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Embrace your inner boa constrictor: Stretch your jaws

27
Dec

Embrace your inner boa constrictor: Stretch your jaws

(Note: I was going to go with “anaconda” instead of “boa constrictor,” but two prominent hip-hop artists have given that word a very different meaning in popular culture over the past 25 years.)

Anyway. This sounds totally random and off-the-wall, right?
Like who’d think of stretching your jaw muscles as being important?

Allow me to enlighten you.

Your masseters (jaw muscles) are thick, powerful, and under constant tension –
they keep your mouth from falling open like a dumbass.
You use your masseters literally every day to chew, talk, and help open your airway to breathe.

Knots and trigger points are very common there and massaging them f*cking HURTS…but you gotta do it.
Masseters are a common cause of headaches, toothaches, TMJ (temporomandibular joint) syndrome,
sinus pain, and that weird crazy itch that feels like there’s a bug inside your ear.
However, as important as it is to smash, poke, and prod your muscles, that’s not all they need.
They also have to be stretched periodically to reset the neuromuscular junction –
your brain’s connection with the muscle.

[Think of stretching as a prolonged eccentric contraction.
The feedback to and from the CNS is important to maintain full range of motion
and to tune up the length-tension relationships between opposing muscles.
When your muscles are overly tight, much-needed stretching can actually cause soreness.
It means that the muscle tissue itself is adapting to a new range of motion…which is a good thing.
But anyway, if anyone ever tells you that stretching is useless, they are objectively wrong.]

Just like stretching the quads lets the hamstrings reset, stretching overly-tight masseters
lets its antagonist muscles (the digastric, located under your jaw) calm down.
This has a ripple effect that relaxes tension through the throat, neck, and base of the skull.

In other words, when your masseters get all pissy it becomes more difficult to breathe or talk,
and can throw off alignment in your cervical vertebrae – similar to the muscles of the neck.
This means nerve transmissions all through the body can get interfered with,
and you feel less energetic and strong…just because you haven’t stretched your jaws.
WEIRD.

You’d stretch your calves after a day of running, right?
So why not stretch your jaws after a day of eating?

Yep. Mind blown.

So in case you can’t watch the video up there for whatever reason, here’s how you stretch your jaws.

Step 1: Sit down so that you don’t fall over while doing this (technically this is optional, but encouraged).

Step 2: Tilt your head back all the way, and let your jaw fall open.

Step 3: Grab your chin (on your jawbone) with both hands and pull your jaw all the way down.

Step 4: Hold your jaw down and breathe continuously for at least 15 seconds,
letting your jaw relax in its new position.
Try to pull your jawbone to your throat.

Step 5: Carefully bring your head back to neutral position.

Step 6: Repeat as necessary.

That’s it!

Have fun breathing!

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