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Tongue / Tendril Exercise

Here is a lesson & an exercise from my Murmerations/Voice Yoga:

The tongue is influential. When it relaxes, the rest of the body settles down.

A tongue tastes, savors, articulates, defends, swallows, and censors. It's an intelligent and hard working muscle. Through my work as a voice teacher, I've observed that modern tongues are hyper-vigilant. So much of modern life means answering what Gertrude Stein calls, “the same rapid question." Our tongues are trained like guards to respond immediately.

"You're not on TV," I tell my students. "You can pause and breathe - for a long time, even - before you speak. You can pause while speaking, too. While you're at it, try contradicting yourself. The tongue can't relax if it has to be right all the time."

It's tough to relax a tongue. In some shamanic traditions, the teacher holds a student's tongue - literally - in her hands, and for a long, long, time. This is a profound teaching that I can't fathom, but it does indicate that that the tongue can be worked with.

Here's an exercise if you like. It involves a simple shift in tongue posture. Miraculously, it slows time down. It quiets the nervous system and offers a moment of pleasant disorientation. In this exercise, you curve your tongue so that it's pointing backwards. Hold this like any yoga pose.

Tongue/Tendril Exercise:

This is best done while seated on a firm surface. Your back can be supported or not. Sit on your sitz bones. Soften your gaze or close your eyes. Take a few minutes to settle and notice how you’re feeling. Very slowly, point the tip of your tongue backwards, away from the teeth, until the tip is pointing backwards, towards where the tonsils are (or would be.) The underside now faces the roof of your mouth.

Allow the tongue to hold itself in this posture. It should not be touching your teeth, nor should it touch the roof of your mouth. This is not a soft position; it takes some intention and firmness to hold the tongue in this way. If you feel like you’re straining, release the tongue and hold it with a bit more softness, still pointing backwards.

Now, with the tongue pointing backwards, breathe naturally and gently. Enjoy the ocean sound as the breath moves around the tongue. Hold your tongue and breathe for a while. Allow your eyes to soften their gaze (whether your eyes are open or not.) Wiggle your shoulders a bit and let them drop. You may find that you instinctively want to undulate your spine as you’re breathing; do.

When you’re ready, release your tongue. Breathe, and for a moment, keep your attention inward. Notice any changes.


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