Where is the correct placement for your tongue in your mouth?
The other week, a student asked me this question after a Yoga teacher told the class to relax the tongue from the top of the mouth, down to the bottom of the mouth during Savasana. I’m glad he asked since I’ve heard the same instruction many times before. Whenever I try relaxing my tongue down from the top of the mouth, it feels unnatural so I ignore the instruction and keep my tongue where it is. I never got around to looking it up so I decided to do a little research to (a) find out what the correct placement of the tongue is and (b) find out where this instruction came from.
First, I searched google, making sure I wasn’t just sourcing Yoga sites but everything from speech therapists, nose and throat consultants, structural integration practitioners and orthotropics (very interesting). The verdict: Palate (Top or roof of the mouth). I had no idea how important tongue positioning could be and how it can have huge effect on how your teeth grow and the structure of your face. For an interesting article read Profile in Oral Health; Nose Breathing for Good Health, Fitness and Correct Craniofacial Development in Dentaltown (image credit).
I could not find one article that contradicted this. So where did, “relax the tongue down”, originate? I suspect it came about from the instruction to relax your jaw. Say you’re lying in savasana and the teacher tells you to relax your jaw; if your jaw was tensed and you relax, you will feel some relief which may help your relaxation. If the teacher then gives you the instruction to relax your tongue from the roof of the mouth, you may think, oh I had my jaw clenched and my tongue was also in the wrong position; no wonder I’m so tense! Be careful, you may be creating more problems.
One thing that really gets my back up is the amount of nonsense you can hear during a Yoga class. Soon after I graduated from Bikram Yoga teacher training, a senior teacher named Whitney, drummed into me, “If it’s not in the dialogue (official instructions) and you didn’t read it in Bikram’s books, then don’t say it”. For a young teacher, it was a good lesson and I’ve waded through the bullshit since. Of course my sources have stretched beyond Bikram and now that I’m studying Yoga Therapy, I feel less like a charlatan.
Of course, do your own research and let me know what you think. I’d love to hear from you!