Tension and the Muscles of the Tongue
By John Diamond, M.D.
It has been said that muscles have memories. And no muscles have more memories than the external muscles that control the tongue. Every negative emotion that has afflicted us throughout our lives, it seems, is held in those muscles – every cry of anguish, every sob of sorrow, every negative statement of anger, of resentment, of hurt.
In an angry person’s right forearm you can feel the muscle tension from the aggression that was not released by a physical blow. Imagine all that was not expressed, or not completely expressed, being locked in the muscles of the tongue (hence the expression “bite your tongue”).
Furthermore, Daniel Garliner has shown that due to faulty breast – or bottle-feeding, very few people use their tongues correctly, as, for example, in the apparently simple but actually very complex act of swallowing [For more on this, refer to Myofunctional Therapy in Dental Practice, by Daniel Garliner (New York: Bartel Dental Book Co.), l971].
With each individual I find extremely painful pressure points in the muscles at the root of the tongue on the floor of the mouth. For many years I have practiced a technique to release these tender points. It is a very painful procedure. I squeeze the tender points for only a second or so, which generally causes them to release.
In all my experience in working with patients’ bodies, I have found nothing that is more painful than the squeezing of these points. (I can also speak from personal experience, because I first discovered and practiced this technique on myself.) It is so painful that as soon as the last and most sensitive point is released, the one in the muscle at the root of the tongue, I instinctively gently clasp the person’s head with my hands as the tears stream from his eyes.
The fact that these points are so painful is an indication of just how poorly we use our tongues. As Garliner suggests, this goes back to the first months of life.
There has been considerable corroboration of the memory function of these muscles. Many patients have told me that during this procedure they think of the situation that they believe is locked there. Usually it is one of great anger. They did not say what they had wanted to say. They had held back and “bitten their tongues.” Other negative emotions were also stored there, and these caused the muscles to go into spasm, leaving the action of the tongue unbalanced and distorted.
One of the chief advantages of this technique is that there is always a great improvement in the speaking voice afterwards. Invariably, a person will exclaim that his tongue feels free, as if it had no weight, and that he can speak just as he wishes. It has also had a dramatic effect in some cases of lisp. Further, it relaxes and releases the singing voice, and gives new ease to singing.
There is another way. These muscles will release themselves through a very simple exercise. The problem started with faulty sucking, and the correction is to suck properly. I ask the person to put his second finger in his mouth and gently suck on it, imagining that the finger is the nipple. With his tongue he strokes the finger in the way that it should have stroked and milked the nipple. (I say “should have” because, as Garliner states, this is the basis of the problem. Through faulty feeding, the baby did not milk the nipple correctly.)
I also emphasize to the person that it is very important to concentrate on his breathing at the same time, allowing it to be very natural. Most people, I find, tend to hold their breath while they suck, indicating the stress learned in this faulty pattern which was embedded perhaps during the first week of life.
I recommend this exercise to everyone. Musicians, particularly wind players, as the use of the tongue is so critical, violinists and violists, who nearly always have intense spasm in these muscles, and, of course, singers, have reported marked improvement when they do this exercise several times each day. Public speakers have commented on the new ease they feel in making their presentations. Dentists, who often stress their head and neck muscles due to the postures they adopt, also feel a difference when they carry out this simple exercise. It is of particular value to do this exercise at night to release the tensions which have accumulated throughout the day.