from Kalama sutra, translation from the Pali by Bhikkhu Bodhi

This blog included. "So, as I said, Kalamas: 'Don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, "This contemplative is our teacher." When you know for yourselves that, "These qualities are unskillful; these qualities are blameworthy; these qualities are criticized by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to harm & to suffering" — then you should abandon them.' Thus was it said. And in reference to this was it said.

"Now, Kalamas, don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, 'This contemplative is our teacher.' When you know for yourselves that, 'These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness' — then you should enter & remain in them. Buddha - Kalama Sutta

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Rare tongue yoga footage and the role of the tongue in the eight limbs of Ashtanga

Many are familiar with the nauli, the belly churning Kriya

Perhaps not so familiar, and on a rock further down the river, I recently discovered the great and renowned tongue yogis of Ber-ksh-ire.

Below is rare footage indeed of the advanced series kriya, Tongue nauli 

More tongue nauli from the Intermediate series

Ok, so just a bit of fun to show off my colleagues and their remarkable talents.

However, perhaps it's interesting to reflect on the role of the tongue in our practice

Tongue yoga

In the eight limbs of Ashtanga...

we find mindfulness of speech in the yamas

1. Ahimsa (अहिंसा): Nonviolence. Abstinence from injury; harmlessness, the not causing of pain to any living creature in thought, word, or deed at any time

2. Satya (सत्य): truthfulness, word and thought in conformity with the facts.

...and in the 10 traditional Niyamas

Japa: recitation, chanting mantras daily;

Svādhyāya: study of the Vedic scriptures (remember it was and often still is an oral tradition)

we clearly have the advanced series tongue vinyasas above as well as simhasana, lion face,

 Khechari Mudra
As S points out in comments there is also Khechari Mudra, Traditionally this involved cutting the frenulum a hairs width at a time, week by week, for three years. I've heard too that it is possible to take a kinder approach where you stretch the tongue back towards your soft pallet  for a period of time each day. S. writes in the comments

"There is another very important tongue action in yoga - Khechari Mudra. I have learned mine with Shri Shailendra Sharma in India. It is achieved by the series of special kriyas rather than cutting the base of the tongue. I can't say it was totally painless but it worked fine".

See the comments for a second comment from S with more details on this.

Also, by coincidence, I just recived Shandor Remete's book Shadow Yoga, Charya Yoga. This book was recommended to me in comments to previous posts in relation to the Ten Vayus and also the Eight Marmas. Opening it at work this morning I find on page 55, a chapter on....The Tongue (page 56). More on this soon.

Interesting book by the way and some wonderful illustrations.

See the Pranayama techniques Sitali, mentioned below. In the approach Ramaswami describes, the tongue is folded back at the end of the inhalation....

"fold the tongue, and touch the top of the upper palate, even the uvula if possible, This is called jivha bandha".

Here's Krishnamacharya writing on the traditional approach in his Yoga Makaranda of 1938.

"After first learning the yoga marmas with the help of a sat guru who is still practicing this, cut 1/12 of one angula measure (width of one hair ) of the thin seed of skin at the bottom of the tongue with a sharp knife. Apply a well-powdered paste of sainthava lavanam salt (rock salt) on the area of the cut. Rub cows butter on both sides of the tongue, and holding the tip of the tongue with a small iron tong, pull the tongue out carefully, little by little. Repeat this pulling (the pulling) every day. once a week, as mentioned above, cut the seed of flesh at the base of the tongue very carefully. practice this for three years. the tongue will lengthen and will easily be able to touch the middle of the eyebrows. After it lengthens this much, fold it inside the mouth, keep it in the cavity which is alongside the base of the inner tongue and fix the gaze on the mid brow". Krishnamacharya Yoga Makaranda. p47



"1. Sit in a comfortable asana.

2. Curl the tongue into a roll, protrude it and inhale through the wet tongue.

3. At the end of the inhalation, release the curl, fold the tongue, and touch the top of the upper palate, even the uvula if possible, This is called jivha bandha.

4. Then stretch the back of the neck, drop the chin to around three inches below the neck pit, forming kantha bandha.

5. After Kumbhaka (retention) exhale through alternate nostrils (or both and visualise alternating).

6. Repeat wetting the tongue (before inhalation) -the air conditioning pranayama"
Srivatsa Ramaswami : Yoga for the Three Stages of Life p209

The withdrawal of the senses would include that of taste

Dharana, Dhyana, Samadhi we may employ the chanting of mantra 

Here's Ramaswami again

"The meditation or chanting of the mantra would be referred to as
pranava dhyana or pranava japa. Pranava itself is a beautiful word.
Scholars refer to it as a word derived from the root “Nam” or “nam” to
bow (Nam prahvi bhave) as used in namah or namaste. 'Prakarshena nauti
sthouti iti pranavah', meaning pranava is the highest praise or
obeisance to the highest principle, here Iswara or Brahman. Another
interesting interpretation of this word comes from deriving the word
from another root 'nav' (or nava) to begin or new like 'novo'.  Since
Brahman is said to be pure consciousness and never changes it is
always new, always 'nava' and hence pranava.

There are other important mantras who have separate names. The Gayatri
mantra which is of the gayatri meter refers to the mantra starting
with 'tat savitur..' and even though there are many other mantras in
the Gayatri meter, only this particular mantra, the brain child of
Viswamitra is referred to as gayatri. Then we have another famous
mantra “namassivaya”. This namassivaya mantra is more often referred
to as 'panchakshari' or five syllable mantra even as there are scores
of other mantras which have five syllables. 'Om namo narayanaya' my
Guru's favorite mantra is known as ashtakshari as it has eight
syllables. 'Om namo bhagavate vasudevaya' is a very popular Krishna
mantra and is known as 'dwadasakshari' as there are 12 syllables in
The mantras especially pranava were chanted, meditated upon and
referred to with considerable devotion and respect in the olden days".

January 2012 Newsletter from Srivatsa Ramaswami—Yoga, Knowing the


  1. There is another very important tongue action in yoga - Khechari Mudra. I have learned mine with Shri Shailendra Sharma in India. It is achieved by the series of special kriyas rather than cutting the base of the tongue. I can't say it was totally painless but it worked fine.


  2. Thanks for this Y, have heard/read of a non cutting approach, sure I saved the file but can't find it now. As you learned it did it involve folding the tongue back for extended periods as well as pulling on the tongue.

    have updated the post to include Krishnamacharya writing on it in the Yoga Makaranda as well as your comment.

    This started off as a bit of fun to show off my colegues party trick and put asana in the perspective of the other limbs but the more I've thought about it the more I think the tongue is an interesting topic for a post, mindfulness of speech, oral tradition of study, chanting, withdrawing of the sense re diet...

    thanks for your comment.

  3. I was initiated into Kriya Yoga in 2005 and received beginers kriyas to help me to stretch my tongue. There were two initial exercises that you repeat so may times and I mean it, hundreds of times! Once the mudra achieved and the tongue stays up and behind the Uvula then all the kriyas, pranayamas and retentions of breath given by my Guru must be performed with khechari mudra only. I can't talk in detail what exactly is done and how as I have given a vow to my Guru to keep it secret. These tongue exercises are dynamic. Folding the tongue back for extended periods is practiced when Khechari Mudra(in kriya yoga tradition) is achieved and tongue stays up without slipping out of the cavity. I've seen my Guruji cutting the base of the tongue of one disciple who could not achieve the mudra for couple of years but that was the only one case I've ever seen all other disciples achieved it with kriyas over time.

    P.S. Recently i bumped into an article by the Russian guys that I knew from the past and learn that Mark Darby also was initiated in this tradition --
    Mark Darby: From russian yogis I received the information how to get the practice of this from Shailendra Sharma. Before for me term kriya yoga was cleansing practices, shatkarmas. We knew Yogananda`s book, Autobiography of Yogi, but we did not know the practice like the way Shailendra taught us.
    the article is here
    This is recent video of my Guru if that tickles your fancy
    Love your blog and the personality behind it.

  4. Thank you S for posting more on this, at work now but look forward to following up on your links when I get home.

    Just received Shandor Remete's book, recommended from a previous post and find a chapter on the Tongue and some different approaches to Khechari Mudra, will write more on that in the body of the post this evening.

    I remember hearing Richard Freeman say that he was tempted to try the cuttiig approach but had never come across anyone prepared to show him how to do it.

  5. Sorry, that should be thank you Y not S.

  6. you could probably pay your dentist or oral surgeon to cut the frenelum for you and cauterize the cut at the same time, so no salt or recutting would be required. ;)

    I'm surprised with all the piercings in modern day that this has not become a craze for spiritually vested teens looking for the newest high...

  7. I taught a young Japanese woman (taught English in Japan for a number of years) who was a singer and when she was quite young her teacher had her have an operation to cut the base of the tongue, so she could sing in German.

  8. Here is a bit more on Khechari Mudra
    Khechari-mudra – is a yoga practice which is performed by placing the tongue above the soft palate and stretching it into the nasal cavity and further, to the area between eyebrows. This practice helps to awaken spiritual energies of the body. According to Abhinavagupta (approx. 950 – 1020 AD), khecari mudra is «the stance of moving or flying through the void of the supreme consciousness». This mudra is also described in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika.(
    Hatha Yoga Pradipika
    Chapter 3

    32. The Kechari Mudra is accomplished by thrusting the tongue into the gullet, by turning it over itself, and keeping the eyesight in the middle

    33. To accomplish this, the tongue is lengthened by cutting the fraenum linguae, moving, and pulling it. When it can touch the space between the eyebrows, then the Kechari can be accomplished.

    34. Taking a sharp, smooth and clean instrument, of the shape of a cactus leaf, the frenulum of the tongue should be cut a little (as much as a hairs thickness), at a time.

    35. Then rock salt and yellow myrobalan (both powdered) should be rubbed in. On the 7th day, it should again be cut a hair's breadth.

    36. One should go on doing thus, regularly for six months. At the end of six months, the freanum of the tongue will be completely cut.

    37. Turning the tongue upwards, it is fixed on three ways (esophagus, windpipe and palate). Thus it makes the Khachari Mudra, and is called the Vyoma Chakra.

    38. The Yogi who sits for a minute turning his tongue upwards, is saved from poisons, diseases, death, old age, etc.

    39. He who knows the Kechari Mudra is not afflicted with disease, death, sloth, sleep, hunger, thirst, and swooning.

    40. He who knows the Kechari Mudra, is not troubled by diseases, is not stained with karmas, and is not snared by time.

    41. The Siddhas have devised this Kechari Mudra from the fact that the mind and the tongue reach akasa by its practice.

    42. If the hole behind the palate be stopped with Kechari by turning the tongue upwards, then bindu cannot leave its place even if a women were embraced.

    More here:


  9. Thanks for that anon, K is quoting almost directly from HYP in the quote I included in the post.

    have a look at Shando Remete's Shadow yoga book on this, interesting approach.

    here's a link

    Section on the tongue starts on page 56



Creative Commons License
Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga at home by Anthony Grim Hall is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at