There are basically three ways.
Your tongue closes before moving out. (See “How you get tongue-closures”). Your lips don’t meet tightly enough; your tongue pops out. (See “How you close your lips”).
How it works: Your tongue pulls and squeezes on air that comes into a closed mouth. You let go. The air is pushed through your mouth.
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It doesn’t work the way your eyes, ears, or nose should. When you do it right, you get all the air you’d want, and you don’t lose or leak air.
But if your tongue doesn’t push properly, you can close your mouth tightly and pop out your tongue to breathe.
“It is like doing a little dance,” says Michael St. Martin, the chief of the oral surgery department at Boston Medical Center’s Maimonides Medical Center.
Your tongue’s job is not to be the motor to air into the mouth; it’s to pull the air through your mouth, he says.
And some patients find he can stay open so long on the tongue it’s like opening a valve while your lungs are filling with air. That’s why you should check with your doctor or nurse before trying this, he says.
That’s part of what St. Martin calls the “tongue movement dance”—just like the one in the movie Titanic or in the movie The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, but without the dancing.
In any case, it’s hard to keep open while trying things like this. “You can’t really force [breath]. You’re not going to go up and down on your tongue or use your tongue like that,” he says.
It’s also difficult to close your mouth while your lips are still together, St. Martin says. “Your body’s just not quite there. It’s not quite an open and closed body.”
This is especially true if you’re not drinking enough, he says.
Even when you close your lips and stay calm and relaxed, there’s still more work to do—like making sure you don’t let anyone else breathe in here.
Even before you decide to try this—and before you do it often, say once per week—check with your doctor or nurse first. “In my experience, most don’t want to do the dance, and most don’t want it done to patients who are really sick
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