Yoga for TMJ: does it work?

TMJ stands for Temporomandibular Joint, or jaw pain and stiffness associated with stress, clenching and grinding the teeth — often while asleep. Over ten million US adults suffer TMJ symptoms, with women experiencing it at twice the rate of men: nearly 7% vs. 3.5%. Dentists often prescribe night guards, soft foods, hot and cold packs — which can help, but they don’t usually cure the problem. Knowing that my own TMJ was related to stress, I sought to resolve the underlying causes through yoga for TMJ.

Yoga_for_TMJ_Skull

Workshop on Yoga for TMJ

Even though my track record with yoga classes is spotty, I signed up for a three-hour workshop, full of optimism that this was going to help me when other things hadn’t. Although I got lost and arrived late, I was the second-to-last person to get there, so the punctual people reserved their judgmental stares for the lady who came last. Thank goodness. I quickly realized I wasn’t the only stressed-out person in the room.

Our instructor was a yogi and an experienced cranio-sacral practitioner. She was about my age and had two little buns near the front of her curly hair, perhaps to contain the longer part of her bangs? Her hair also had streaks of pink and of blue, plus a hairband to keep it off her face. She used a colorful plastic teaching model of the skull to explain what goes on when our jaw starts to tense up. The bright colors on the skull ostensibly differentiated the various bones, but I thought it added a cheery note to what otherwise was a sober topic.

The only downside was when our instructor dropped her visual aid, and it fell apart. She became distracted and un-zen-like as she tried to fit the pieces back together.

 

Yoga_for_TMJ_LionPose

 

Yoga for TMJ: the lion face

“Okay, before we do anything, give me a little lion face,” our instructor said. The Lion Face pose involves dropping your jaw and sticking out your tongue. It’s often accompanied by rolling back the eyes. Here’s a video that shows you how to do it. There are lots of funny lion poses out there, even a flickr group that showcases some of the best ones.

You can’t clench your jaw when you’re doing a lion face. Our teacher emphasized that we needn’t do a “major lion face,” just a “little lion face.” She would talk for a bit, then stop her lecture for us to do the lion face. She would also interject “now do a little lion face”  into the sequence of poses she led us through later.

After I told my family about the lion face, my son took to doing it at random times. We might be at the dinner table, and my husband would bring up a controversial topic. I’d look across at my youngest, and he’d cue me to relax with the stuck out tongue and rolled back eyes. So far, this has been the biggest benefit of my class on yoga for TMJ.

 

Benefits of yoga for TMJ

I learned there is a link between the skull and the pelvis, and that yoga poses to open the hips and give you more hip stability can augment the lion face and other things you do to relax the jaw itself. At the same time, I’m not sure I demonstrated the proper attitude during class. It was hard to remain in a zen state, when actually I got tired of sitting for three hours on the bare floor, not to mention my annoyance at repetitive, self-oriented and generally stupid questions asked by one of my classmates. Why is there always one person who asks dumb questions? Faking a pleasant look while she was wasting everyone else’s time was NOT helping my TMJ!

 

Yoga for TMJ: attitude is everything

There was also a section where our instructor taught self-massage, and when I questioned whether rubbing my temples so hard that my arms hurt was really what I wanted to do, she came over to me and suggested I use less pressure. She placed her fingers on the sides of my head and asked me if I felt that.  “Sure,” I replied. “It feels like you have your fingers on my temples.” It did. But others had expressed amazement when she did it to them, so my comments weren’t appreciated. It was as if someone had said, “The emperor has no clothes.” Clearly, the subject of yoga for TMJ needed to be treated with more reverence than I offered.

Owing in part to bad attitude, I’m not benefiting from yoga for TMJ as much as I could. But at least the class was fun and provided some good stories. Bottom line: I think yoga can reduce TMJ, whether through specific asanas or general improvement in the ability to deal with stress. I’m just not there yet personally.

In the meantime, though, join me in a little lion face.

 

Yoga_for_TMJ_LionFace1

 

 

Image credits: Amazon/Wellden, Damn Good Yoga, Anne Rosales

 

 

 

My life is good; so why am I feeling bad?

Have you ever had one of those days? Maybe not a day worthy of posting to the FML website, but one that reminds you of the children’s book, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day? Monday was like that for me. By the time the day ended, I couldn’t isolate anything that I’d call “terrible” about my life — I just was feeling bad.

Alexander No Good Very Bad

Feeling bad after the older kids leave

It started Sunday, when my college kids returned to school after being home for a week on spring break. I liked having our whole family together again, enjoyed seeing the older two tease their younger brother. It was just like old times. Then they went back to their “real” homes at college, to their friends and their lives there. While it’s nice to stop sharing my car and go back to my routine in our household of three, I know that next year we’ll be a household of two  — and I’m worried that’s not going to feel so great, at least not initially.

Knowing I wasn’t feeling particularly good, I thought I’d ease into Monday, use the morning to catch up on paperwork, do laundry, change sheets and clean up my older kids’ bedrooms. They left their rooms as if they’d been leaving a hotel — beds unmade, shopping bags on the floor, papers and receipts on the night tables. Straightening up in the quiet, I felt like a housekeeper — not the mother of three well-adjusted children.

Feeling bad about a lost ring

Then I realized one of my rings was missing. Not my wedding ring, but the one my husband gave me for our twenty-fifth anniversary. A little worried, I checked the bathroom, the kitchen counter, my jewelry box. Not there. So I looked harder: I put my hand down the kitchen sink to check the disposal, looked all around the house. Cleaned out my purse, checked the pockets of my clothes.

I called the restaurant where we had dinner last night. No, they hadn’t seen my ring.

 Life Good Feeling Bad_compost

 

Feeling bad and sorting through refuse

So I went through the last three days’ worth of garbage, then turned over the recycling bin and emptied it out to make sure the ring hadn’t slipped off my finger when I tossed out old magazines. Still nothing. I went outside and dug through the compost, running my hands through banana peels, coffee grounds, chicken bones, Saturday’s Indian takeout, and more slime I won’t discuss. But still no ring.

So at least we weren’t about to send it off with the garbage truck. But if the ring wasn’t in the trash, I’d have to look more aggressively inside the house. I cleaned out two bathroom drawers, then dismantled the sink drain. No luck.

Finally, something possessed me to check a closet I had looked in two hours earlier. This time I saw it.

But you know what? I thought I’d feel happy to find the ring, especially after looking all that time. Instead I just felt relieved. And emotionally worn out.

Feeling bad at tennis

I left to play a tennis match I had scheduled for the afternoon. It lasted only an hour. I lost 6-0, 6-0.

I wasn’t sure what was going on with me, but the day wasn’t getting better. I remembered my dad’s response whenever things got tough. He would say, “Want a cup of coffee, honey?”

So I went for a cappuccino and one of those delicious seven-layer cookie bars. I sat and stared out the coffeeshop window while I gathered my strength to go grocery shopping. I wondered whether I should quit playing tennis, spend my time on something I could do well. But wasn’t it okay to like a sport and want to play it, even if I played poorly?

On the other hand, if I couldn’t win, could I honestly say I liked tennis? I realized I was immersed in a conversation with myself, with my own Voice of Judgment. I had made this whole day about me, and I was over-reacting to a poor outcome in a match I supposedly had played “for fun.”

Life Good Feeling Bad_Vortex

 

The feeling-bad vortex

How did I get here, to this place of feeling bad? I have a great life: faith, family, friends, health, financial stability, and more. So why, all too often, do I spin down the woe-is-me vortex?

Sure, I know there are real people with real problems in this world. And I’m not one of them. It’s just a lot easier to stay in my personal vortex, than to get out of it and experience someone else’s.

I bought my groceries, went home and cooked a good dinner. At least that much of my day went okay. Actually, the whole day was fine, if you consider it in relation to the day of someone with real problems.

What drags you down, and how do you pull out of your vortex? Let me know in the comments!

 

Image credits: Amazon, Portland Observer, photoholic1 via flickr

Looking for light this side of the equinox: excuses and enneagrams

We’re still seven weeks away from the vernal equinox, when the hours of daylight will equal the hours of darkness, heralding my favorite season of the year. I love the summer, when days are long, and light lasts well into the evening.

Light_Heart_Shaped_Sun

 

SAD: a lack of light

I think I need sunlight now more than ever. Lately, when friends have asked me if I’m still posting to my blog, I realize that my “holiday break” has continued well past New Year’s. My only excuse for my silence has been “the January malaise,” to which one friend replied, “Oh, you must be seasonal.” And I think she’s right. It may not be severe enough to be clinical, but I recognize in myself symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is a type of winter depression that overtakes mainly women due to lack of sunlight.

I have one of those SAD lights, but I don’t sit in front of it regularly, and I don’t start using it early in the fall, before I start feeling bad — so I don’t receive the benefits I’m supposed to get from it. Too bad I’m not like the dogs I saw on the ABC News, whose owners were kind enough to buy them daylight spectrum lights. Those depressed doggies apparently perked up after lying in front of the SAD lightboxes. You can check out the story and video here.

The Enneagram: en-light-ening?

I started to make a list of things I had done during the month of January, during which I did no writing or blogging, but after taking the Enneagram test online, I realized I probably need to fight my compulsion to ennumerate my accomplishments — that I should focus more on “being” and less on “doing.” This is because my top score on the quiz was that of the Enneagram 3, or The Achiever, who has a tendency to tie her sense of self-worth to her accomplishments. My second top score was even less encouraging: it was the 8, or the The Challenger, who is confident and assertive, but also prone to confrontation and intimidation. Not exactly what I needed to pull me out of a slump.

 

Enneagram Symbol

Courtesy of The Ennegram Institute

 

So in the spirit of not evaluating myself by how many checks I’ve put on the to-do list, I won’t go through the “incredible” (not really) things I did during my time away from the blog. I do have some plans coming up that may involve changing or adding to Second Serve, however, and those are exciting. Hopefully, with more sunlight in the days ahead, I’ll be able to get going on them.

Until then, I’ll be the lady searching for sun. But don’t get in my way, as apparently one of my possible Enneagram types won’t hesitate to elbow past you!

 

Image credits: iFreeze, Enneagram Institute

Giving, getting, hoping

While Christmas shopping I came across a moisturizer called “hope in a jar.” Packaged in a cute ornament box with a tag, it was ready for giving — presumably to someone in need of hope. The manufacturer, Philosophy, sells other moisturizers with similar tongue-in-cheek names: “full of promise,” “take a deep breath,” and “keep the peace.” Philosophy twists the famous Scripture often read at weddings to state on its package, “Where there is hope there can be faith, and where there is faith miracles can occur.” While some people may take offense at this, or even at the concept that a product designed to smooth the skin is really providing hope, I take it as one company’s attempt to differentiate itself from the crowd.

Hope-in-a-Jar-ornamentGiving hope

Hope in a jar” inhabits the same category of marketing language as “Hope Peace Jewelry,” a saying I saw in a store window, or “Inner Peas,” the name of a dried peas and sea salt snack at Trader Joe’s. It continues a long tradition of optimistic product names, such as “Miracle-Gro” plant food, “Joy” dishwashing liquid, and “CoverGirl” makeup. While we take many of these items’ names for granted, examples of hope-inspiring product names abound. What about “S.O.S” steel wool pads? Steel wool addresses a need, but is a dirty pan really cause to send up an S.O.S.? (The Clorox company notes that the official product name drops the final period and actually means Save Our Saucepans . . .) And, when all is said and done, how do you “bust dust?” The one that makes me wonder, however, is “Twenty Mule Team Borax Detergent Booster and Multi-purpose Household Cleaner.” I know our clothes get dirty, but twenty mules are more than we need, and they are definitely not going to fit in my laundry room!

 Giving_Inner Peas

 

Product names like these give hints at the item’s benefits, sometimes even offer their target consumers an inside joke. With a wink and a nod, they acknowledge that, while everyone knows you can’t package “hope” or “joyful dish washing,” isn’t it witty to say that we did?

Giving benefits the giver

Yet at the same time, products called things like “hope in a jar” subtly play into desires that surface, especially around the holidays, for things to be better — for our loved ones, ourselves, the world around us. Marketers know we have such goals in mind when choosing gifts for others, even if we don’t know it ourselves. For example, a recent article in the Wall Street Journal identified, among other things, that giving another person a gift requiring great thought on your part accrues a benefit mainly to yourself as the giver, but not to the receiver. To benefit the one who’s getting the gift, it’s recommended to “give them what they want.”

 

Science_behind_Gifting_WSJ


WSJ “The Science Behind Gifting” Dec 3, 2012

 

A lot more psychology, including giving expectations and “re-gifting” norms, goes into why people give the gifts we do. (As an aside, when did “gifting” become a real word? Does every noun in American English have to become a verb? What’s wrong with “giving?”) The fact remains, however, that a lot of cash and money on credit cards flows through the economy at this time of year.

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Nike+ FuelBand: real stats or just marketing?

The Nike+ FuelBand is a high-priced, high-tech toy you wear on your wrist to collect data about energy, or “fuel,” that you burn throughout the day. It’s about output, pure and simple — not what you’re eating or how you’re expending energy. While FuelBand data may be imperfect, the concept fits perfectly with the company’s “Just Do It” mantra.

You wear the FuelBand on your wrist.  It has a unisex, sporty look that works with casual attire — although I’ll admit, it’s not the best fashion combination with the bracelets I always wear on my other wrist.  The FuelBand’s clasp is a USB plug, which is how you charge its battery, and also how you sync it to your computer.  If you have an iPhone, you can  sync wirelessly so you are always within reach of your FuelBand data.

One hundred white and twenty red, yellow and green LEDs communicate your progress throughout the day. You press a button on the band to toggle through its settings: Fuel, Calories, Steps, Time. Time is time of day, so the FuelBand replaces your need for a watch. Steps — that’s obvious. Calories are an approximate measure of calories burned through physical activity.

NikeFuel is a proprietary calculation based on Nike’s “sport-tested accelerometer,” whose algorithms translate your movement into “fuel points.” You set your own goal — 2000 for an “average day,” 3000+ for days with greater levels of activity.

In my first three weeks of wearing the band, I’ve found the NikeFuel calculations associated with different activities to be rather misleading. Here’s a sample from my own experience (“fps” = “fuel points”):

  • Ride stationary bike (at target heart rate) 30 min: 145 fps
  • Walk from bedroom to kitchen, feed dog, make coffee, eat fried egg and homemade doughnut: 242 fps
  • Fold 3 baskets laundry 45 min: 400 fps
  • Make and serve dinner 1 hr: 750 fps
  • Walk dog 1 hr: 800 fp
  • Play doubles tennis 2 hrs: 1800 fps
  • Play singles tennis 1.75 hr: 2800 fps
  • Hike 1 hr 45 min at brisk pace: 3000 fps
  • Sex: my husband wanted to collect data here, but sorry, this is a G-rated blog . . .

The band awards more points for moving forward through space than it does for things like riding a stationary bike. If I were to live according to my FuelBand’s data, though, I would spend more time folding laundry, making dinner and eating doughnuts than I do at present.

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