In previous article, we have learned easy exercise for self-leaded release of the whole body. Today, we will focus on face and jaws, because these cause many problems to many players – especially violinists, but also other instrumentalists put their tension and stress into face muscles…
Everybody has own bodily area which tends to be in tension regularly. In many cases, this area is face. We use mimicry as communicational tool and it also appears as unconscious reaction. This is natural! The problem comes when we are not aware of the tension, stuck mimicry reactions within our face or even the jaws pressure, which keeps the stress or the character of previous reaction within us. Then, even when the stressor disappears, the stress stays conserved in our mimic muscles and keep our tension inside. Therefore, even during relaxing, we are not able to slow down and release fully, fall asleep badly and even feel tired in the morning. Face tension and jaw pressure can cause also headache, neck and teeth ache.
Face tension becomes bad habit of many instrumentalists, usually when playing some hard piece or spot, as stress mark and also lack of stability and release within the body. If there is no focus to reduce this habit it can happen to be indivisible part of playing style… Some students are not even able to play within jaw pressure – it simply became a reflex within their playing. The consequences are then also tension within the neck area and shoulders. If we do not release our jaws and face enough, release of the neck and hands becomes very hard and sometimes even impossible.
We will focus on release without instrument first and then we try to apply release technique to our playing. If you have a problem with jaw or face tension, try to practice self-leaded release within practice breaks and mostly before falling asleep.
So let’s try!
Find some calm place. sit, lie down on the floor or stand up. Focus on release of your face and jaws.
- First, focus on your mimicry. Is your face relaxed? Or do you feel some tension? Some muscle is making some face? Is there any of your previous day-situation reaction still stuck within your face? Are the muscles around your mouth relaxed? Breathe normally and with your next exhale, try to release those stuck tensions. TRy couple of times. With every of your exhale, imagine, how your face is pleasantly “melting” down. Do not push anything! If you are not able to release fully, try first to raise the tension within the face and then release with exhaling. Be aware of the difference.
- Breathe and focus on top of the head. With every exhale, feel the skin under your hair releasing, melting.. Feel how the skin is becoming “longer” slowly to your ears. You may feel pleasant tickle and warm.
- Focus on your jaws and tension within them. Focus on your breath too and try to release your jaws with every exhale. Together with release, teeth may get a bit further and tongue on the upper floor. Release also the mouth. If you cannot release your jaws, make more pressure with inhale and release fully with exhale.
- Focus on joint of upper band lower jaw. Put your palms on those joints and switch from pressure to release couple of times – you will feel the difference within the area under your palms. In tension, the joint comes out of the cheek and melts inside with release. Still check release of your mouth and lips to reach release.
- Focus on your breath and jaw joints. No palms on the joints now.. Now, with every exhale, relace the jaw joints. Imagine, how the joints melt inside as you felt it under your palms before. If you are successful, then add a focus on space behind the jaws directing to the ears and behind them.
- Once your jaws are released, focus on the area behind ears on behind of your neck. Touch the spot to feel it better – start with your ears, continue behind ears to the center of your neck. Here, your scul îs joined with the spine. Try to focus on that spot and release consciously with your exhale.
- First, check the difference between pressure and release of your jaws. Press the teeth against and relax. (just couple of times not to get a headache from the pressure!) Focus on the rest of the body and check if some other muscles and body parts get in tension together with your jaws? This tension usually occurs within the neck, thoracic area on the back, shoulders,… Stop pressing and just breathe. Together with grey exhale, release your jaws and also the body area which gets in tension together with the jaws.
- Stand up or sit down. Make a “release wave” with every exhale, starting from your top of the head, then face muscles – forehead, around eyes, mouth, continue with jaws, ear area, back of the neck, shoulders, arms and hands out of the body + through the spine all the way down and out of the body.
- During daily duties and activities, focus on your face and jaws sometimes. If there is any unecessary tension, release it togehter with your breath.
RELEAE DURING PLAYING:
Within our playing, mimicry occur spontaneously as a part of our expression. Visually, this can create very strong impression and enrich our performance! Many times, mimicry does not make any problem to us, but sometimes, when getting stuck or even compensating some technical problem, our fear of playing some spot or overwhelming tone pressure, it can be very contraproductive by raising our tension even more.. For this case, it is very useful to start focus on this and analyze, when face tension serve us and where it becomes just an obstacle in our technique. Additionally, jaw pressure is never good us! If you find out being in tension within some spot, analyze, if this tension does not come from your face and jaws? To release during playing the instrument, use following strategies:
Use principles and strategies formulated in previous articles in this blog – PRACTICE STRATEGY II., CONSCIOUS PRACTICE.. Within this article, you will find out two examples of practice strategy with release and fixing problems. Use the same form, just focus on release of your face and jaws. Also look back on the article BREATH, BASIC INTEGRATION IN INTRUMENTAL PLAYING. While using these exercises, with grey exhale, add a focus on release of your face and jaws.
Practically: If you find a pressure within your jaws and face tension while playing, do not leave the possition at your instrument! Just stop playing the music, release the parts using some of provided exercises and continue further. Once you manage to release all, you do not even have to stop playing. You can just slow down or lengthen some note, relace and continue normally. Then go back before the spot where the tension occurs, control your release and try to keep it even within getting in the problematic spot. If you do not manage, you again lengthen the note or slow down a bit, release and continue normally. If you reach the skill, you will be able to release consciously even during final tempo!
If you have serious problems with this kind of a tension within your playing, focus on provided exercises every day! Practice not hard, but consciously and often. Use the practice breaks, finish your pracičce with release and also release before falling asleep to get fresh to your instrument the next day! 🙂