Feldenkrais Lesson of the Month #42 (6/01)

By Rich Frye
For safety and best results, please read instructions before doing lessons!

Tongue and Throat

Movements of the head and neck can be affected in numerous ways by unconscious tension in the tongue and throat; giving the tongue a little more spaciousness can provide improved mobility of the head and upper spine.

Works with:
Connections among the tongue, throat, neck, spine, and pelvis

   1. Lie down on your back on the floor…take some time to check in with yourself…how is life in your body today?…notice your contact with the floor…your breath…the qualities of sensation in the parts of you where the floor supports you…and today bring special attention to your mouth and jaw…your lips…tongue…cheeks…face…eyes…head and neck…become aware of how this all feels at the moment…and let it go and rest.

2. Same position…you can bend your knees at any time so your feet stand on the floor if that is more comfortable…your arms are lying somewhere comfortable alongside…and from here, very slowly roll your head from side to side several times…easier to the right or to the left?…what is the easy range of movement?…how close to the floor does each ear come?…what do your eyes do?…and let it go and rest.

3. Same position…bring your awareness to your right cheekbone…without moving, can you find with your awareness the point of the cheekbone, the corner, the little area which points neither forward nor to the side, but about 45 degrees?…bring your awareness to that point, and spend a few minutes trying to fill in the sensory image of the point, like a little circle where a clown might paint a red spot…imagine painting such a cheerful red spot there on the point of the cheekbone, maybe an inch in diameter…spend some time with it…and let it go and rest…notice the differences in the right and left sides of your face.

4. Same position…now touch this spot on your cheekbone with your finger, and softly trace the spot with your finger…how does the actual sensation compare with the imagination of it?…and stretch the skin a little this way and that, very softly, seeing which directions are easier...and take your hand away, and again feel the spot with your imagination…and let it go and rest.

5. Repeat #4 on the left cheekbone…then repeat #2…has anything changed in the quality of rolling your head?

6. Same position…let your jaw relax a little so there is some space between the upper and lower teeth…and bring awareness to your tongue…what is it doing?…where is it lying in your mouth?…are you holding it somewhere?…just notice where is the "neutral" position…then bring the awareness to the very tip of the tongue, a very tiny point at the tip…and move the tip so it is directly on the space between the two upper front teeth, and rest it there for a bit…how is this?…is this the normal place for the tip of the tongue to be?…slowly slide the tongue up and down along the little crevice between the two front teeth (only from the "tongue side"), feeling the crevice with the tip of the tongue…and then let the movement stop and rest.

7. Same position…awareness to tip of tongue, with tip touching softly the edges between the two front upper teeth…leaving the tongue there, let your awareness travel along the left edge of the tongue, back toward the root of the tongue, and then returning to the tip…you notice you become aware of the contact of the edge of the tongue with the upper teeth or lower teeth…try to feel the entire area of contact, filling in the area of sensation more and more completely as you explore with your imagination…it's okay to make very, very tiny micro-movements with the tongue to help awaken the ability to sense these places…is there a place where the awareness shifts to the lower teeth against the tongue?...take some time with it…and let it go and rest…notice the quality of sensation in your mouth.

8. Repeat #7 on the other side.

9. Bring the tip of the tongue to the point in the center of the lower jaw, resting in the line behind the two middle lower teeth, the little crevice between them…where is this point compared to the line between the upper middle teeth?…directly below?…to one side or the other?…just notice the relationship, whatever it is (everyone is different)…and leaving the tongue there, take the awareness along the left edge of the tongue and back, improving the image of how the left side of the tongue contacts the teeth with the tongue in this position…take your time…and rest for a few moments…and do the same on the right side of the mouth.

10. Again place tip of tongue behind centerline of lower teeth…from here slowly slide the tip of the tongue to the right, over the backs of the lower teeth, and come back to center…notice wherever the movement gets a little more difficult…does your jaw tense?...neck?...throat?...eyes?...let them move if they want to...and continue the slow movement of the tongue, while feeling the contact of the entire right side of the tongue with all the lower teeth on the right…which parts of the muscles of the tongue are involved at different points in the movement…can you tell?…and rest.

11. Repeat #10 on the lower left side…and then on the upper right…and upper left.

12. Now see if you can feel your whole tongue with your awareness…both sides at once…can you sense the surface in between?…how deep into your mouth or throat?...and, holding the awareness of the tongue, repeat many times a small and slow movement of pursing your lips and then releasing them…("pursing" is a sort of tiny pout, the very beginning of a pucker, except the there is some pressure of pushing the center of the lips a bit together as well as slightly outward, as if ever so slightly puzzled)…what does your tongue want to do when you purse the lips?...anything?...how about the facial muscles around the cheekbones?…and rest.

13. Same movement, but now do a "pucker" instead of a "purse"…gradually make it bigger…sloppier…silly, even…what does your tongue do?...facial muscles?...do they like this?…just let them all go along in the most comfortable way, even exaggerating it a little…and rest.

14. Same movement...let the tongue be soft and passive… feel the root of your tongue in your throat…and slowly let your tongue slide out of your mouth several times, feeling the whole tongue as you do it, feeling the contact with your teeth and lips…and when the tongue is drawn back into the mouth, slide the tip of the tongue up between the front teeth, and slide it along the center of the roof of the mouth toward the throat…just what is very easy…and rest.

15. Same position… bring awareness to whole tongue…at the same time bring your awareness to the circles around the points of the cheeks…see if you can hold awareness of all of this at once, and at the same time slowly roll your head from side to side…do it many times…you feel your neck and throat and root of the tongue all rolling together, connected to your spine…and let the tip of the tongue move in the mouth as if to point it toward the point of the right cheekbone as the head rolls right, and left as head rolls left…and leave the tongue passive and roll the head...and let it go and rest…bring awareness to face, neck, head, jaw, tongue, and breath…is anything different since beginning of lesson?

Part II. Integration

16. Sit on a stool, bench, or straight-backed chair…hands on thighs…bring awareness to whole of tongue in mouth and throat…slowly turn to look up and behind to right, and then up and behind to the left…remember how it feels, how far you turn, how the movement feels…and come back to neutral...from here explore a movement of looking up, tilting head and neck back, feeling how throat and tongue are carried along, and looking up…then returning to neutral and looking down…when looking up, back arches and pelvis tilts forward...when looking down the opposite…head is sort of "allowed" to tilt back as back arches rather than exerting much effort to look up…repeat it many times slowly, keeping the awareness of tongue and throat, and avoiding tensing the tongue or throat…and rest.

17. Same movement, still feeling tongue, but now let head and eyes move opposite body…so now look down as back arches and pelvis tilts forward, and look up as back rounds, pelvis tilts back, and shoulders slump forward…you might want to let your jaw droop open…and repeat the original movement, looking up as pelvis tilts forward, down as back rounds…and rest.

18. Same position…same awareness of tongue and throat…shift weight to right sitting bone, while turning body somewhat to left and looking up to left…then come back to center, and look down, rounding back…and repeat several times…and rest.

19. Same movement to the other side.

20. Same movement from side to side…notice how weight shifts…keep awareness of tongue and throat…you see that you must be balanced over each sitting bone to keep tension out of the tongue and throat…do it many times, a slow dance, finding the alignment...and let it go and rest.

21. Original position, sitting, hands on thighs…awareness of tongue and throat…turn to look up and behind to right, and to left as at beginning…any different?…from time to time over the next few hours and days, bring the awareness back to the tongue and throat, and monitor the feelings there.