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Easing the Jaw, Neck, and Shoulders

Back-lying, briefly framed by seated explorations. Exploring and refining basic movements of the jaw, and integrating them with movements of the head, neck, and shoulders. This lesson is often helpful for reducing many types of jaw-related tension and discomfort, including some kinds of headaches, TMJ pain (temporomandibular joint), and discomfort and stiffness in the neck, shoulders, and spine. The recording begins with an important discussion. NOTE: There's a recommended prerequisite in the lesson notes.

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Before you begin read this for practical tips and your responsibilities, and check out Comfort & Configuration below.

Recorded live in a Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement (ATM) class, this lesson is copyright Nick Strauss-Klein, for personal use only.

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Study tip: Directions are always relative to your body. For example, if you’re lying on your back “up” is toward your head, and “forward” is toward the ceiling.

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Study tip: It helps to have a large bath towel nearby when you start a lesson. You can fold it differently for comfortable head support in any configuration.

Tip – LESSS is more

LESSS is more: Light, Easy, Small, Slow, & Smooth movements will ease pains and improve your underlying neuromuscular habits faster than any other kind of movement, no matter who you are or what your training is!

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Tip – skip a lesson

Study tip: If you can’t find a comfortable way to do the initial movements or configuration of a lesson, it’s ok to skip it for now and go on to another lesson.

Tip – Pause the recording

Study tip: If you’re really enjoying a movement and want to explore longer, or you just need a break for a while, pause the recording!

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Tip 4 – Padding

Study tip: Comfort first! Carpeted floors usually work well, but it’s great to have an extra mat or blanket nearby in case you need a softer surface in some configurations.

Tip 5 – Discomfort

Study tip: If a configuration or movement causes any increase in discomfort, or you feel you just don’t want to do it, don’t! Make it smaller and slower, adapt it, or rest and imagine.

Tip – what to wear

Study tip: Wear loose, comfortable clothes that are warm enough for quiet movement. Remove or avoid anything restrictive like belts or glasses.

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Tip – Rewinding

Study tip: Many instructions are repeated. If you get a little lost, rest and listen. You’ll often find your way. Or use the rewind button on the page or your mobile device.

Tip – Complete the Movement

Study tip: Complete one movement before beginning the next. You’ll improve faster if there’s enough time between movements that you feel fully at rest.

This lesson’s audio introduction is important for learning to care for yourself as you explore these movements, and to learn a bit about the jaw’s function and comfort, and its relationship to your thoughts and emotions.

ATTENTION NEWCOMERS: Search engines love to send folks to this lesson, but starting with Relaxing Your Neck and Jaw (39 min) is strongly recommended. It too is freely offered (donor-supported).

Configuration: It’s helpful to use a smoothly folded towel for head support if you need it, and not to use more height than you need. If it’s comfortable, have your head resting so your face is oriented approximately parallel with the ceiling, with neither too little head support (head dangling back, as if looking up) nor too much (chin tucked, as if looking down).

All movements, even simply opening and closing your mouth, are done with comfort as the first priority, as small and as slowly as needed to enjoy yourself. It’s common to unintentionally move the jaw in large or leaping ways at first. This is normal. Simply rest a moment between movements, breathe freely, and stay quiet and clear with your intention and attention, and this will improve.

When you’re lying on your back and you’re invited to bend your knees and stand your feet, place your feet and knees about the width of your hips. The knees are balanced over your feet, so that your legs don’t feel like they’re falling toward or away from each other.

It’s great to let your whole self respond naturally to the fine movements of the jaw you’re exploring, even though I say things like “keep your head and neck undisturbed” – this only means relaxed.

For example, in side-to-side jaw movements early in the lesson you may find your head rolling and your eyes moving. While this is explored in some detail later in the lesson, it’s great to allow throughout.

As always in Feldenkrais study, inviting and allowing more of yourself to participate naturally as you fulfill your movement intention is a wonderful part of the integrative value of the lesson.

Constraints of movement will always be named explicitly. We use them sometimes to help you feel or explore a particular relationship within yourself. So, when you’re not being asked to constrain something or create an oppositional or differentiated movement, anything goes (so long as it’s comfortable)!

We missed a chance at the end of the lesson to again “palpate” the jaw with the fingers along the top of it, the thumbs underneath the jaw. This can be very informative after the lesson to help you feel in another way the changes that have taken place.

This lesson is found in our Miscellaneous Lessons collection and our Jaw, Neck, and Shoulders Deep Dive course.

We recommend you study the first lesson of that course, Relaxing Your Neck and Jaw (39 min) first.

Members and Patrons. Learn more or login:

Members and Patrons. Learn more or login:

Members and Patrons. Learn more or login:

By listener request I’ve created a Feldenkrais Project experiment, the first of its kind: I’ve published a 28-minute edited down version of this lesson. It’s missing the important intro discussion and many finer points of this full-length version, as well as the whole exploration in the latter half of the lesson using movements of the shoulders.

Nevertheless the short version stands well on its own as an exploration of the basic movements of the jaw and also as a “tune-up” for more experienced students. It’s called Easing the Jaw and Neck: the short edit (Patrons)

We recommend studying the full-length version above first.

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32 Comments

  1. Nick Strauss-Klein on November 13, 2019 at 12:09 pm

    This is our first full length jaw-related Feldenkrais Project lesson. If you’re interested in more lessons designed to help the mouth and jaw as they relate to the head, neck, shoulders, and whole body, let me know in the comments below.

    Your feedback and questions are always welcome. After studying the lesson, tell me and the listener community how it goes, by commenting!

  2. Sue D on November 15, 2019 at 11:12 am

    Hello Nick, I’m a bit tired today so this gentle lesson was perfect. Many thanks. I agree with Amira about positioning of the lesson because of one particular aspect – and that is the side to side knee movement. It was practised independently and then mentioned somewhat casually (in my opinion) when we went on to do shoulder raises. Would a beginner find the cues enough to invite involve the knees? I’m not sure but, of course, acknowledge your judgement based on experience of your audience. Hope that is helpful, Sue

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on November 15, 2019 at 11:23 am

      Hello Sue! Thanks for commenting. Yes, that’s a fine point, and I don’t actually know if beginners will find their knees or pelvis moving after the initial introduction of that idea or not, but I do believe in the value of stretching imaginations with a cue like that. The other intention was to prompt participation of the rest of the self and invite ongoing freedom of the lower body because so much lesson time has been focused on our upper parts, with the legs positioned in the same knees bent configuration. I’ll be exploring more myself and listening for more feedback! Thanks for yours. Note: Amira’s comment was removed at her request (she emailed to say she meant it for me alone).

  3. Julie on November 22, 2019 at 4:14 pm

    Working through this lesson, I clearly felt the connection of my jaw to the rest of my skeleton. At the end of the lesson in sitting and standing, my jaw felt heavy and large. I had the comical sensation that it was hanging loose and elongating my scalp and skin. The muscles in my shoulders and upper back had also relaxed and the range of motion in my neck had expanded. So, I’m a clencher and wear a bite guard at night to protect my teeth, and now I see how my jaw clenching is related to the unconscious tensions I hold throughout my torso and limbs. Thanks for the help.

  4. Chris Sigurdson on November 30, 2019 at 1:15 pm

    I wear a dental device for Sleep Apnea which I prefer to a CPAP. But it keeps my jaw forward some and since I also clench I’ve been developing some pain into my neck and shoulder on the right. This helped everything move more freely, including my jaw that was getting a more limited range to the right. I need to do this more frequently so I can use the device with less risk of getting a spasm. Thanks so much.

  5. Lori on December 7, 2019 at 1:14 pm

    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.

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on December 9, 2019 at 4:32 pm

      Me too! Should have a nice little surprise for you soon, and also of course you may want to thoroughly explore our Freeing the Spine, Chest, Shoulders, and Neck collection.

  6. Arne on January 4, 2020 at 2:07 pm

    Awesome Lessons, thank a lot! 🙂 My neck loses so much tension feels kind of “swollen” now.

    I´m really interested in more lessons about it and learn more about the jaw, for me it feels like the jaw is some kind of “key” to relax to whole body and to break the tension cricles. This lesson is covering so many things, would be nice to have lessons, which focus more on some aspects. Again, thank you so much!

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on January 8, 2020 at 12:00 pm

      You’re welcome! More and diverse jaw lessons are a good idea, and on my long-term radar. Thanks for the suggestion.

  7. Nancy on January 6, 2020 at 1:27 am

    Thank you Nick for this lesson.
    3 years ago I went through full mouth dental reconstructive surgery, sinus lift, bone graft, tooth extraction and 8 dental implants.
    I look forward to revisiting your lesson and continuing to feel more normal, relaxed and “at home” in my body.
    In appreciation, Nancy

  8. nat on January 18, 2020 at 6:20 am

    thank you
    this lesson made me yawn a lot. also it brought alpha waves after 10 minutes i was about to fall asleep and almost slept
    Nick, can you relate and explain why?
    also i love your voice, it feels warm.

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on January 19, 2020 at 9:12 am

      Hi Nat,

      The wiring in our nervous systems for the mouth and jaw is so low level that many people find lessons like this particularly affecting. We often hold tensions in the area that are so familiar we barely notice them most of the time, and when they start to change and ease there can be a very wonderful, calm sense of relief that’s deeply relaxing and even sleep-inducing! It’s never a problem to become sleepy during a Feldenkrais lesson. We expect you to move into what’s called parasympathetic dominance of the nervous system, when we’re best at healing, growing, resting…and learning! If a lesson makes you tired, it’s just you becoming aware that you need rest!

  9. nat on January 19, 2020 at 9:02 pm

    nick. it didn’t tire me at all. it just relaxed me to a point of yielding to the floor completely. it was a bliss. and i am so grateful to you. usually i am governed more by the sympathtic nervous system so this lesson was so balancing and triggered the pns. each lesson here is a gem!
    btw – can you relate to yawning? what is its function?

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on January 20, 2020 at 9:00 am

      We really don’t know why we yawn. I hadn’t checked on the science in a while, so for fun I did a quick Google search and found this article which quickly summarizes the state of our limited knowledge on it! I know how it feels to me, and the kinds of things I see it regulate and relax in others, so I work the image into lessons from time to time.

  10. Joan Oliver Goldsmith on January 29, 2020 at 9:14 pm

    I’m not quite sure how to articulate this interesting observation, but–when we lifted each shoulder, I felt the elbow and hand of that shoulder connecting to the floor and being grounded and drawing energy from the floor, much the way the feet do when doing the clock lying down. it felt smooth and rather nice.

  11. Inma on March 24, 2020 at 4:56 am

    Thanks Nick for this opportunity. I have been using your page for a week now and today I will join the live session.
    I did this lesson on jaw necks and shoulders last night and I felt great afterwards. So light.
    But sadly I woke up with a completely contracted right trapezius and I cannot even turn my head fully to the left or use the right arm properly. Any clue what I can do now to ease this discomfort?

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on March 24, 2020 at 11:31 am

      Take good care of yourself, not stretching or straining against the tightness but listening for all available light movements and feelings of reducing discomfort throughout the area. If you find a really comfortable position, think of it like a “nest.” Cozy in and enjoy, and see what movement possibilities you can find within that state that add even more comfort. You might look through Feldenkrais Project lesson descriptions for configurations and movements that sound not just possible for you now, but potentially pleasurable.

  12. Jane Scott on May 21, 2020 at 11:21 pm

    I felt the experience throughout my body, softening and calming my nervous system. Thankyou so much

  13. Muriel on June 5, 2020 at 3:43 pm

    Hi Nick, that was just what the Dr ordered (-:. I could feel my jaw becoming tense over the last few days and then the top of the shoulders joined in, so it was definitely time to RELEASE, and that exactly what your lesson did, with no effort. Thank you so much!

  14. Jessica Andexer on July 10, 2020 at 2:17 pm

    Thank you so much, released alot of tension in my jaw and made me more aware of the connection between tension in my jaw and tension across my chest and shoulders

  15. Michelle Wruck on August 23, 2020 at 12:43 pm

    I’d love to see more jaw lessons. I’ve noticed that clenching the jaw is, as Feldenkrais would say, “parasitically attached” to many movements. There’ve been times when I am able to free that attachment and have been genuinely surprised to find that my jaw was not helping me… reach that top shelf in my kitchen, for example. Of all such entanglements, freeing jaw movements from other movements has been the most impactful, like pulling a string that effortlessly untangles a knot in my brain that I hadn’t even known was there. Very cool. And… it makes me realize that there’s probably a lot more of that going on than I realize.

    It seems like clenching the jaw is closely linked to the impulse to ‘try’ or to ‘push through’ something – an impulse I have learned to be wary of thanks to Feldenkrais ATMs. That’s why I’d like to look at the jaw more closely and would appreciate any new lessons you can post.

    Thanks for all you do, by the way. These lessons have been an important part of restoring my health and wellbeing.

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on August 23, 2020 at 5:04 pm

      Thanks for sharing your learning experience! Honored to be able to help you. And yes, it’s on my “short list” to record another lesson with significant jaw-related ingredients soon!

  16. Andrea on September 11, 2020 at 2:40 am

    This is wonderful but I noticed something and I hope you can help me clear this up. I got tight suboccipitals all the time and I noticed they tightened on me during this lesson. I realized the whole time I was looking straight up at the “horizon” and then something clicked. They say when using the computer screen to have the majority of “text” at 30 degrees below the horizon right so taht eyes and neck don’t tense. Because i know the eyes are connected to the suboccipitals. WHen at the end of the lesson you mentioned looking at a soft spot down where the ceiling meets the wall, things softened up on me. Should we always be letting our eyes look down off the horizon in everything we do then?? I think I’ve been “trying to hard” (hence the tight jaw right) to keep my head up and not go into forward head posture, even when walking outside, that I think that’s what is tensing my suboccipitals. AM I correct in my thinking?? Maybe this could be a life changer for me because I was working so hard (I Know, don’t get on me,) but to sense if I was doing things lightly, that I realized that my eyes weren’t even moving with my jaw until you said something, so I definitely need to revist this lesson many times, but the big question is: Should the eyes always be down from “horizon” to keep suboccipitals relaxed, during all lessons, so you shouldn’t be looking straight up at the ceiling? ANd should it be the same in all normal activity?? Thanks

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on September 13, 2020 at 11:51 am

      Fine points, here. You know the work well at this point – I can tell because of your fantastic comment (which made me smile): “I know, don’t get on me”! Awareness and steering toward comfortable function is always going to be more useful for effective living and learning than “shoulds.” I can see where my words may lead you and others to think the eyes “shouldn’t” dip below the horizon, but if right now it’s hard work to gaze ahead at level with your eyes, then for now when you’re exploring and learning about better function your “horizon” will be lower since that’s clearly the more satisfying path at this time. Your gaze may rise spontaneously over time: like you’ve probably noticed it does after lessons that work with the length and uprightness of your spine – have you been aware of that when walking around after lessons? To be clear, I’m doing that Feldenkrais practitioner “get to know yourself” thing: I’m neither saying 30 degrees below the horizon nor on the horizon is “right”! I’m asking you to be sensitive to what’s working, and to explore your options, with a light interest in getting more comfortable, over time, with a higher gaze. If any of this is overwhelming, a summary could be “exploring in comfort is always more useful than imposing on yourself”.

  17. Andrea Herrera on September 15, 2020 at 7:43 pm

    Awesome. i appreciate it. Patience is definitely key.let my body heal and be attentive to that

  18. Ursula MacKinnon on October 6, 2020 at 12:49 pm

    Hi Nick, thank you for this important lesson. I am struggling so hard with chronic pain that has developed from multiple accidents and concussions. Can you recommend a particular lesson that is good for calming the whole system. My issue is soon as I am in gravity, my body is trying to protect me from the sensations I feel because of concussions as I move around, so shoulders tighten, neck jaw, back, legs etc. This is what my physio person tells me.
    Also do you do any online pay classes specifically for chronic pain patients. It would be so helpful to be with fellow sufferers even if only virtually. Thank you as always

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on October 6, 2020 at 3:10 pm

      Thanks for your comment. I don’t currently have live classes specifically for chronic pain, but since so many people come to the Feldenkrais Method in pain I very much designed our Getting Oriented collection with that in mind. Have you explored all those talks and lessons? And, do you find breathing lessons calming for your nervous system? You can use our lesson search page for the term “breathing”. If you’re a Patron (I can’t tell if you’re the Ursula who is), there’s a new 40-minute lesson called Holding Your Breath, in Awareness, that listeners are finding particularly calming.

  19. Christine Barrington on December 30, 2020 at 9:34 pm

    Oh my, I feel wonderful! It was amazing to feel how when I lolled my knees I could feel the echos mirroring in my jaw. There were many marvelous moments.
    Thank you!!

  20. Katrin on December 12, 2022 at 11:18 am

    Hallo Nick, vielen Dank für die Lektion. Sie ist wunderbar und doch ist etwas in mir scheinbar so ungeduldig mit diesen kleinen Bewegungen des Kiefers, dass ich mir selbst währenddessen gut zugeredet habe. Ich hatte vor 38! Jahren einen schweren Autounfall und ich denke, dass immer noch einiges an Energie davon in meinem System steckt. Jedenfalls zuckt mein ganzer Körper öfters speziell in dieser Lektion. Damals hat noch niemand von Schleudertrauma gesprochen, aber es muss immens gewesen sein. Kennst du dieses Zucken durch den ganzen Körper bei Deinen Teilnehmern? Hat es Deiner Meinung nach mit aufgestauter Energie zu tun? ich kann es nicht verhindern, brauche ich auch nicht zu tun, denke ich und doch erschrickt es mich immer sehr. Ich versuche dann die Anstrengung ganz raus zu nehmen.. und als ob ein Seil etwas weniger gespannt würde ..zuckt es doch.

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on December 12, 2022 at 6:31 pm

      Hi Katrin,

      I’m working from Google Translate’s vocabulary choices, but about this “twitching” I would ask: when it’s happening, how are the overall signs and feelings of comfort and safety? Are you able to breathe easily and otherwise rest while it’s happening? Does it seem to create anxiety, or have a sense of increasing anxiety?

      If it just happens but you can go on breathing and relaxing and being curious about the movements and other feelings of the lesson, then I wouldn’t worry about it. But if there’s a sense of escalating discomfort or anxiety, then I might take larger breaks (pause the recording) or break the lesson up into smaller units, or even skip this lesson for now.

      For what it’s worth I do believe this lesson is the most challenging of our four mouth and jaw-focused lessons. You might also explore the other three a few times, then come back to this one.

      For other non-German speakers who are curious, here’s Google Translate’s version of your comment:

      Hi Nick, thanks for the lesson. She is wonderful and yet something in me is apparently so impatient with these small movements of the jaw that I have coaxed myself into doing so. I had 38 ago! I was in a bad car accident years ago and I think there’s still some energy left in my system from that. Anyway, my whole body twitches a lot, especially in this lesson. Back then, nobody spoke of whiplash, but it must have been immense. Do you know this twitching through the whole body of your participants? Do you think it has to do with pent-up energy? I can’t prevent it, I don’t have to do it either, I think, and yet it always frightens me. Then I try to take the effort out completely.. and as if a rope were a little less tense..it still twitches.

  21. Katrin on December 13, 2022 at 4:25 am

    Hallo Nick,
    i take deepl translating, it´s good, but now try english. First thank you for your quick answer.
    I know the reaction of twitching from sessions of cranio or others..always before going into deeper relaxation. it is like a flash through the spine, takes off in a short and small movement my pelvis/ sakrum.. But not before fall asleep.
    I do breathe and i´ m curious about what it feels like when connectiong deeper into my tissue and sensations. Maybe it is so subtle or even so accumstomed that i don´t register..
    thank you for your advice of taking larger breaks and first doing the other lessons..returning back later to this challenging lesson. I try .. easy, at my pace.
    Greetings from Wuppertal 🙂

  22. Brigette on November 12, 2023 at 11:10 am

    Toward the end of the lesson I started to notice the holding I was carrying in my suboccipitals and the relationship with this and some tension on my low back and sacrum area. Very enlightening and struck a curiosity for me in further explorations about how I can invite and move with more ease thru the whole of myself. Thank you again for another beautiful lesson. Deep gratitude.

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