How Can I Control a Compulsion to Swallow in Meditation?


I am new to meditation. I struggle with the feeling of needing to swallow almost every second and almost immediately upon closing my eyes. It causes great anxiety to the point that I spend almost all of my time trying to control the urge and "need" to swallow. HELP, it is SO distracting!!!

—Chris, USA


Dear Chris,

Your situation is actually quite common, don’t worry. I have heard it frequently. It will go away in time, by itself. However, here are some tricks you can try which may speed up this happy moment of freedom from continuous swallowing:

1) Yogananda taught to meditate with closed or alternatively with half open eyes. Try the half open eyes version, and see if it stops the saliva. While trying, remember that the eyes don’t look outside: you continue to look inside. The eyes remain slightly lifted, without any discomfort. The room should preferably be a little dark.

2) Some people say that if they place the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth, strong salivation will go away automatically. Try it and see if it works for you. Keep the mouth completely relaxed while trying it (this is actually the start of a very good meditative bandha, called jivha bandha, which directs energy upward to the spiritual eye) .

3) Maybe this salivation not only causes you great anxiety, but is caused by great anxiety. Salivation is a natural impulse when we have to digest something. In meditation think instead, “I have nothing to digest, nothing to achieve, nothing to reach.” Think: “Now I can just BE and ENJOY the moment, within myself.” Relax as much as you can, especially the mouth, but also your heart, your mind. If you put on some soothing music and focus intentionally on complete relaxation, salivation may slow down gradually. If it does, after some time stop the music and meditate in silence.

4) Salivation is regulated by the salivary gland. From a standpoint of Hatha Yoga we can regulate and balance our glands by the inverted poses. If you know the yoga postures, you may try a simple inverted pose right before starting to meditate. Try Matsyasana, the Fish Pose. Or Sasamgasana, the Hare Pose. Even Balasana, the Child Pose, is a slight inversion. Or if you have more experience, try Sarvangasana, the Shoulderstand, or Sirshasana, the Headstand. See if it helps.

If none of it helps, try something else: ask your own superconsciousness at the point between the eyebrows, “What can I do to stop it?” Then see if an intuitive answer comes to you, maybe a surprising one.

And if even that also doesn’t help, then turn the tables on salivation. Make it a positive experience. Say Yes to it. Meditate on it, thinking that you are swallowing divine nectar. Make it a welcome experience. Sometimes by changing our attitude, a “bad” experience can be turned into a most beautiful one.

You see, meditation is an art of experimentation, always. It is not a rigid dogma. As you keep meditating, the challenges will become less physical, but more mental or energetical, or devotional. Always there will be little tricks to discover which help you. Unfortunately, there is not one official trick which works for everyone in the same way. We truly need to be experimenting scientists in our own inner laboratory. Even our inner contact with God will be experimental, and very personal.

Yogananda explains (see The Essence of Self-Realization): “Belief is mental. It is like the hypotheses of science, which require testing by experimentation. Belief, in other words, is provisional. Its premises must be tested in the ‘laboratory’ of meditation, and proved in the direct experience of God.”

Good luck in becoming a happy meditative scientist,