After recording and watching many videos of myself playing in the last month, I noticed one of my tendencies is to begin with my head balanced on top of the spine, carefully considering balance at the A-O joint when turning the head to the left, and then allowing the jaw to drop as a second step. Step three I breathe. Somewhere after I've begun to play, head-spine balance goes out the window until the next long pause where I can regroup.
I set a goal to keep head-spine balance as an ongoing intention while I play, and to consider how I'm using my body as a whole more often.
While looking at my skeleton the other day, I remembered that in actuality, the hanging part of the jaw sits in front of the cervical spine (the top seven vertebrae). My mental picture or body map included a jaw and a spine, including a cervical spine, on which the the head balances, but the relationship between them was either blurred or missing altogether. Looking at the skeleton, I had an a-ha moment about the importance of balance and alignment of the cervical spine (which can't be had without balance of the entire spine, which can't be had without balance from the ground up, and without it, the head cannot be in balance...) and its impact on the jaw.
I examined the skeleton from all angles, while palpating my own jaw, the base of the skull, and the cervical spine. I also remembered exactly where the jaw joint is, and took note of the angle in which the jaw hangs when viewing the skeleton's profile, and applied this to my own mental picture.
Have a Look:
Ultimately, compromising the space in front of the cervical spine here compromises the jaw's ability to be free, which compromises free movement of the tongue, affecting the amount of space available for air to move through - in addition to ease all the cervical muscles, including the important sternocleidomastoid, which is connected at the clavicle, affecting arm and rib movement... the list goes on!
The following two videos give a 3D breakdown of the important anatomy the skeleton does not show.
First, a look at the respiratory anatomy. (Beginning at 2:17, where the animation includes the skeletal system):
Next, a look at the important muscles of the jaw, face and cervical region:
Where you can encourage freedom of movement and space while playing?