3.04.2010

Yoga Mouth

What do you do with your tongue when you practice? Do you relax the tongue down and away from the roof of your mouth? Or do you touch the tip of your tongue behind your top front teeth to open through the palate? I have been instructed to do both of these seemingly contradictory things by various teachers and, lately, I've been experimenting with the position of the tongue in my practice.

Having spent several weeks exploring the effects of tongue positioning on the breath, I have arrived at the opinion that the correct positioning depends on the shape of the asana. I find that touching the tip of the tongue to the roof of the mouth can open the throat for more efficient breathing and assist in a louder ujjayi to help maintain focus during more intense sequences. During backbends, however, especially urdhva mukha svanasana, I've found that releasing the tongue down softens the jaw and opens the front of the neck, allowing for dramatically more curve in the upper spine. In moments of surrender, I prefer to let the tongue relax and settle, allowing the breath to swirl against the roof of the mouth, cooling the palate.

This mouth and throat yoga concerns me because I hold a lot of tension in these areas. In an effort to battle this tendency, I have been beginning my pre-practice meditations by focusing on releasing the tongue and throat on exhalations, and "opening through the top of the head," which I equate with softening the palate, on the inhalations. By consistently breathing in this manner, I seem to have developed a strong physical association with moola bandha in the mouth and throat, sort of a reciprocal reaction occurs that has carried into my asana practice. Now, whenever I engage moola bandha, my jaw and throat systematically release, and my palate softens. I find this new habit really interesting, and actually quite beneficial to my practice in the overall softening effect it has.

I perused my yoga anatomy books, and was surprised to find nothing on the subject of ideal tongue positioning, or the effect of the position of the tongue on the throat and palate, and therefore, on the breath. Is this an area that you think about when you practice? Or do you just let the tongue do its own thing?

1 comment:

  1. I always have a real issue with clenching my jaw. It seems to be the place I hold all my tension!

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