Yesss, stick your tongue out – it’s SO good for you!

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. :) 

Tigers do lion’s breath, too! ;)

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 ;))

    Extrinsic muscles of the tongue. Left side.

    Tongue muscles, left side. (Wikipedia)

  • 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!

Enjoy,

~ Andrea

PS: I’ve had the honour to be nominated for the “Beautiful Blogger-Award” and would like to highlight six blogs I love:

Damn Good Yoga / Yoga Mangala / Lila’s blog / Peace Love Yoga / Devi Wears Prana / A Charmed Yogi

16 thoughts on “Yesss, stick your tongue out – it’s SO good for you!

  1. I’m not quite wacky enough to teach Lion’s breath in my asana classes… But just before savasana, I have all my students stretch their arms over their heads, take a deep breath, and then stick out their toungues and say “aaaaaaaaaa”. It gets some giggles, relaxes the jaw for savasana, and makes sure we don’t take ourselves too seriously! Lovely post!!

  2. I love it!!!! I forgot about this yoga and didn’t realize it can help to keep my neck firm or should I say firm it back up. Clearly it is not just for kids. It is a shame we have been conditioned to restrain from such simple pleasures.

    • Hi Allison,

      Thanks for checking out this blog. Lion’s Breath is not particular to a specific style of yoga, though most teachers would be reluctant to instruct it simply because it takes some guts to do it in front of other people in class. Many students feel uncomfortable doing it which is why it’s often left out – just as pranayama or meditation. I hope you have fun trying it out!

      Andrea

  3. this is wonderful timing. today a friend and I watched videos of krshnamacharya his lions breath is absolutely fierce! It’s so awakening! In my own classes it’s been all about pranayama and this kind of stuff lately. thanks for the like on my post about karma Andrea. Your blog is beautiful.

    • Ah great, I love this approach! Particularly considering that most teachers are afraid of instructing it in class, fearing their students might run away and never come back! :)
      Thanks for reading!

      Andrea

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