Some new meditators must be wondering, ‘Where should the tongue be during meditation?’ Should it just stick to the top of your mouth? Move with the breath? Or sit still somewhere? As I sat here an hour ago or so, I realized that usually, I don’t tell new meditators who read my books what exactly to do with the tongue, so here it is.
I was just sitting here on the floor for a few minutes. I’ve been getting the feeling to sit in silent meditation for a little while now. I’ve been doing it off and on and being mindful sometimes throughout the day.
I hadn’t really thought about this question before now – but, now that it presented itself – I’ll see what I can say about it.
The tongue, during meditation, seems to stick at the roof of my mouth. I guess that’s the natural resting place of it. If your tongue naturally rests some other way – I think it is better to go with the way your tongue is naturally relaxed and doesn’t cause you to think about it. Now, please read on because the entire tongue from the front to the back isn’t sticking to the roof of my mouth as I meditate. That feels forced and uncomfortable.
I realized that the tip of my tongue is resting just behind my two big front top teeth. My tongue actually seems to be slightly between my upper and lower teeth. I’m not biting it – it isn’t that far between, but only a couple of millimeters. Now, do all tongues rest like this? I couldn’t tell you whether that is true, but mine seems to. Other times I when I meditate, my teeth are closed and the tongue just rests on the back of the front teeth where they meet, but more of the tongue is against the top front teeth.
So, I have no idea what your tongue is doing during meditation, but if it’s as relaxed as possible, that’s best. It doesn’t matter too much, but your mouth (lips) should probably be closed. Ideally, you’re breathing through your nose easily and without effort to hold your mouth closed. Your lips should be together so your mouth doesn’t dry out.
Make sure your jaw is totally relaxed too.
The main idea is that your tongue shouldn’t be a problem. It shouldn’t be something you’re thinking about. It shouldn’t be an issue. It should be still and in a place that doesn’t cause movement, dryness, tenseness, pain, or really anything. It should be silent and invisible if that makes any sense!
Ideally you’re breathing through your nose, but there are times when you may have a sinus issue and the air doesn’t flow smoothly. You can still meditate by breathing through your mouth, but it isn’t ideal. You’ll need to find a place in the mouth (lips or tongue) where you feel the breath entering and exiting. It’s much more difficult to find this spot and pay attention to it versus the nose or upper lip.
In meditation, a really good guide for how to get ready for it is that your entire body, every part of your body, should be comfortable and not causing your mind to think about it. It should be invisible to the mind so you can more easily focus on the breath at the nose. Eliminating all distractions is of course, impossible. You should definitely try to eliminate all distractions that you can, whether that is your tongue, your sitting position, the cold air conditioning blowing directly on you, or a hundred other things that may be distracting to you as you try to meditate.
That’s about it. Don’t copy my tongue position if the one you have is working for you. I just thought I’d comment on the topic since I don’t think I have done so on this blog or in person in years.
“Meditation for Beginners – a 22 Day Course” my little ebook, gives you the basics on meditation… You can find it here.
This is part of a collection of Meditation Tips. Here are more >
[Photo credit of monkey – masashi mochida at Flickr.com Featured image credit: ©Vern Lovic]
4 thoughts on “Where Should the Tongue Be During Meditation? (seriously!)”
What type of monkey is that in the picture?
Thanks for this simple but perfectly relevant post. I remember having this very issue back when I started meditating, it happened around the time when thoughts had began to quieten down a lot and I believe it arose due to the curiosity of my mind to seek out some form of distraction. I had never really paid attention to where my tongue sat before this happened, but once I did I couldn’t stop infatuating over whether it was in the right place. If I put it to the top of my mouth there was too much tension, at the bottom it would encourage saliva production which meant I had to keep swallowing. When it was at the teeth all I could think of was the jagged edges of my teeth sticking in to it because I have some slightly buckled teeth. This then led to an obsession about having to go to the dentist to get my teeth straightened or I may never be able to meditate properly! As ridiculous as it sounds this problem hindered my progress for some time. Then one day I just went to sit and completely forgot about it. From the minute I sat my mind and body were relaxed, breathing was really settled and I got so absorbed in the equanimity that I didn’t think to pay any attention to that old tongue of mine. You just have to let go and not make an issue of these things because they lead to doubt about the practice. It did make me laugh a few months later though when listening to a Dhamma talk. The teacher ended with a Q&A session and somebody asked what to do with their tongue. He seemed surprised to be asked this, but his answer was much the same, put it where it feels most comfortable and natural and pay it no heed. I can also concur with the writer that my tongue sits in the very same place as his while meditating. Great picture by the way, hehe 🙂
It’s funny all the questions that can pop up. But, it’s relevant!
Ive had the exact experience. …