Let's talk about myofascial Lines! These are the major chains of connective tissue that connect all of our muscles, bones, tendons, ligaments and other connective tissue starting from our head all the way down to our toes.
When there is tension on one end of the line it in turn creates tension all the way down to the other end of the line. Although they're all connected, the major myofascial line we are talking about here is the deep front line.
The deep front line extends from your foot, following a trail through your calf, inner thigh to the front of your hip, through your pelvic floor, (hang on, we're almost there...) the front of your spine, your core, up through your thoracic cavity alllll the way up to your jaw and the bottom of your skull.
As we can now see, the way our tissues connect, it is clearer the correlation between our jaw and pelvis during labor. So, when there is tension in our jaw, this will create tension down through your pelvis and the rest of your body.
Exercise: Where you are sitting now, focus on your jaw position right now. Do you feel tension? Slowly inhale and then exhale, feeling the oxygen enter into your lungs and throughout your body. Allow your jaw and shoulders to drop as you exhale. Picturing that oxygen going out through your lungs and tapering off into each limb. All the way to your fingertips and toes. How relaxed do you feel now? Is your jaw relaxed?
The tension that we have in our jaw during a surge (contraction) can make it to where we are quite literally working against ourselves to bring progress. It can also disrupt the natural hormones in birth called endorphins. Endorphins are our bodies natural way of pain relief. And also, oxytocin which is the hormone of pleasure and helps release tension.
Therefore, if you are clenching your jaw, it also becomes very difficult to relax, sometimes leading us to believe that we cannot catch a breath. The oxygen in our muscles decrease and that leads to more pain.
TIPS FOR A RELAXED JAW in labor.
Breathing- like our exercise above. Take a deep breath in through your nose and out through your mouth. Your jaw will open and you will feel more relaxed during each surge.
Low tones- humming, singing or moaning while keeping a low tone will help your jaw stay relaxed.
Tongue positioning- gently rest your tongue behind your upper teeth. TRY IT BEFORE LABOR: As you continue in regular activities such washing dishes, laundry or watching tv, begin to form the habit of resting your tongue gently behind your upper teeth to practice relaxation.
An 'O' mouth shape- As you feel a surge coming on, create an 'O' mouth shape with your lips as you exhale. Keeping your face muscles loose, including your brows and cheeks.
A gentle stroke from your partner or doula- if you like gentle touch during labor, allow your partner or doula to gently stroke the side of your jaw as a soft reminder to relax your jaw. Start up by the ear lobe and follow down the jawline.
The wonderful thing about these techniques is that you can practice them continually before labor and even for tense situations after labor and in general life. Happy Birthing!