Your Tongue and Your Health

healing health meditation mental health yoga Jan 10, 2022

Yes, that's right. Even your tongue has significance when it comes to your health! Did you know that there's an actual term for the relationship of your tongue placement in your mouth to your overall health? The term is called "mewing" and it has been proven to have many health benefits, as well a cosmetic one too.

I'll bet you've never even thought about where you place your tongue - well, not when you're not using it anyway (interpret that how you may). But improper tongue placement can actually lead to health problems, including:

  • shifting or crowding teeth
  • result in grinding of the teeth and even decay
  • poor sleep habits, including snoring and sleep apnea
  • promote neck and jaw pain
  • contribute to headaches

What is the 'right' way to place your tongue?

In order to prevent the problems listed above, a dentist will tell you that the correct placement of the tongue is to rest your entire tongue along the roof of your mouth, and away from your teeth. This will naturally allow your mouth to close with your lips together, but with your teeth slightly apart. You will obviously need to breathe through your nose whilst doing this, which is actually better for you than mouth-breathing. Not only does nose-breathing boost your oxygen intake by filtering out dust particles and allergens, it also helps to humidify the air and brings it to body temperature, allowing your lungs to utilise it more efficiently and improving the overall circulation in your body.

A further benefit to correct tongue placement is purely a cosmetic one - it can improve the appearance of your jawline to one that is more defined, and also improve the alignment of your chin and nose - resulting in a more aesthetically-pleasing face (if this is what you find pleasing)!

Beyond the physical

The tongue placement to the palate has been used throughout history in different traditions and modalities, such as in yogic and Qi Gong practices as well as Buddhist meditations, to name only a few examples. The aim of this was, and still is, to activate the body's Parasympathetic System to induce feelings of calmness, but also for higher spiritual practices.

The reasons behind this are based on science and how the body responds to this physical posture.

The body's Automatic Nervous System (ANS) is partially comprised of the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) and the Parasympathetic Nervous System, both working in conjunction with the other. When the Sympathetic Nervous System is triggered, this is known as the 'fight or flight' response; similarly, the triggering of Parasympathetic Nervous System results in the 'rest and digest' response. 

In our modern-day society, an increasing number of people suffer from chronic stress where they may live permanently on 'fight or flight' mode. The results can be extremely harmful to the body over a period of time as this raises the heartbeat and blood pressure, suppresses the immune system and causes the body to be in a chronic state of stress. If this system is overactive, then a person may report frequent headaches, muscle weakness, memory loss, poor vision and impaired mental ability. That's why it's important that the Parasympathetic Nervous System is also triggered to allow the body to rest and restore. 

By placing the tongue to the palate, the Parasympathetic Nervous System is activated, triggering the body to be in a more relaxed state. This causes the body to produce saliva, induces feelings of calmness and enhances focus and concentration. 

In Qi Gong and other Eastern practices, placing the tongue to the palate is known to complete the energy circuit in our bodies. In Western society, this is known as the Microcosmic Orbit that connects the Du Meridian and the Ren Meridian. The Du Meridian starts at the perineum and goes up the back, over the head and down to the upper palate of the mouth. The Ren Meridian goes from the tongue down through the throat, chest and abdomen to the perineum. By combining the completion of this energy circuit with breathwork, you not only increase the oxygen in your bloodstream for tremendous health benefits, but it also provides proper rooting for martial arts and internal energetic power, and on a higher level, it promotes spiritual development and growth for those pursuing self-cultivation and enlightenment.

You don't have to necessarily believe in the energy world to benefit from this traditional tongue placement practice. The science behind why and how it can help your physical and mental health is reason enough to try this for yourself. I understand that it can be overwhelming with the amount of information we get from multiple sources and modalities explaining why their techniques are best. We have limited time and resources to be able to try everything, let alone be able to choose one discipline to focus on. However, tongue placement is as simple as it gets - you don't need to spend more time to do this as you can try it throughout the day without anyone else noticing. It may take a little bit of time to get used to it, but when you think of how this can benefit your body and mind, it's almost silly not to at least try it. And within a few weeks, it can become a normal way of where your tongue will fall when you're not talking or eating.

Speaking from experience, I used to suffer from an overactive nervous system and was in constant 'flight or flight mode' for many years. I wasn't aware of the techniques to be able to help my body to slow down or rest, and the last thing I could imagine was taking time out of my already stressful day to take a walk, meditate or practice yoga. My body was constantly getting sick as I was prone to illness with a weakened immune system. And my inability to focus and concentrate was further aggravating my stress levels, causing my mind to spiral further out of control.

So take it from someone who has had this crippling experience for most of my life, to one who now knows how to experience calmness every day and with ease. I find my purpose is not to only feed my body and soul with wellness, but to also help others to understand how this is also possible for them - life doesn't have to be so hard! But you need to know how to do it for yourself and I can tell you that making simple adjustments to your daily habits will have life-changing effects for you, too.

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