Jivha Pariksa–tongue diagnosis–is a simple and easily learned Ayurvedic diagnostic technique that can reveal deep truths about the state of our health that we otherwise might overlook if we do not know how to look. And in the western world, this is the case for most of us. In regards to our tongues, we were simply taught to brush its surface with our toothbrush every day. But beyond this teaching, we are mostly ignorant to the wealth of knowledge and insight that the tongue is constantly sharing with us.
Jivha Pariksha is the art and science of reading the tongue, which is always revealing information about the gastrointestinal organs, as well as many other functions and systems of the body. The tongue, like the eyes, the face, the pulse and like the yoni (vagina), holds a map of our whole physical and energetic body. And luckily, this technique of assessment is easy enough that it can be done by anyone at home, with a little understanding and practice. But of course, we always recommend that for a comprehensive and accurate health assessment, do refer to an Ayurvedic professional like our founder Tiffany.
DIVISION BY DOSHA
The upper, middle and lower portions of the tongue, like the body, can be divided by which Dosha governs that particular section.
The back of the tongue is governed by Vata dosha, the middle by Pitta, and the top/tip of the tongue, by Kapha. Not surprisingly, this division reflects the same one that is witnessed in the body overall, where the root, or bottom part of the body is governed by Vata, the middle by Pitta and the top by Kapha. Thus, these sections of the tongue are also directly correlated with the organs and systems that reside in that dosha's section of the body. For example, the back of the tongue will reveal what is currently going on in the kidneys and small and large intestine because those organs are found in the Vata area of the body and thus, governed by Vata.
There are 5 important aspects to consider when assessing the tongue as a diagnostic tool. They are: colour, shape, location, coating and movement.
The ideal colour for the tongue is a pink-y colour and anything that deviates from this is a signifier of an imbalance of some sort.
Vata Imbalance: the tongue is grey, black or brown, dark red, bluish/purple, blackish or orange
Pitta Imbalance: the tongue is orange, bright red, purplish, yellow or green (pointing to excess fire (heat) in the system)
Kapha Imbalance: the tongue is pale, whitish
A short and thin tongue indicates a Vata Prakruti (original constitution), while long and pointed points to a Pitta one. A Kapha constitution will have a large and thick tongue.
Vata Imbalance: furrows, fissures, small, thin, a few or many cracks, scalloped and/or fissured sides, depression behind the tip, concave surface
Pitta Imbalance: swelling, redness, ulcers, sores, swollen and red tip, red spots, convex surface
Kapha Imbalance: swollen, swollen tip with a normal colour, swollen between tip and centre, white spots, puffy in spots
The tongue can be further divided into sections that correspond to specific organs. Variations in colour, shape, moisture and coating seen within these sections can indicate what is going in those correlated organs and organ systems.
Governed by Vata (back of the tongue): kidneys, intestines, colon
Governed by Pitta (middle of the tongue): spleen, stomach, pancreas, liver
Governed by Kapha (front of the tongue): lungs and heart
When you wake in the morning, you may notice that there is a slimy coating on the back of your tongue. Unsurprisingly, this coating generally turns up at the back of the tongue, which as we've discussed, is correlated with the small and large intestines, pointing to the quality of our digestion and eliminatory function, or the quality of food and drink that we consumed the day before. However, it is possible for the coating to turn up on other areas of the tongue, pointing to toxic load in that corresponding organ. If the entire tongue is coated on the other hand, this indicate that the toxins are in the bloodstream and being dispersed to the entire body.
While it is normal to wake up with a slight white coating that can be removed completely with tongue scraping, anything else is a signifier of imbalance. It is an indication of toxic build-up in the system and/or dysfunctional Agni.
Vata Imbalance Coating: dry, clear, grey, brown, moldy, black (indicates severe vata). Found in the colon and small intestines area.
Pitta Imbalance Coating: yellow, pale yellow, dirty yellow, yellow-brown, green, greasy. Found in the area of the small or large intestine, liver or all over the tongue (indicating Pitta in the bloodstream).
Kapha Imbalance Coating: clear, white, pale yellow, thick, very moist, greasy, mucousy. Found in the colon, lungs, stomach and the kidneys area.
Movement in all of nature, and thus in the body, is governed by Vata dosha. Easeful movement is indicative of balance and health, and specifically, healthy Vata, while dysfunctional movement can point to imbalances. Some imbalanced movement would be a shaking/vibrating tongue, a wagging tongue that moves back and forth, and the inability to extend the tongue out to even examine it, or an extremely protruding tongue.
While this is a general and simplified explanation of the Jivha Pariksa, examining your own tongue will be a curious and deeply beneficial daily practice that you can incorporate into your morning tongue scraping routine, taking 10 seconds before you scrape or brush to look at your tongue and notice how it shifts according to what you eat, how you eat, to lifestyle changes, sleep patterns, emotions, etc. This will bring you into deepened connection with the constant communication that your body is sharing with you. And if you aren't yet tongue scraping every day...then what are you waiting for? To learn more about the endless benefits of tongue scraping (Jivhanirlekhana), click here!