Today we’re going to be talking about the tongue, strength, and vision.
Today we’re going to talk about what’s called a physiologic resting position for the tongue, aka the spot, and it’s influence on strength, movement, and vision
Now, I know it sounds like a weird topic, so let me jump into it. You’ve probably heard me talk in previous blogs, or courses, or whatever, about what’s called a physiologic resting position for the tongue. Now, that’s a lot to say, so we normally just refer to it is a spot.
The spot, I’m going to show you how to find it here in just a minute. It’s actually incredibly important from a physiologic perspective because it accomplishes a whole bunch of important things.
Your tongue, the tongue musculature is deeply connected to the muscles of the jaw and the throat, and as a result, if you have poor tongue positioning, what happens is you can have poor neck position, poor neck stability, and that can actually influence balance, and also, as some new research is showing, it can definitely influence muscle strength.
There was actually a study done in 2014 that showed that holding the correct tongue position in strength training might actually increase your strength up to 30%, which I find absolutely crazy.
There was another recent study that just came out a few months ago that showed that mouth position, so holding the teeth closed, versus holding the mouth open, improved explosive power in athletes. This all kind of ties in to how we teach this, so what I want to do is take you through the basic position, and then I’m going to give you some basic … some potential ramifications of it, and then how to start training this.
Now, this is part one of a two part series, because in the next blog I’m also going to talk about how to utilize the tongue position while doing some specific exercises for the neck to also help with vision.
Huh, sounds weird. Alright, so first of all, what we want to do is we want to find the spot. The easiest way to do this is to perform an exercise, believe it or not, called the cheesy grin. This is a silly looking exercise, but basically what you’re going to do is you’re going to raise your eyebrows, you’re going to get a big smile, and then you’re going to place your tongue in position and try to swallow.
Now, most people, when they do this, what will happen is the front of the tongue will be just behind the front teeth, but not touching them. The mouth will be closed, and the back of the tongue will be up against the roof of the mouth. The easiest way to do it is just perform the exercise; big grin, and then practice swallowing.
If you do that four or five times, that will start to prime your brain to know where your tongue should be resting throughout the day.
This is a really big deal because if you can’t hold that position, a lot of people then wind of breathing through the mouth. We know that that is an issue. If you hold the tongue in the correct spot it forces you to be a nasal breather, which, again, if you listen to previous blogs you know is a really important aspect as well for health and for performance.
The way that we recommend that you do this is that you practice the cheesy grin three times every hour, alright? Set a little clock, a little alarm on your watch, or something at your desk. When the alarm goes off, just practice. Eyebrows up, big smile, tongue to the roof of the mouth, get the spot, and swallow three or four times. Your coworkers will absolutely wonder if you’re going crazy, which is a great thing in and of itself.
Now, the side benefit of all this is as you habituate this tongue position, it may actually impact on your vision. It may impact on your neck stability, neck pain, shoulder issues, and balance.
In fact, there was a really interesting study looking at tongue position and its influence on balance in adults. It was 117, if I remember correctly, adults over the age of 30. What they did was they put them on a force plate and had them close their eyes. Now, a force plate measures how much you sway, and what they found was that the tongue in the bottom of the mouth, which is the anthrax position, versus tongue in the correct position, had a significant difference in balance.
If you put your tongue in the correct spot, not only does your neck function better, but your whole body functions better.
This is, again, one of those strange things. I know it seems like maybe a minor detail, but honestly when you see so many people, like we do, that come in with head trauma, neck trauma, reorganizing them and reeducating the mouth and jaw, and tongue particularly, can be very very important to helping people move past whatever it is that’s bothering them.
What I would love for you to do this week, practice working on finding the spot over and over and over, when you’re out for a walk, when you’re running, if you’re training in the gym, try to hold it as much as you can in that position.
You may already notice something significantly different in the next few days, and then next week I’ll talk to you a little bit more about how to use this idea, along with some neck exercises, to potentially help improve your vision.