Yawning: Contagious Relaxation

Sep 09

Yawn.
I mean it.. Yawn!

If you don’t feel a yawn coming on, that’s ok. Just fake it a few times, and you should find yourself yawning for real in a moment or two.

Now, take note of how you feel… maybe more relaxed? more focused?  (If the yawn made you sleepier, maybe you’re a wee bit sleep deprived and a nap is in order.)

So what’s going on here?  I wrote this about it elsewhere:

“Yawning has a pretty darn profound effect on the ol’ grey matter.  It increases blood flow, cools the brain,  increases alertness, improves  focus, regulates sleep cycles, kicks off a whole cocktail of important neuro-chemicals, and… get this… reduces stress and anxiety.”

Yawning triggers activity in the brain that are involved in social awareness and empathy reside –  which explains why yawns are contagious.  And research suggests that those same brain-bits are probably related to  consciousness, self reflection, self awareness, memory retrieval, and so on.  It’s also a part of the brain that is hardest hit by by age-related cognitive declines, diseases, and even ADD.   And guess what else activates this empathy-producing, consciousness raising, ADD fighting part of the brain?

Yogic breathing – a type of mindful, conscious and controlled breathing found in many meditation systems.

This is me again:

“The  yawning link to Yogic breathing and meditation makes some sense, what with the relationships between yawning, empathy, consciousness and awareness. Plus, there’s all the modern research on long-term meditators  and how they have lower risks of cognitive decline,  not to mention their very un-ADD-like relentless ability to stay focused.”

I thought it was interesting, anyway…  Interesting enough to make this the very first popcorn-bite of relaxation, here on Circus Serene!  Yawning is simple to do, free, portable, and requires no prep or equipment, making it a great go-to first line of defense when you need an extra dose of focus or relaxation.   Try it before a study session, a meeting, a client phone call – or use it’s contagious effect to help relax others around you.

Now, fess up…

How many times did you yawn, reading this?

If you want to know more, there’s a nifty essay about it from Andrew Newberg, excerpted from his book How God Changes Your Brain. (I haven’t read the book, but it looks fascinating)

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3 comments

  1. on Twitter

    Only once! But it did make me think about an old friend who was so susceptible to yawning that just opening your hand (think the motion of an invisible sock puppet with it’s mouth open wide) would make her yawn. She was also one of the sweetest, most sympathetic people I’ve ever met… I’m not surprised there could be a connection :)

    • Tori Deaux /

      on Twitter

      Oh, that is so funny about your friend… I’m sure people had a lot of fun with that, to her annoyance. And it sure does sound related to her empathic nature – over active mirror neurons FTW!

  2. on Twitter

    Tori!

    This is so awesome! After getting into yoga, I’ve often wondered if the yawning reflex was sort of an built-in automatic reminder to relax, and let some deliciously loving breath deep into our bodies. I know I’m often unaware of how shallowly I normally breathe, until I yawn and then I remember I can take so much more in!

    Super interesting! And I love your site!

    Oh… And just once, but then Scraps’ comment (and now writing about it now) induced a few more.

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