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The long cold days of January can be among the most stressful of the year. Whether recovering from the financial or emotional strain of a draining holiday season, or battling the blues after months of winter, this is a time where we need all the help we can get to stay calm and relaxed.

One of the key places we hold tension in our body is the jaw. Gritting or grinding our teeth is an instinctive reaction to stress. Yoga is here to help us release jaw tension, easing the potential for headaches, and reducing our overall feeling of anxiety.

Here are three poses to keep you smiling.

Lion pose (Simhasana)

This is a fantastic pose to relax your jaw and face. Start kneeling with your bum resting on your heels. Stretch your spine up, lengthening through your head. Your arms should be straight, palms over knees. Now spread your fingers wide, like claws, open wide, stick out your tongue and exhale with a strong, audible “haaaa” sound, allowing the energy to lift your body naturally. When you have fully exhaled, relax your hands and sink back to your heels. Repeat this five to ten times.

backbend

Camel pose (Ustrasana)

This is another great stretch that can really release tension in your neck, face and jaw. Kneel with your knees about six inches apart, or slightly wider for a deeper stretch. Put your hands in your “back pockets” and release your spine backwards. Press your hips forward as you go back, then drop your hands and bring your palm to your heels, thumbs on the outside, fingers on the inside. Keep your mouth closed and tongue at rest.

Fish pose (Matsyasana)

Use fish pose to get a fantastic stretch for the jaw, throat, chest and intercostal muscles between your ribs. To begin, lie on your back, arms palm down alongside your body. Bend your knees so the soles of your feet are on the floor then raise your hips to slide your hands beneath your bum. On the inhale, press your elbows and shoulders into the floor to lift your chest. Either the back or top of your head should rest on the floor, depending on the depth of your back bend. To release, press your elbows into the floor, raise your head then relax to a prone position.

Questions? Tips? Share in the comments!