When I was little, sticking my tongue out just felt great. I wanted to do it all the time, whenever something or someone really sucked. Parents, teachers, rules, restrictions – baaah. The only time I indeed refused vehemently was – exactly, when the doctor asked me to.
Years of training in appropriate behaviour later, there finally comes the chance to stick out my tongue in a totally sanctioned environment – the yoga class. It’s not only okay, it’s absolutely encouraged. Yogis call it Lion’s Breath, and hhmm, it still feels good. :)
There’s just a little problem. Now, as adults, we’ve become so self conscious that we feel ashamed to do it. Walk into any beginner’s yoga class and see how students start looking around: Is every one doing it? Don’t I look stupid like that? No, really. I just CANNOT. And do I really need to make that funny noise at the same time? Yoga is weird, indeed.
Well, no. As with everything in yoga, it might look a bit – ahem – unusual first, but there’s a whole lot of sense and meaning behind it.
Let’s look at the anatomical benefits:
- If you stretch the tongue out as far as possible (I’ve seen people touching their chin!), you’ll increase circulation to the root of the tongue and the throat and at the same time stretch the jaw muscles
- You can stimulate and release a whole range of often overlooked muscles – as Leslie Kaminoff points out, the “tongue and jaw can be thought as the front of the neck, and cervical tension can frequently be related to tightness in these structures“
- You’ll get a good stretch in the muscle that covers the front of the throat, the one that pulls down on the corners of the mouth and wrinkles the skin of the neck when you contract it (it’s called platysma, in case you’re interested, even if just for purely cosmetic reasons ;))
- Because it’s accompanied by a forceful exhale (the lion’s roar!) you’re not only activating the three diaphragms, but engaging the three bandhas will eventually become easier – or at least that’s what the scriptures say
HOW TO DO IT
This is how Swami Vishnu-devananda instructed the posture:
“Assume a kneeling position, keep your palms over the knees and gently lean over the hands. Now protrude the tongue as far as possible by contracting the throat muscles, meanwhile rolling your eyeballs upward. During this position exhale the breath as much as possible. Repeat 4-6 times.”
So here’s something for you to try out:
Next time the teacher says: And now – Lion’s Breath! you just imagine your (insert whatever feels appropriate) standing in front of you and finally, after all these years you’re able to stick your tongue out at them!! See? The scriptures are so damn right. What a release! :)
Oh and if you’re worried about the cleanliness of your tongue, and who isn’t – (I just say: bacteria, food debris, fungi, and dead cells - YUM), read on here.
I wish I had known this as a kid – I could have just said, well, I’m practising YOGA!