Where is your tongue?
Your tongue is in your mouth...duh. But where does it rest? Is it on the floor or on the roof of your mouth? Why do we care?
If we had the good fortune of being breast fed as babies, we used our tongue against the rugae (the funny folds that you can feel above your front teeth) to suck the milk into our mouth. This activity encourages an upward tongue position as well as develops tongue strength and therefore deep neck strength. This is also important for cranium, jaw, and face development. Drinking from a bottle has much less of an effect because babies don't have to suck as hard for liquid to come out. We often talk about the benefits of breast feeding for bonding and nutrients but I hope one day this important developmental aspect also becomes common knowledge. Don't worry, if you were not breast fed as a baby, you aren't doomed for eternity. There are exercises you can do to improve this as an adult coupled with manual techniques.
When your tongue is on the roof of your mouth, it usually means you are breathing through your nose. Nasal breathing is so important for our health. Receiving air through the nose filters and humidifies the air. When air reaches the back of your nose, it results in nitrous oxide to be released into the bloodstream. Nitrous oxide is a vasodilator that goes into the lungs, creating less resistance for air exchange. It has also been shown to lower blood pressure. Breathing through your nose signals to your body that all is well, which is the opposite of what mouth breathing signals. Nasal breathing has been shown in the research to decrease symptoms of allergic rhinitis, those stuffy and runny reactions we have in our nose during various allergy seasons. It also decreases your risk for snoring and sleep apnea, improving the overall quality of sleep.
Resting your tongue on the roof of your mouth helps create a more relaxed jaw. Jaw clenching is common for when we are super focused, stressed, or as a compensation strategy to achieve better breathing. Check out "The Trigeminal Nerve" video from a previous workshop to learn more about what cascade jaw clenching creates!
Finally, one of my favorite benefits for resting the tongue on the roof of your mouth, is it helps your core (therefore your body) become more efficient. The tongue is fascially connected to a deep line of tissues and muscles that help stabilize the body. Check out the photo below of a dissection of this deep line of connected fascia. Pretty cool! There is a test I do with patients in the clinic for you to experience how much influence your tongue has on your overall "strength". If we haven't done it already, ask to try it the next time you're in.
Check out Breath by James Nester to learn more!