Many of us have a strong jaw-clenching habit, and, as with all habits, we bring it into our yoga practice and then refine it. The more challenging the pose, the more we literally clench our jaw. Aside from the tightness this creates, think about the message that it sends to the rest of the body: “This is really hard! The only way to get through it is to clench and push and over effort!” This kind of tension limits our capacity to respond to what we are feeling.
In order to be present in our practice, we want to soften the muscles in the face, not tighten them to “get through it.” Ways to do this is include creating space between the upper and lower teeth, softening the eyes and “lifting the corners of the mouth” (i.e. putting a small, gentle smile on your face).
Give it a try the next time you hear the name of your least favorite pose called during class. The results will be rapid and astonishing.