Posture, Mobility and Tongue Tension

“My tongue?” you say. “What does my tongue have to do with my posture?”  Actually, quite a lot.

Try on some tongue positions.

I always like to underscore my points with body awareness, so let’s begin with that.  Start by trying on four tongue positions:

  1. Let your tongue rest like a puddle in the floor of your mouth. The tip of your tongue will lightly touch the inside of your lower teeth.
  2. Rest the front third of your tongue very lightly against your upper palate, the tip just touching the inside of the upper teeth.  Let the back of your tongue feel wide and soft.
  3. Press your tongue against your upper palate.  The tongue flattens and the mouth cavity becomes smaller.
  4. The “half-swallow”--what your tongue does just before you swallow—the back of it thickens.  Hold that position for a beat or two.

Next, for each of these positions, notice the following:

  • The expression and tone of your face.
  • How it feels to breathe.
  • Your emotion or mood.
  • Differing tensions in the muscles that join your neck and head.
  • Your head’s position above your body: more forward or back?
  • How it feels to walk with your tongue in each of these places. Notice specifically the motion in your spine.

Position #2 is the one we want.

The tongue’s presence below the maxillae helps support the upper face, provides length for the throat and tone in the entrance to the gut tube.  It helps align the neck and head above the torso. It also helps support the nasal bones, making it easier to breathe through the nose.

Recently I’ve met several New Rules of Posture fans that took my advice on page 159 to heart.  You’ll find there a paragraph advising the reader to let the tongue puddle in the floor of the mouth.  It’s good advice as an exercise for relaxing the tongue and jaw. Unfortunately I didn’t say what to do with the tongue after you had relaxed it, and so these readers had been trying to cultivate the #1 position. (Wishing you could go back and re-write your book is the downside of being published!)

I now have a pretty strong opinion about where the tongue belongs when the body is upright and moving. In Pilates and yoga classes I too often see tongues become engaged in the effort to perform a challenging move or pose. The resulting jaw tension and tension in the deep core can only be counter-productive.  The tongue does support the neck, but not through tension.

Read more about the tongue in this blog from last year.

Where do you think Mona Lisa's tongue rests?  How about the actresses in the photo?

© 2013 Mary Bond