Coming attraction: yoga for the jaw

I’m announcing now that I intend to create a “yoga for the jaw” class by the end of this year. There’s a sweet overlap of demographics: women of child-bearing age are nine times more likely than men to have severe or chronic TMJ issues, and this group also tends to take yoga (and Pilates) classes.

My plan is in the seedling stage right now. I have so much to learn and discern.

It feels good to get back into teaching yoga. I completed teacher training 10 years ago and taught restorative classes for a while. I’ve been practicing since 1982 and have been especially devoted since 1996 after a car wreck. I’m drawn to alignment-oriented classes and teachers, both for my own issues and as a bodyworker.

To this end, I will be taking a workshop from a highly-regarded yoga teacher in Dallas in late September. Embodied Dharma: Yoga, Connective Tissue, and Inter-Being is being offered at the Dallas Yoga Center by Tias Little, who created and teaches Prajna yoga.

Learning from Tias has been on my bucket list for a decade, and I’m finally doing it! Prajna means wisdom in Sanskrit, and Prajna yoga is more comprehensive than most yoga, including more of the eight limbs of Patanjali’s yoga into practice, as well as anatomy and somatic awareness. Tias includes aspects of Buddhism and craniosacral therapy — interests we share — into his teachings.

I am especially looking forward to learning more about yoga for the cranium, jaw, and ear from him.

Thank you, Anna Gieselman, a Prajna teacher at Castle Hill Fitness in Austin, for letting me know about this workshop!

If you’re interested, Anna is teaching a free Prajna yoga class on Labor Day, Free Day of Yoga, at Castle Hill’s downtown location. You can reserve your spot here.

Who doesn’t love a head massage? Check it out and help me name it!

After spending 4 days recently taking a class called “Addressing the Skull,” I want to get you onto my massage table so I can practice, practice, practice! It’s the best way I know to integrate training into, well, my advanced integrative bodywork practice.

I also need your help naming this new addition to my repertoire. I want to describe it separately from a Zero Balancing session. In my view, a ZB session addresses the whole body, including the head, whereas a skull/cranium/crown session spends most of a 45-minute session on the head.

This was a class in Zero Balancing, which aligns your structure and frees your energy, but most of the session will be spent addressing your skull. I learned lots of secrets of the skull, including that working on the outside of the skull affects the inside, i.e., the brain. And it’s not exactly a massage. It uses artful touch and knowledge of anatomy to find those places that release tension you may not have even known you had.

For instance, there is a place behind your ears that is similar to that place where dogs love to be petted, behaving as if they could never get enough, leg twitching and groaning with pleasure.

There are several special places on your skull where two or three or four bones come together that just love to be touched.

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I imagine that everyone in the class experienced several releases of tension in their skulls that they were not aware of before. We can get so habituated to stress that it gets normalized. Guess what? Normal can be better. (Thanks to San Antonio ZBer Jamie Carmody for making “Make normal better” her tagline.)

I suspect this work may prevent headaches and migraines.

After four days of training, which included many trades, my friend and I noticed that we could see better. When looking into our training room, the 3D-ness of everything was in sharper relief, and everything had more clarity. Working on the head affects all the senses.

This is your brain, on ZB.

I plan to run this special for a couple of weeks, and may consider extending it after that. I’ve lowered my price by $25 for a 45-minute Zero Balancing session. Go here to book yours.

Treating TMJ issues: the role of the sphenoid in structural health

The sphenoid bone is one of the most fascinating bones in the body! If you were looking at someone and could see their bones, the sphenoid would be behind their eyes and in front of their ears, with the outermost parts (the greater wings) accessible at the temples, and the lowermost parts (the pterygoid processes) being what your internal jaw muscles attach to.

By the way, the word sphenoid comes from the Greek for wedge-shaped. Its shape has been likened to a moth, a bat, a butterfly, and a wasp.

Here’s a picture of it, as viewed from the front.

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Credit: TeachMeAnatomy

It’s a central cranial bone that does many important things:

  • it connects to your internal jaw muscles
  • muscles involved in swallowing are attached to it
  • it helps form the orbits of your eyes
  • the optic nerves meet, cross, and pass through it
  • your pituitary (master gland) sit on top of it (in a saddle!)
  • it contains two air sinuses, the sphenoidal sinuses, which open into the nasal cavity through the ethmoid bone
  • it has openings for major blood vessels and nerves of the head and neck
  • the tentorium cerebelli, part of the membranous system surrounding the central nervous system down to the sacrum, attaches to the sphenoid

The sphenoid has been called the keystone bone. It touches 12 other cranial bones: two parietals, two temporals, two zygomas, two palatines, frontal, occipital, ethmoid, and vomer.

The place where the sphenoid and occiput meet is called the sphenobasilar joint (SBJ). (The occiput is considered the base of the cranium.) You can see the SBJ in the middle of the image below where the orange and yellow bones meet.

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Credit: TeachMeAnatomy

The alignment of this joint is important. William Sutherland, DO, father of cranial osteopathy, believed that the rest of the skeletal system moves to accommodate the SBJ. If the two bones are not aligned well, it can affect the endocrine, nervous, and cardiovascular systems as well.

Misalignment of the SBJ can obviously affect other cranial bones, which fit closely together. It can contribute to TMJ pain and dysfunction.

When the SBJ is misaligned, it affects the jaw. (Remember, your internal jaw muscles attach to it.) It is also a consideration in migraines, headaches, sinus problems and allergies, pain in the head, neck, and back, scoliosis, issues with eye movements, and problems with behavior, personality, learning, coordination, hormones, and emotions.

This is how the sphenoid bone can affect the structure of the body. Craniosacral therapists pay a lot of attention to the sphenoid and can gently move it into better alignment. I like to end TMJ Relief sessions with a gentle adjustment to the sphenoid and a stillpoint to let the body integrate the new alignment.