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I’ve had braces on my teeth for four months now, and I’ve been acutely aware of different ways I hold tension in my jaw and mouth.

Clenching teeth and holding tension in the jaw can lead to discomforts like headaches, neck and shoulder tightness, and TMJ.

Here are some tips to help relax the jaw.

Tongue to Roof of Mouth

I learned this in yoga. Gently allow the tip of your tongue to float up to the roof of your mouth. Your jaw should naturally drop and relax. You can try this any time you notice that you are clenching your teeth or furrowing your brow.

Acu Point: HOKU

This is one of the best overall stress-relieving points. Holding this point on the top of the hand can help with relieving so many discomforts–insomnia, headaches, constipation, shoulder and neck tension–that could be causing or exacerbated by tension in the jaw. Read on.

Bedtime Jaw Squeeze

If you wake up with soreness in your jaw and teeth, try this simple sqeeze before going to sleep. Sit up straight, relax your shoulders and arms, and take a nice deep breath. Now gently press your palms on the sides of your face by your jaw. Clench your teeth and you can feel a muscle bulge; that’s where you want to place your palms. Relax your jaw–try the Tongue to Roof of Mouth explained above–and hold you palms firmly but comfortably on your jaws while you take five deep breaths, in and out. Release your hands, relax your shoulders, and take five more deep breaths. Repeat the squeeze and relaxing two more times.

(Certain medical conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, or chronic pain, may contribute to sleep problems. Please seek the advice of a qualified health care provider for questions about a medical condition.)

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I grew up in the Midwest, so I associate summer with hot sticky afternoons, melting ice cream cones and hearing the buzz of the cicadas at night. Now that I live in San Francisco, summer means I need to pull out my winter jacket to warm myself against the chilly fog that rolls in off the ocean.

But it’s all still summertime, the daylight hours are longer, and regardless of how hot or cool your summer experience is, it can be helpful to know that in Traditional Chinese Medicine, summertime is associated with the heart. So summer is a great time to think about things associated with the heart:

  • passions: dedicate yourself to your favorite hobby or sign up for that Spanish class you’ve been wanting to take for a long time
  • intuition: “follow your heart”
  • relationships: nurture your friendships and laugh with your friends and beloveds

Summer is also associated with the fire element, and the time to bask in the sun (with a good sunscreen lotion) and exercise and sweat. In other words, time to play and have fun.

Don’t forget to drink water to stay hydrated, and eat light, by enjoying the abundant summer fruits and veggies.