Common steps and sub-activities
There are two types of technique that press the Roof of the Mouth – tongue curling is used in the more advanced yoga practises and is called Khechari Mudra; it is somewhat extreme in its methods. Another less dramatic version is called Tongue pressing. These days, most people within their yoga practise tend to use the latter technique. But they work in different ways. Thus the one is not an alternative to the other.
I have derived a description of this technique from a little book by Dr Vasant G Rele called The Mysterious Kundalini. It is a tiny book, but provides a wealth of useful information on the more effective yoga techniques.
He was a medical doctor based in Bombay and my copy of the book was based on a paper he produced in 1926.
He in turn based his findings on three Sanskrit texts – the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Shiva Samhita and Shatchakra nirupanam.
In the Khechari mudra, as can be seen from the diagram, the tongue is rolled backwards and up. It goes behind the soft palate [yes you are reading this correctly] so as to reach the base of the skull behind the posterior nasal openings.
The rolling of the tongue upwards and back-wards to reach the base of the skull, carries the superior surface of the tongue, with its end-organs of sensations away from influences outside. So with this technique we have a partial form of sensory deprivation.
By positioning the tongue where it is, the nasal passages are also partially blocked so breathing is also somewhat limited, meaning that we may also suffer a mild form of hypoxia.
The Khechari-mudra is said to be ‘the king amongst the Mudras’ because it is so effective if mastered. Here however, we have the million dollar problem. It is insanely difficult to master.
Dr Vasant G Rele -The Mysterious Kundalini
To all outward appearance a Yogi practising this mudra appears to be dead and in this condition he can remain as long as he likes either buried under the earth or above it.
Now it must have occurred to most of you that this mudra is not possible to achieve unless you have a very long tongue. To roll the tongue so as to act as a block, it must be long enough to reach the root of the nose between the eyebrows.
In order to get the tongue long enough to perform this feat of engineering two approaches are used, one surgical and one involving exercises.
The exercises seem less traumatic:
- Chalan requires you to move the tongue from side to side whilst you hold it with your fingers – this strengthens the muscle
- Dohana requires you to pull the tongue forward in a manner similar to milking a cow.
The surgical process is called Chedan and requires that you cut away very gradually at the band that holds the tongue to the base of the mouth.
So now you can see why most people are content with just tongue pressing.
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