9175330085_111e82c4e7_z…speaking metaphorically, of course.  When people think, they have a tendency to talk to themselves.  Even if you are not consciously aware of this subvocalization, your body, more specifically, your tongue is.  It will tense up when you are thinking, ready for action.

You may experience this as a general rigidness of the tongue or it may lift up off of the floor of your mouth or pull at the back of your throat or you may not feel it consciously at all. If you relax your tongue completely, it is very difficult to talk to yourself.  Go ahead, I know you have to try it.  Thus, relaxing  your tongue makes it much more difficult to think also.  This simple technique can help you stop the internal chatter and quiet your mind when meditating or when you just need a moment of peace. Just relaxing your tongue radically reduces the active thinking, beta brain waves and stills the mind.

Relaxing the tongue is such an effective practice that, in her book, Awakening the Mind: A Guide to Harnessing the Power of Your Brainwaves, Anna Wise, says “If you take nothing else away with you from reading this book, you will have gained enormously from this one practice.”

She offers the following exercises:

  • Close your eyes and allow your tongue to relax.
  • No one will be looking at you, so it’s OK to let your mouth hang open slightly.
  • Just simply let your tongue go, especially the back of your tongue.
  • As you exhale, feel it let go even more.
  • Exaggerate the relaxation.
  • Exaggerate it again.
  • You can almost feel your tongue floating in the cavity of your mouth.
  • You may feel it shorten some – or thicken.
  • Exaggerate the relaxation even more.
  • Focus on only relaxing your tongue – nothing else.

OK.  I am sorry, but I can’t help but think of a Labrador Retriever about now.  Maybe we could learn something from them, huh?  They always look pretty happy!

image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/annemariv/

27 Comments

  1. What fun! I sure never heard of this. The closest I know about is the auto-hypnotic practice of coaxing the body into alpha by concentrating on relaxation region by region, like from the top of the head downward or from the soles of the feet up. That takes about 20 minutes. This method sounds faster.

    The other area-specific practice, probably the most commonly known, would be the various ways to focus upon the awareness of the act of breathing.

    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      When I consciously relax my tongue as suggested, I automatically also relax my body in general. I have been doing this for weeks when I meditate, and it is amazing to me how tense my tongue still is oftentimes when I think I am relaxed, but it has not hung out yet!

    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      It IS harder than you would think, and it constantly keeps you present just like focusing on the breath. Like the breath, this is another tool that it is so simple to do and you can do it anywhere without anyone knowing.

  2. Ande Waggener Reply

    Very interesting, Debbie! I’d never heard of this correlation, but it makes sense. And I agree that dogs look pretty happy with their tongues lolling. Ducky often has hers flopping out the side of her mouth, and I’m pretty sure she doesn’t have a care in the world. 🙂

    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      I think we could learn many lessons from our furry friends! My cats are zen masters. Now my dog…he’s a Jack Russell…he could learn from them too!

  3. Great information. I love Anna’s work and used it as part of my doctoral work 20 years ago. I would love to be able to pass on this information including your photo of the lab.

    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      Feel free to spread. Thanks! Sure you don’t want a photo of me with my tongue hanging out?! 🙂

  4. Judy M. Hampton Reply

    I think the cats have had Bandit in a training mode for quite awhile!
    For those of us of whom it said perhaps we talk too much, like me, this is a bit hard. I’ve often had three conversations going on in my mind: two opposing viewpoints and one to mediate. Good work, as always, Debbie. This is one exercise I’m going to try when I’m trying to fall asleep to stop the brain chatter.

    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      Yes, I think it would help you fall asleep. I don’t advise it while trying to talk though 🙂 ….although it would be a good exercise when you want to stay quiet. I think I used to talk too much also…not anymore.

  5. I am so loving this – relaxing your tongue silences the inner chatter! You’ve got a convert to this practice! I never knew we thought with our tongues! LOL This is a wonderful gift you share!
    The photo does help too. Thanks for this Debbie! I’m going to play with this!
    Lori

    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      Have fun with it! I have been doing it while meditating, falling asleep and just to consciously relax while working at the computer, driving, or whatever. It is so simple. I am glad to have found it and to add it to my tool box.

  6. Takenori Sato Reply

    Hi Debbie, it is so interesting! That explains to me why playing trumpet, long tone in particular, gives me a peace moment. But it’s not yet relaxed like a dog. So will try next time.

    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      Good point about playing the trumpet. I never thought about how this transfers to other activities, but I am sure it would!

  7. I made this realization couple of years ago and have been talking about it to my friends, but no-one seems to have same experience. So I had to take Google as my friend today and this is the first site after several searches and phrases I used for example: “inner dialogue meditation throat voice box tongue thinking brain”

    Do you know other resources that talk about the subject? I’m pretty sure buddhist meditation practices, why not yoga too have found this. I also realized many religion practices include “controlling your tongue” as referred to keep your mouth and talking clean, but after this meditation experience I’m starting to think this general advice has a deeper meaning or at least further consequences, that commonly thought.

    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      Marko, thank you for commenting. Unfortunately, I do not have any further information on this for ya. It was just covered in the book, and I thought it was interesting. Very astute of you to recognize this on your own. I have seen other information on positioning the tongue just behind the front teeth on the roof of the mouth when meditating to complete a loop and let energy flow, but I do not remember where I saw it. Let me know if you find anything interesting!

    • Rain McManus Reply

      I had the same experience today. I made this tongue-thought connection and then made the mistake of sharing about it with non-meditators. (Of course, as you no doubt know yourself, it makes complete sense that, evolutionarily, verbal thought would be based on and would borrow from the mechanisms of speech, including the tongue.) Anyway, I will go to sleep feeling partially vindicated… if not with a relaxed, motionless tongue!

      • Debbie Hampton Reply

        Rain, very cool that you made this connection on your own!

  8. Martijn Vlamings Reply

    Found this page today, as I googled for ‘relaxing your tongue’ Yesterday I was not feeling so well and as I was laying down on my bed I was scanning my body and found a lot of tension in my head, neck, mouth area. As I practiced a lot of Qigong I was always taught to press the tip of the tongue against the upper palette to connect the renmai and dumai channels. I found myself doing that automatically as I was lying down. Now, I think I have been pushing my tongue up in the wrong way for many years…This might sound funny, but yesterday on an impulse I relaxed my tongue completely for the first time, my jaw dropped open and as I had my eyes closed I started seeing a lot of colorful Qi flowing, for me a sign that things were unblocking. Today I kind of have a strange expression on my face, because I decided to keep this level of relaxation throughout the day. I have always had many, many thoughts and found it hard to silence my mind, that was kind of hard because I was also teaching qigong and meditation… Now, I don’t believe how little thoughts I have! I have been very calm and peaceful since yesterday. Of course I will study this phenomenon more. I’m a bit confused to, I feel like I found the missing link. If this can make such a difference to me, it can to others. Maybe, all my teachers have said it in the past ‘relax your whole body’, and maybe I just never got the message. All the organs have a link to the tongue and I also practiced tongue-qigong, but it never occurred to me to just relax it completely! Thanks again, the info on this page broadened my horizon.

    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      Martijn, I am so glad that this post proved helpful for you. I find it interesting that you just intuitively relaxed your tongue and it aided your meditation. So happy to hear it. I find, too, that when I remember to do this, it does help.

  9. Dear Debbie, I have been struggling with where to relax my tongue in my mouth for five years now. It is always tense, and I have severe pain in my tongue and throat muscles. No matter where I try to relax it in my mouth throughout the day, it never feels relaxed and comfortable, to the point where I end up biting on it sometimes, or even going home. Do you recommend ALWAYS making a conscious effort to relax it at the bottom of the mouth when your mouth is closed. The net has given me mixed signals. I keep trying all suggestions and end up moving my tongue all day in my mouth (to the palette, on my teeth, between my teeth, at the bottom…). In this effort to relax my tongue, I am experiencing more pain and stress every day. Please help. Thank you!

    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      I am sorry to hear of this unique challenge, Nadine. I am sorry, but I do not feel qualified to give you advise. I just know what I read and relayed here. I would encourage you to keep working on relaxing your tongue, mind and body.

  10. Hi Debbie,
    I am just coming from a dentist … he wants me to see a periodontist, not for some implants I have done 5 years ago and are showing problems (I lost some already) but for the irritated/red palate and my tongue … he said that I will probably have to have a biopsy … I know I have been stressed out for over 1 year and that I constantly find my self ‘invonluntarily’ pressing/pushing my tongue against the palate, behind the upper front teeth even when I sleep. Also, my chewing has been very difficult because of some missing teeth, I have used the tongue and sides/palate of the mouth to work on the food bulk inside of my mouth. Will continue my google search on how to relax my tongue/ mouth/etc.

    Much love to you/all!

    • Cesar, all the best on your quest for information. I would bet that learning to relax your mouth and tongue will help. If you don’t already meditate…start. That too will help!

  11. Hensleigh Wedgewood Reply

    This is the first discussion I’ve run across regarding the relationship between verbal thought and the mechanism of physical speech. Kudos! I think perhaps that focusing primarily on the tongue may be somewhat diversionary, since the vocal cords are more truly central to the issue, but in the final analysis, the complete relation of the tongue cannot be accomplished without relaxing the throat as well. Whenever we engage our internal monologue, subliminal impulses are naturally being correspondingly sent to the throat

    • Thank you for your thoughts, Hensleigh. I had not thought of how our ears are always poised and ready to work too. Good point!

      • Hensleigh Wedgewood Reply

        Well, yes, but this isn’t even half the story. The big issue that everyone needs to ponder is the other half of this circular equation, being the function and consequences of pouring so much attention into talking to oneself. Why is it, for example, that the entire human race is caught up in the process of repeating to themselves nothing but things —primarily in relation to themselves, I might add— that they already know..? The problem ultimately devolves on the structural nature of language.

        When we consider the nature of meaning, we encounter three main categories: the direct state of meaning of the external physical world as presented by the senses (colors, shapes, sounds, etc.) ; the emotional meaning related to, and superposed (not, ‘superimposed’) upon physical reality as our instinctive understanding of events; and finally, the specific “meaning” associated with each individual fragment of language: words.

        The key term here is “fragment.” each word is merely a fragment of meaning relative to the whole. Note that this relative whole is comprised of the unbroken flow of awareness as defined by the first two categories. This domain of consciousness is that of nonsequential sensory data in a state of feedback. It is circular in its flow. The domain of language however, produces merely a linear, nonsequential simulation comprised of arbitrary sound fragments. It does not, nor cannot, accurately reflect reality as depicted by the senses and, in fact, necessarily produces, maintains and defines a matrix of subtle emotional confusion and cul-de-sacs of reason throughout the human species.

        It is in this maze of fragmented meaning in which the greater bulk of humanity has therefore become trapped, ironically snared by nothing more than a cheap, arbitrary simulation of true thought and perception.

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