Baseless medical speculation

Learning: we start knowing nothing. we learn something, and try to apply it. We learn more. Sometimes we discover that our earlier attempts at understanding were correct. Sometimes we discover that they were incorrect. I guess that this is the Scientific Method.

I am not, by nature, a passive person. Meditation, and the TCIMA, have been extremely beneficial for me in terms of my general tendency to Not Take Things Lying Down.

So: in Traditional Chinese Internal Martial Arts, there’s this principle about pressing the tongue against the palate. I’ve speculated about it on previous occasions, based upon my experience of living in the region where some of these arts originated, or were developed.

Something else just struck me, and perhaps you could let me know what you think. Let’s consider three different ideas:

  1. An ingrained habit of breathing with the tip of the tongue pressed against the palate.
  2. High-stress, high-risk situations.
  3. Hyperventilation.

Comments are welcomed…


  1. In one qigong book (maybe the one by Ken Cohen, don’t really remember) one explanation for it was that it encouraged the production of saliva in the mouth.


  2. Not sure what you are speculating about – is it WHY should we press the tongue against the palate? That it has nothing to do with qigong and martial arts? I guess there are no double blind, peer reviewed, controlled studies of whether that does indeed connect ren and du. Does that mean we should reject the traditional TCM theory and qigong advice? No, there is no evidence for that, either. Basically we don’t reach a conclusion to accept or reject this TCM idea. As a practical matter, it seems worth it to continue, esp. given your saliva comments, but for me, it’s only for qigong reasons. What qigong has to do with martial arts is a larger question.


  3. the tongue tip against the crest of the palate is also mentioned in Hindu scripture as a meditation pose; it stimulates the kundalini (energy symbolised as a serpant going from base of wpine over the skull to the crest of the palate).

    when a newborn is breathing, this is the natural position for the tongue in their mouth. It allows maximum intake and exhalation of breath.

    for people like me, who have “buck” teeth (ok, mine is slight but I am vain đŸ™‚ this position will realign the teeth over time. The tongue presses 1.6 pounds of pressure onto the roof of the mouth each time one swallows. the pressure causes the musculoskeletal area of the palate to widen, “pulling” teeth into a “straight” alignment as the mouth has more room. People like me go “buck” cause we used to put our tongue against our teeth, or between~ all that pressure pushed them out. Needless to say, this technique is known within the dental industry but it doesn’t cost the patient as much as braces and extractions…capitalism

    I have used the technique for two years, my front teeth have uncrossed and are “unbucking”~ so my breathing is improving, my teeth are aligning so i am chewing and digesting better, so my energy flow is better.

    if we focus on this pose we are less distracted by the maya/illusion of what is important~ like what people really think of us, the car cutting ahead of us, and the stress of bills etc


  4. years ago when i was a spandex-clad speedskater we were coached to breathe in with our noses and out with our mouths. aside from warming the air a bit better it limited how much we sucked in and kept us from hyperventilating if we were so inclined to do so. so my first thought is that it would have something to do with that.

    alternatively it could keep one from biting their tongue, though i suspect it’s something more akin to char’s final sentence given the meditative nature of any martial art.


  5. Interesting there are multiple reasons. I find it a little awkward to exhale through the mouth if the tongue is touching the roof, though. In some tai chi and yoga classes, we say “ha” on the exhale. To do that, I have to not keep pressing the tongue upward. Do you keep the same position on inhale and exhale?


  6. @neijia Yes, I keep the tongue in the same position – but of course, I have no guarantee that I’m doing it correctly… I’ve got used to it now, and I don’t find it bothers me, either inhaling or exhaling.


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