount of tension. As I get older, this tension is becoming more of a problem. I really appreciate this lesson and I hope there are many more sessions on relaxing the jaw and the release of tension in the neck and shoulders.

- Lori, commenting on lesson 2

Lori's comment lands close to home for me. At times in my life I too have been stuck in a state most people know: jaw tight, head pulled forward, neck rigid, shoulders rounded, eyes fixed, breath held.

My troubles started in my teens. As a tall, self-conscious kid I developed patterns of shortening and withdrawing myself. At the same time I practiced hours of piano every day in an unhealthy way, bent over the keyboard, staring at the sheet music.

Now, as a Feldenkrais Practitioner, I see similar problems everywhere. Modern life keeps us oriented forward and down too often, in fixed positions for too long. The biggest culprit may be our hours with phones and laptops. On top of those biomechanical challenges, everyday stressors and fears generate an anxiety pattern that compresses us, tightening the jaw, neck, shoulders, eyes, and breath.

My own Feldenkrais study, integrated into these lessons, helps me whenever I need to reclaim length and ease, or release anxiety and pain.

The lessons are deeply interrelated, with ideas introduced, refined, and referenced later. They are intended to be done in sequence. We recommend a pace of one or two per week minimum, one or two per day at most.

The course starts very simply, but if working with your jaw for most of a lesson isn't yet comfortable for you, you might start with the second box, then try the first box again.

- Nick Strauss-Klein

Lessons 1, 2, and 5 are free, but to access lessons marked "Patrons" you’ll need to join the Feldenkrais Project (or sign in when you click them) as a Patron-level donor. Click to learn more about donation or our donor benefits.

Releasing Jaw & Neck Tension

Progressive lessons teach you to sense, relax, and rebuild habits... and breathe

1)  Relaxing Your Neck and Jaw (39 min)
Link simple mouth and neck movements with your whole self

May be the most relaxing lesson I’ve done.

Amazing how so little can do so much!

2)  Easing the Jaw, Neck, and Shoulders
This classic is one of our most popular lessons

For me it feels like the jaw is some kind of “key” to relax the whole body and to break the tension circles.

3)  Softening the Jaw, Shoulders, and Chest (Patrons)
After a more complex lesson, here you'll learn to integrate ancient undifferentiated movements of the jaw and whole body

What a superb ‘unhooking’ lesson … everything let go. Deep sigh. Thank you for these ongoing gifts of awareness.

4)  The Tongue and the Spine (Patrons)
Review and expand on the last three lessons, diving deeper into the many connections between the eyes, jaw, tongue, neck, shoulders, spine, and breath

What an incredible way to mobilize the neck from the inside out! And, yes, my face feels so much more relaxed.

Relationships of the Neck & Shoulders

Connect them through the chest, spine, jaw, and eyes. Undermine the anxiety pattern.

5)  Chanukia, the Candle Holder Lesson
Another popular classic, great for mobilizing scapulas, clavicles, sternum, and more

What a joyful and playful way of learning and refining oneself!

Wow! This is one of the best online Feldenkrais sessions I have experienced, thank you Nick.

6)  "Beard Pull" Pecking, with Chanukia (Patrons)
An unusual movement image creates a potent reorganization of your neck and spine

Another fabulous lesson, Nick! I felt all sorts of interesting and unaccustomed connections in head, belly, hips, neck, lower back…

7)  Arms Like a Skeleton, Integrating the Neck, Jaw, and Eyes (Patrons)
Reduce tension and improve the posture of your upper back, shoulders, and neck

8)  Freeing the Shoulders by Rolling the Arms (Patrons)
Explore more skillful connections between your arms, chest, spine, and head

Wonderful antidote to a day spent raking and spade lifting!

9)  Whole Body Arms (Patrons)
Expand your image of how arms do what they do. Then don’t be surprised when they can do more!

My new favorite lesson for the neck and shoulders

- from the Zoom chat

10)  Freeing the Neck with Crawling and Rolling (Patrons)
Integrate the neck, shoulders, and chest through explorations of crawling movements and improvisations toward rolling

For related neck, shoulders, chest, and arms explorations, continue through the three "Main Event" lessons in our Rock & Roll! (and Rotate) course. (#10 here is the first in that red box.)

Where to next?

Try our Deep Dive called Shoulder Cloak, Rib Basket, Sliding Sternum 

Originally it was "overflow" material from the Deep Dive above, until we realized it was a course of its own!

Or follow the inset box link below lesson #10 to our Rock & Roll (and Rotate) Deep Dive.



  1. Irene on October 27, 2022 at 9:24 pm

    I don’t know how Tao access free leSsons beZfore pecominzg a patron.l

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on October 28, 2022 at 1:36 pm

      Simply click on their titles above to go to each lesson’s audio player page. #1, #2, and #5 are always free.

  2. Vojtěch Petříček on February 3, 2024 at 4:01 pm

    Hi Nick,

    great series (as always) and really does help to alleviate a lot of tension. But usually the effect doesnt last too long and i was thinking that my teeth could be the reason.

    Recently, I came across a theory about the connection of upper and lower teeth alignment to the vestibular system as well as to the pelvic musculature and hip flexors. Even though Im not specifically aware of the theme of teeth in feldenkais method, I think it all makes sense from the felden-perspective — the problem description only, the approach is quite different obviously…
    This youtube channel, and this video in particular, is where i got it from
    and I´d really like to know your opinion 1) on the credibility of that theory 2) whether any possible solutions might lie in the sphere of feldenkrais method or whether this is one of the structural problems that actually demand a structural solution — even though the key factor is somatic. 3) Do you maybe have any experience with somatic changes in students who had undergone some kind of teeth-connected treatment, eg. wearing braces?

    Some of the descriptions from the video definitelly match how i feel about my pelvis and hip-flexors while my jaw is slightly shifted to the right (or my lower teeth are). So it seems as a reasonable explanation.
    (I wasnt sure whether to send you an email directly but i thought it might be relevant for this particular deep dive and potentially useful for somebody else as well.)

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on February 4, 2024 at 10:09 am

      Interesting. I skimmed a bit of the video and I think I get where he’s going (sorry, no time for the whole thing). Seems interesting and well-reasoned – happy to leave it here in case anyone else is curious.

      In the video I catch a bit more focus on cause-and-effect problem solving than I personally find reliable. We are such complex systems that in the end, how we function is almost always most influenced by our curiosity, sensitivity, and adaptability (our own ongoing maturing relationship with our whole self – which is the topic of Feldenkrais study) rather than structural changes. I think of how often a person’s movement patterns create the need for a joint replacement – and then if they don’t change their movement patterns eventually the replacement needs to be replaced (my grandfather had four right knees!).

      In fact, long term, our bodies have amazing abilities to change in subtle structural ways in support of our improving movement habits.

      Since I’m in the US lots of my students have had braces, and I’ve had kids on my 1:1 practice table and get braces between Functional Integration sessions, and my own kids have had braces. Haven’t seen any big shifts in overall patterns at those moments, but I certainly agree that head/jaw/spine/vestibular relationships are an enormous ingredient in carriage and thus patterns of the pelvis and hips.

      The question of helping the improved state we experience after ATM lessons “last” longer, or making it more reliably the norm – that’s a great topic. The best practice is to practice: can you come back to the mat briefly and improvise through the movements, sensations, and relationships you enjoyed from an ATM lesson later that day, or the next day…and the next? If you don’t feel ready to remember/improvise on your own, of course you can repeat the recording. If you get bored of the same lesson, then it’s time to move on (then when you return to that first one it will be interesting again).

      With some of our deepest personal habits of self-expression / self-identification (jaw carriage qualifies), it takes a steady returning of our attention, a detailed ongoing noticing of the differences between our old default and new options we’re discovering, to integrate and “keep” the changes. One subtle but very important ingredient may be social: can you interact with others and still remain in a questioning state about your jaw? It can be disconcerting: we don’t recognize ourselves when we’re in a novel state, which is more of a challenge when there are others around.

  3. Vojtěch Petříček on February 4, 2024 at 3:10 pm

    I think that the mental aspect, eg. some nervousness (maybe also a social one) does play a substantial role in my case; however, I never specifically focused on the connection, as you suggest. I suppose focussing on symmetry when doing those real life jaw checks is as unnecessary as doing that during the lessons, right?
    Ill definitely do some of the lessons more frequently and try to experiment with awareness-in-movement outside of lessons…


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