Exploring Tongue Placement for Postural Alignment and Stability

Blog Content Education // May 22, 2024


Understanding the intricacies of our body and its functions is crucial for Gyrotonic trainers. Dominika Borovansky Gaines, GYROTONIC® Specialized Master Trainer, delves into an often overlooked aspect in her latest article. In “Exploring Tongue Placement for Postural Alignment and Stability,” Dominika sheds light on the profound impact tongue positioning can have on various bodily functions and overall health. Her insights are especially valuable for those seeking to enhance their understanding and teaching of postural alignment and stability within the Gyrotonic methodology. Read on to discover how something as simple as tongue placement can influence posture, breathing, physical performance, and much more. Many thanks to Dominika for her excellent contributions and for allowing us to share with our community.


Written by Dominika Borovansky Gaines

While we have some awareness of the tongue’s function for eating, swallowing and speech, we are generally less aware that the tongue also plays a role in cervical position and posture, the function of our vestibular system, breathing, digestion and pelvic floor functions, physical strength, physical performance, and even learning. In this blog post, I am going to explain some of the reasons why awareness of the placement of your tongue position is important for health and well-being.

As we age, the effects of gravity begin to pull us into flexion: forward, into internal rotation and down. This weakening and shortening of the front line includes spinal flexion, slackening of the issues of the front body, internal rotation of the shoulders and femurs, and pronation of the feet. As the front weakens the posterior chains of your body become overly stretched and long (and weak).

Your tongue may be a part of the prescription for maintaining upright posture.

  • Anatomically, your tongue is a very powerful, strong muscle of your midline structures, sometimes known as the “deep front line” (a term coined by Tom Meyers). It begins in the soft tissue of your mouth, travels down the throat and esophagus, through your stomach, your belly, connecting to your organs of elimination and the pelvic floor, and continues down the legs to the soles of your feet.
  • The tongue is innervated by several Cranial Nerves: Trigeminal nerve CN 5; Facial nerve CN 7; Glossopharyngeal nerve CN 9; Vagus nerve CN 10; and the Hypoglossal nerve CN12. As such, it plays a role in the placement of your jaw, how your inner ear works, your clarity of speech, and your ability to swallow well. The vagal nerve roots also connect the tongue to the part of your brain called the insular cortex — the area responsible for interoception, your sense of self from the inside.
  • These same tongue roots feed into the cervical spine just below the occipital bone to create more stability. Proper tongue position assists in maintaining optimal alignment of the head and neck, helping to correct a forward head position, or shearing, while centering the head in a more balanced position over the ribs. When this is clear, flexion and extension motions of the cervical spine will maintain more elongation through the neck and not have too deep or lack of curve.
  • The proper tongue position also supports the jaw. When the tongue is lifted to the ceiling of the mouth, it brings the tempo-mandibular joint (where your upper and lower jaws meet) into alignment. Maintaining the joint alignment can ease the kind of slipping that often results in teeth grinding, TMJ disorder and Trigeminal Nerve pain, and as mentioned above optimizing the position of the head on its axis.
  • Because the tongue is a part of the same connective tissue as your organs and pelvic floor, tongue positioning plays a role in the function of the pelvic floor, including its tensions and its dynamic stability. Adding awareness of tongue position to pelvic floor exercises has surprisingly positive results. This same mechanism can be used to improve whole body strength in exercises such as squatting and weightlifting.
  • Bringing the tongue up to the roof of the mouth, especially with the mouth closed, also facilitates nasal breathing.

Like other muscles in your body, the tongue can become weak from lack of use and have variability in strength and accuracy from side to side. Fortunately, the tongue as a muscle is trainable and doing so can have a very positive influence in many facets of movement.

Basic awareness exercises for tongue position

Below are some basic explorations of tongue position and how it may benefit basic movements in our teaching repertoire.

A visual of the impact tongue positioning can have on various bodily functions and overall health including postural alignment and stability.

Our first exercise is awareness of the tongue’s power via its resting position. Where is the tongue “at rest” in the mouth: is it down in your lower jaw, or is it sitting up against your upper palate? To improve cervical stability and balance, we want the latter. So, let’s explore that first in a seated position, preferably on a firm chair or stool. Watch the accompanying video below; Gyrotonic Trainers can also access the video anytime in the Gyrotonic Teacher Training Library.

Let your tongue lower fully into your lower jaw and soften completely. Notice the sensation of floppiness, the extra saliva that may be gathering, and the slackening of the jaw.

  • Lift your tongue up toward your upper teeth, pressing the tip gently behind them, and, if possible, the center of your tongue up against the roof of your mouth. Notice what changes occurred in your mouth, neck and eyes.
  • Continue relaxing your tongue and then actively lifting it to the roof of your mouth. Noticing the differences between one position and the other.

Now bring your attention to the pelvis. Sitting over your sit bones, press your tongue up and notice if you sense a corresponding “lift” in your pelvic floor, release and re-engage several times.

  • If you know how to “Narrow the Pelvis” try a few with a slack tongue and then some with an activated tongue. What do you notice?
  • Then, try the same exercise standing.
  • Next take a walk exploring the tongue position and how it affects your gait.

It is my experience that placing the tongue “up” creates more lift and ease in Narrowing and is an essential part of the action of Suppling.

Let’s return to a seated position and try basic spinal motions of arch/extension and curl/flexion.

  • Explore what it feels like to arch with the tongue down and then thrust the tongue upward and see if you feel a change. In the curl we still want to maintain the tongue in the suction at the roof of the mouth to ensure length through the cervical spine and not allow the head to collapse forward and down or shear. You might try this again with hands clasped under the occiput to feel in your own hands the activation of these muscles of support.
  • Next, we try cervical rotation. Moving just the neck, turn the head from right to left, several times. Notice the difference in your range of motion when you place the tongue up.
  • Try also lateral flexion (ie Side Arch) and undulations (ie Waves).

Of course, you might explore these motions in a kneeling and/or standing position. Balance can be very affected by tongue position, so playing with single leg balancing and stepping in different directions can be very interesting.

One thing to note: when the tongue is up it is challenging to breathe through the mouth. I have found it useful to practice only nasal breathing while working with this concept. Once you develop some comfort with it, then you might press up on an inhale and release the tongue on the exhale, and/or play with variations of the position.

© 2024 Dominika Gaines


Interested in taking a course with Dominika Gaines? Find her Teacher Training Course schedule here.

If you would like to learn more about Dominika’s studio, visit Kinesphere Studio. She is available for private sessions, in person or via Zoom. Contact Kinesphere for more information or to sign up for her mailing list.

Want to read more? Take a look at these other inspiring stories from our community:

The Jewel of the Pelvic Floor by Dominika Borovansky Gaines

Tips for Trainers, By Trainers: GYROTONIC® Modifications for Someone with Osteoporosis 

Running Reimagined: GYROTONIC® Techniques for Endurance & Agility

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