Anxiety Tip: Tongue Pressure

This is part of my Start Here series of posts aimed at teaching beginners the basics of the meditative journey.

This is something I figured out a long time ago but forgot to write up. It is extremely simple and I’m looking forward to hearing your results.

  • Push the tip of the tongue firmly against the gum behind the front two teeth. Maintain this pressure the whole time you are out, except when you need to speak.
  • In especially anxious situations, breathe out through the nose in short, sharp exhales while maintaining the tongue pressure. Each exhale causes a reflexive inhale. This will dissipate anxiety very quickly when it arises.

Pushing the tongue against this area activates nerves which are part of the “positivity circuit”. These nerves being turned on is the origin of both the phrases “stiff upper lip” and “keep your chin up” (as the chin will also rise when doing this). It turns off and directly counteracts the jaw clenching which is part of the strong “negativity circuit” of anxiety and rumination. Mapping the neurological circuits, and how to activate them consciously, is a very important part of being able to consciously control your mood.

Tongue pressure against the front teeth will cause the head to rise and will improve posture dramatically. It will also tend you towards smiling, since that is on the same positivity circuit you are activating. It also keeps the top of the spine active for positive upward energy flow, whereas in the anxiety state lower spine regions (e.g. the adrenal circuit) tend to be more active.

If you find your tongue naturally favouring one “nook” to the left or right of the front two teeth, e.g. between the left and left-middle incisor or right and right-middle incisor, then let it push there instead. This is a natural correction for asymmetrical nerve activity in the face caused by myofascial winding/distortion (but do not worry about that at all while out and about). If the tongue also wants to push against the bottom front teeth at times you should also allow that.

This is insanely simple yet has dramatic, tangible positive results in an almost immediate time frame, with positivity increasing the longer the tongue pressure is applied. Please let me know how it goes!

Need help with your meditation? Book a Skype coaching session →

42 Responses

  1. Théo Hudry says:

    It works amazing Ed! Thank you! I have a constant jaw clenching and tension in the neck problem, it seems you solved it! It seems to clear my head and “center me in my PFC”, are you ok with me sharing it on my French blog if the benefits persists?

  2. Théo Hudry says:

    Of course, the back link goes without saying ^^

  3. sebster says:

    This works! 🙂

  4. chonghe says:

    Did I do this correctly? I push the tongue to the back of my front teeth and then find difficulty in swallowing saliva. So I have to put back the tongue when swallow saliva? Thanks

    • Illuminatus says:

      You just smile to swallow saliva. 🙂

      The face will cause you to smile and feel good quite quickly — just let it happen. 🙂

      • chonghe says:

        Thanks for replying. I will try.

        So this will be helpful when I am in an anxious situation?

        • Illuminatus says:


          To make it really work the tongue pressure should be continuous, i.e. you start doing it while you are walking to wherever you are going, and continue doing it while there.

          The breath technique of short, sharp exhales is to be done in very anxious situations.

          • chonghe says:

            Thanks for the technique. I will try it next time.

            Something just bugs me, if doing this posture then the mouth has to be closed, or else it looks weird. Problem is I usually left my mouth open..

            • Illuminatus says:

              The mouth SHOULD be closed. There is a variety of reasons for this, including nerve flows (facial expression and mood/cognition have a 1:1 relationship; you should take this very seriously) and myofascial tone (closed mouth, in a smile, lifts the whole body upwards and restores “poise”).

              “Mouth open” is part of what you might call the “uncertainty circuit”. It is literally part of your anxiety. If you pay attention you will also notice that, when your mouth is open, your eyes become more open, especially with the centre of the eyebrows/forehead rising up. This is part of a “despondency” or “helplessness” emotional set.

              Closing the mouth and introducing the tongue pressure I have said causes 1) that centre eyebrow/forehead muscle tone to relax and 2) a smile to form eventually, and all the other things I said in the post.

              You need to trust what I’m saying more and do the technique as I have prescribed, and try it several times, BEFORE creating problems about it.

              I have been doing this stuff a long time. I know things 99.9% of people do not know about themselves. You want to keep your mouth open, and the other things, because these are all HABITS you have acquired. And these habits are a direct part of your ANXIETY. This technique directly counteracts things you have been doing for YEARS. Yes, it will feel strange to go against those habits. But it is what NEEDS TO BE DONE if you want the correct results.

              • chonghe says:

                Thanks for reply. Appreciate that. Definitely give it a go.

                Strange I ticked notify by email for all comments however I did not receive any, hence the late in reply.

              • Fernando says:

                Illuminates i want if you can help me choose meditation type for my anxious, i have very strong pain in cheeks and face when meditate or when out walking. In meditation it become stronger and sharper and not sure how it to fiix. I try feel it pure but get no release feeling just pain. I feel like needs to be big release in face head and neck but don’t know how to get there please help

                • Illuminatus says:

                  Hi Fernando,

                  You have two options.

                  1) The best option is, when you are meditating, to imagine you are watching yourself meditate from behind. So, imagine you are behind and above your body, looking at your body as you breathe.

                  2) If you are currently watching the breath at the nose or somewhere else on the face, stop that and start watching the breath at the BASE OF THE SPINE instead. And make that your standard “awareness location” while meditating.

                  If you find #1 too difficult then try #2 instead.

                  The problem is that your awareness is in the head area which is turning on those facial nerves, and they are tightly wound with a connective tissue called myofascia, hence the tightness.. Putting awareness AWAY from the face while meditating will away the face to relax and the myofascia to unwind. You should meditate for at least 30 minutes for the best results.

                  Personally, I currently meditate watching my body from behind, as I want to be outside body awareness because I get similar problems which are highly distracting. This method solves the problem.

                  • Illuminatus says:

                    To find the base of your spine, squeeze your anus then it is a spot immediately in front of that.

                    Meditation on the base of the spine improves grounding, so it is good for anxiety.

                  • Illuminatus says:

                    Fernando, I just remembered a more immediate possible solution for your problem. Do this for at least 2 minutes before meditation:

                    1) Stand up, arms by sides.
                    2) Tilt head back as far as it will go. The aim is to have the mouth aligned over the top of the spine, but do not worry if you cannot get that far yet.
                    3) Press lips together. Breathe in slowly through the nose till your whole body is full.
                    4) For the out-breath, smile and say “Ahhhhh”. The out-breath will be a lot faster than the in-breath.

                    Repeat for at least 2 minutes.

                    Please let me know whether this solves your facial tension problem.

  5. Kautilya says:

    It’s so strange I wanted to ask a question and was gonna go back to an old post of yours.

    Through recent events or possibly change in times I’ve become very worried recently about ‘Game’ and all that it involves. I don’t really like too much if all that sets, conversion, lays stuff……but at the root of it I can’t deny that I want to be able to approach Anyone full of vitality, power and calmness.

    It’s starting to bother me that if I go in holiday for a week will i be able to go to a nightclub, midday or create a social circle. I read a post that said meditation bypasses all the teaching in seduction science anyways. I feel this may have me thinking ‘oh since I haven’t mastered Jhana I can’t do it all until then’ even disrespecting spiritual states.

    Is it wrong that I do care about my primal needs and want success which hasn’t been much for a while – not that I’m some fucking loser – just circumstances were that I haven’t been out for long time and I’m completely lost as to how to go about it now – in actual life.

    Apologies if this is bullshit.

    • Illuminatus says:

      Meditation is nothing to do with picking up girls. The reality is, if you go out, on any given night out, you’re basically on your own. If you want to approach you have to muster the balls to approach and just get on with it. Meditation won’t help you, and is no excuse for not doing X, Y or Z if that’s what you want to do in life.

      Now, in future can you please post questions like this on the forum? That’s what it’s there for. This comment was completely off-topic.

      Also, your English was very poor in this comment — half the sentences literally made no sense. Can you give things a better check before posting please?

  6. Joe Sargent says:

    Hey man, wondering if you have any references re. the connection between tongue pressure and positive emotions/neural circuits. I’ve done a cursory search for further information and haven’t been able to turn anything up. Thanks.

    p.s. Love your website.

    • Illuminatus says:

      You won’t find any references based in Western science. Science is quite good at making gadgets and other machines, because it is an extension of the left brain. When it comes to emotions and holistic knowledge of the body though, it is achingly poor.

      But you will find such maps in yoga and meditation texts and practices. The Buddha for example is said to have meditated with his tongue pressed against the roof of his mouth. It is also a common yoga meditation face shape. Besides promoting “up-energy”, it also inhibits the speech apparatus and therefore reduces verbal thought. If you try this technique for a few minutes you might notice that you had far fewer verbal thoughts during it (though you will likely drop back into verbal thought while noticing, at which point you might not appreciate the length of the gap that occurred between the thoughts — a common issue with beginner meditators). Verbal thoughts tend to be paranoid while in response to anxiety and add fuel to the fire, so cutting them down reduces this part of the problem.

      • Arpan says:

        This tongue pressed against the roof is called Khechari mudra. “Khechar” stands for an avian.
        Among other things it is most conducive to experience of soma/amrita/”nectar of immortality” a sweet blissful “syrup” that seems to flow from head into the mouth during samadhi sometimes. Yogis with a more materialistic viewpoint hypothesise that it is simply the familiar bliss energy being interpreted as a tactile sensation of a liquid syrup by the mind. It does have a very rejuvenating impact on the system.

        Also, it is said to be most conducive for gaining visions of siddhas( siddha stands for “perfected being” somebody who is purified And has gained many siddhis..said to be 84 in many traditions including buddhism). You might find a reference to this in yogasutras too.

        This mudra is also good for inhibiting terrible fear. Buddha used it for same while meditating in dangerous forests during his ascetic days when he was working on fear.

        • James says:

          I thought Khechari Mundra was sticking the tongue back into the nasal cavity?

          • Arpan says:

            That is where it ultimately goes. But most ppl cannot do that and start with what’s mentioned here. Perfect lkhechari requires a long flexible tongue and hath yogis work to elongate it. Oil massages on tongue and pulling it are things resorted to by hardcore hathyogis. But good hath yogis are a rare now. It is also recommended for astral travel..that’s why named Khechari(soul can fly out freely like a bird).

  7. ANTHONY says:

    Omg thank you

  8. Julie says:

    Is there a meditation that goes with this exercise to stop pushing against your front teeth? Thanks!

  9. Lindi Kessinger says:

    As an OralFacial Myologist I teach patients proper tongue position, correct swallow, nasal breathing and proper lip seal. This is very important for overall function. I would not however for normal everyday use, try to use pressure on “the spot” as we refer to it. Lightly placing the tongue in that spot is very important but over exerting pressure can cause overcompensation of your neck, jaw and other facial muscles. You want to have a normal resting posture with the tongue remaining on “the spot”. Sounds like Oral Myofunctional Therapy exercises would go along very well with your goals for meditation.

  10. Pretheesh says:

    Thanks for the tip.

    I purposefully try to open my mouth a bit at the gym (which I just started going to regularly now for one month) while moving around at gym, so that people don’t see me as an asshole without understanding that it is anxiety issues. As the gentle opening of mouth exposes front teeth and is kind of a gentle friendly facial expression.

    Coincidentally I read this article now. 🙂


    • Illuminatus says:

      “so that people don’t see me as an asshole without understanding that it is anxiety issues”

      From a Law of Attraction perspective, it is the act of imagining people seeing you as an asshole that inevitably makes that come true. Your assumption about the world is what brings that world into being. This is the same as someone anxious who worries about being bullied all the time. They imagine it, so it becomes true.

      Rather than worrying about negative reactions, instead imagine positive (or at least neutral) ones. Imagine this every day until it becomes the only way you can see the world. New assumptions can transform your world very quickly. (It is simply that people are resistant to adopting new assumptions that drags the process out; in this case the evidence that it works must be presented to yourself over and over again until it sticks.)

      • Pretheesh says:

        Yes right, there is a stubbornness/resistance to drop unhelpful thought patterns. As if keeping such negative thoughts will give me some sort of protection, though it won’t, it just makes things worse and suffering for me.

        Is it not better to first go straight into the physical contractions that arise with thoughts and have those released or atleast stay with it(so that actual discomfort is seen for what it is rather than outwardly projecting into people) so as to gradually be open to new positive intentions.

        For eg, having thought of future shame/ threatening thoughts etc if looked there is nothing other than discomfort in body and thoughts, which I tend to avoid or get lost in outward projection, rather than staying with the discomfort.


        • Pretheesh says:

          I am trying to cultivate a mindset or plan through which I can gradually get over psychological fear of panic in front of people , which by itself contributes lot of defensiveness and unwillingness to let go of stubborn pattern.

          • Illuminatus says:

            I will give you a rough plan.

            1. Cultivate restful states via meditation and enter such states for at least 30 minutes each day. Learn this as a priority. This gives you a “contrast” to your anxiety so you can see it more clearly and learn to let it go.

            2. Spend five minutes after meditation visualizing reactions you WANT from people — the types of friendships you want to be enjoying in a year’s time. Repeat such visualizations throughout the day.


            If you asked other people they might give you all sorts of programmes for self-help, self-talk, approaching other people, learning improv comedy, joining Toastmasters to acquire confidence, and so forth. These can all really help. However, these mean nothing without restful states and imagination of a desired future.

            • Pretheesh says:

              Thank you very much. I understand the benefit of visualization. Just have to make it a constant lifestyle habit.

              (even the consciousness teacher ‘peter ralston’ discovered accidentally the essence of judo while visualizing ‘judo throws’ in mind. He became a great fighter without fear of getting hit) -just mentioned it, might be interesting.

              I am also trying to see fear/discomfort/stubbornness as a challenge through which I have to pierce through little by little rather than fighting or avoiding.

              Thanks for the supportive suggestions.

            • Pretheesh says:

              Will check out the video


              • Pretheesh says:

                I have a conflict of ‘conquering fear’/’build courage’ which are my thought based identity fears or simply seeing the world in a new way instead of wasting energy on conquering my own thought-up fears.

                I was also going through the article on ‘Why choose love’

                • Illuminatus says:

                  You do not “conquer fear”. Instead, you simply let it go, dissolving into silence in a restful state.

                  You do not “build courage”. Instead, you imagine the situations you WANT to experience, and let them arise in their own time.

                  You are expressing “old ways” of doing things; the ways taught by non-meditators. You need to let this mindset go. It doesn’t work for them, and it won’t work for you.

                  • Pretheesh says:


                    Today at gym, I felt like one guy is kind of a disrespectful guy and my thoughts were strong to have negative thoughts about him.
                    But before going to gym after meditation I felt like tensing up is kind of showing I am not willing to grow up.

                    So in gym after a while I decided to have eye contact and smile at him and enquired about his work etc(even though my voice had a shake but kept a friendly face), he also talked to me friendly, enquired about me calling me brother etc.

                    • Pretheesh says:

                      What about keeping a formal intention during meditation-sitting like ‘I intend to develop the patience and maturity to stay with difficult ‘thought-sensation combo’ like ‘i might panic, I might be shamed’ etc during sitting and also to the extend I can stay with it patiently even under places (public places) I feel most uncomfortable.

                      Because the tendency to get rid of or force difficult feelings to release won’t help.

  11. Pretheesh says:

    Or might adopt the ‘love’ approach , rather than being stuck in ‘me-and-my-panic’ 🙂
    I find a little openness with people when I picturized themselves as someone stuck in life (imagining as if they were my brother etc I do not want my defensive attitude to further keep them stuck), so that my presence might be beneficial to un-stuck them and myself.

    So there is a lightness in approaching people, even sometimes feel like an urge to cry when visualizing. I think such an approach will be useful even if I have to stand up for myself because I am not coming from a place of seeing them as enemies(which just keeps myself stuck and in fear to act when necessary) but an intention of freeing up for both myself and others.

  12. Jane says:

    I would like to know how to quiet my mind at night. It buzzes and looks for things to feel bad or regretful about. I also clench my jaw when I sleep or create a suction with my tongue pressing behind my upper front teeth.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *