I wrote this piece six weeks ago, on the night the boy and I left Portland for Operation True Yes, six months of wandering.
It was Erev, the Eve of, and specifically the Eve of Yeses.
The embarking, the setting off.
Two hours out.
We were two hours out of Portland, and suddenly I was yawning and couldn’t stop.
There were reasons for this, for example, having been awake until 3:30am that morning. Or the weeks of seemingly endless releasing preceding our exit. Or the way my body had calmly informed me that if I didn’t stop working, it would stop things for me.
And at the same time, the yawning — this particular yawning — seemed like it might be trying to get my attention.
I decided to pretend that I am the Queen of Yawning, that I know everything there is to know about lovingly presiding over the vast kingdom of yawning.
And then I pulled out my laptop and started documenting this knowledge, pulling from the sea of wisdom that is the boundary of my kingdom.
Here is what I wrote….
What do I know?
- Yawning says hey brain would you like some more oxygen?
- This means yawning is a reminder to take deeper and more refreshing breaths.
- Yawing actually is like a reset button for the nervous system! A feldenkrais person told me that, and it makes sense.
- Yawning is how the body does transitions. We yawn when we wake up and stretch, and when our body is tired and wants rest.
- Yawning does not have to mean tired, nor does it necessarily mean bored, this is a common and ridiculous misunderstanding in our culture. People do big conclusion-jumping when they encounter yawning, and get lost in thinking Shit Is About Them When Shit Is Not About Them. Oh, your body needed to do some releasing? Clearly you must think I’m not very interesting. How did we ever get to that? Why do we not challenge this?
- Yawning is fun! You can make all kinds of sound effects and expansive movements.
- Yawning and expansiveness go together. It is actually very difficult (for me) to yawn if I am curled inward or contracting. Try it for yourself!
- At Rally (Rally!) and the retreats I used to run, we turn yawning into a ritual. Both for transitioning (out of conducting, into something else), and for the fun.
- We do yawning sound effects! We yawn loudly. We do a tiny baby chipmunk yawn and a secret stealth ninja yawn. We yawn like cowboys and we yawn like bashful hippos.
- When you yawn a lot, tears start coming. Releasing!
- My former mentor has a technique that involves yawning for twenty minutes straight. It’s more complicated than that, but one of the the things that invariably happens is that everyone in the room starts crying. Not that they are sad, just that tears start to come fast and furious from the yawns, and everyone’s faces are soaked in tears. Afterwards you feel amazing, like not just your nervous system got reset.
- In Ounce Dice Trice, one of my favorite books of all time, the sound of a yawn is HARROWOLLOWORRAH.
- This is how everyone in my family yawns. The HARROWOLLOWORRAH is to yawns what bear hugs are to hugs.
- In Hebrew, the word for yawn is pihuk, which is just the cutest word ever. Hebrew is big on onomatopoeia, so of course the word for yawn sounds like a yawn. It’s almost as if the name for yawn (which also sounds like a yawn) was actually HARROWOLLOWORRAH.
- In Dr. Seuss’s Sleep Book, there are wonderful yawning creatures, my favorites are the Foona Lagoona Baboona. I think of them a lot. This is a book that celebrates yawning:
The news just came in
from the County of Keck
That a very small bug
by the name of Van Vleck
is yawning so wide
you can look down his neck.
- Opening the mouth wide to yawn releases the jaw, which is where most of us hold lots of tension. So yawning requires a relaxation and a softening.
- Even though everyone says that the point of yawning is to bring in more air, so often when I yawn I have the momentary physical perception that I can’t get enough air.
- I am not sure why we have this cultural idea about covering the mouth while yawning. I get why we do that for coughing, to not get our saliva and germs on someone. But yawning. Yawning is beautiful. Look at my glorious mouth! Look at my wise, wonderful body resetting my nervous system for me! Look at this lion-like power of release.
- In a way a yawn is a lot like a silent scream. Silent Screaming is a technique Barbara Sher teaches that I find very helpful. It’s for when you’re going through big emotion, but you’re in public and can’t actually scream and throw a good fit. You hide in the bathroom, and you scream ten times, but without actually screaming. You open your mouth like a scream, and then you breathe the scream out. You have to do it ten times. The reason for this is generally you start feeling better around yawn 6, so you think, okay I’m done, I can stop now. Except you aren’t. Ten is good. More works too. It is very rare that I need more.
- It is actually kind of shocking to me how effective Silent Screaming is.
- Yawning can function as a sign that something has shifted in the body-mind. When I go to see Wally for bodywork and I get on the table, I immediately begin to yawn. So does everyone else, according to him. And when he does something that has a strong effect, the yawns are there too.
- When I do energy work with clients, the yawning starts for them when something has moved or opened or let go. And when Richard does acupressure on me, I start yawning at the beginning, and then again when something has changed in my internal landscape.
- So yawns are really a clue. They tell me where to look.
- Circling back to #5, it is really bizarre (to me) that people take yawning personally, that they think if you yawn, you must be bored because they are so boring. I mean, they’re human beings who yawn just like everyone else. They must have noticed that it doesn’t only happen when you’re tired, that yawns vary, just like people.
- When did a yawn become the sign for boring. If anything, I yawn at happy times, when I am very engaged. It’s like the yawn is helping me process, let more in.
- The only negative associations I have with yawning are from school, and then they really did seem to be boredom yawns. Except in retrospect, I look at still-growing-me, and am in shock that she managed to function at all. I mean, she woke up very early to get ready for school. It was usually still dark when she arrived. She wasn’t getting nearly enough sleep or rest. Her after-school time was full of doing. School itself was incredibly taxing and overwhelming — physically, emotionally and energetically. It was not an easy place for an eccentric empathic HSP introvert, and she couldn’t have known any of those things about herself so she couldn’t have known how going to school was sapping her powers. Of course she was yawning all the time. It wasn’t out of boredom, though yes, she was probably bored. It was another sign that her body-mind was in distress and craving downtime.
- You can yawn qualities. Just think a quality, for example, Peacefulness. And yawn it in. You can bring in peacefulness on the inhalation, and release/glow peacefulness into your space and the world as you yawn-exhale it out. Yawning can be so many things, in so many ways. Triumphant! Curious. Sleepy. Calm. Peaceful. Liberating. You can yawn your way back to presence. HARROWOLLOWORRAH.
- In yoga, there is this concept of secondary energy. There are the big body ways of releasing, and then there are the smaller ways, like yawning. Farting is secondary energy too. If you ever fart or burp, just say “SECONDARY ENERGY! My body is releasing!”
- Try yawning as loudly and obnoxiously as possible. Right now. It’s fun. Sometimes also really uncomfortable. Experiment. See what it is like to yawn like this while lying down on the floor with your eyes closed versus walking briskly around the room. Try both. Mix it up. Be a Loud Yawner. Wave your arms around like pinwheels. My parents both used to do that. Add some HARROWOLLOWORRAH with style. In a grand fashion!
- Yawning is related to the fifth chakra, vishuddi chakra. This is the symbolic energy center for communication, insight, persuasion, confidence, creative play, language. It connects the heart and the head. It is a witchy place, and a beautiful flower.
- Sigal, my yoga teacher in Tel Aviv, used to lead these intense afternoons in her apartment once a month. She called it shabatirgul, a kind of made-up smooshed-together compound word: sabbath-practice. Two hours of physical practice and meditation, followed by an hour of what you might call life-yoga, and then a meal. Whenever I remember these days, my heart wells up with love. One time, during the life-applications-of-yoga part, she had us act out improvisational scenes with each other, playing the characters through the qualities of the chakras. Like, “Okay, you’re third and she’s sixth, and you’re breaking up: go!” “You’re the boss and you’re first, you’re the employee who’s asking for a raise and you’re fourth, go!
- Whenever someone was assigned to be five, aka visshudi chakra, and they didn’t know how to play the part, Sigal would say, just do what Havi would do, Havi is the most five I have ever met, she’s ALL five. And everyone would go, oh okay sure, that’s easy, just be Havi. And I would think, wait, what is happening.
- Maybe, like yawning, I am too close to it.
- Yawning is pretty much the one thing in modern life that doesn’t come with devices. There are products, applications and services to help people sleep better, eat better, have better sex. Where are the products designed to improve the quality of our yawns, where is the viagra of yawning?
- Yawning is the spice of life. Yawning celebrates aliveness.
- Once my former playmate from the enchanted forest told me that I yawn like a kitten. He said, It’s because of your tiny nose, do it again, yawn again please!
- Yawning goes with stretching like peanut butter and chocolate.
- There is always more to let go of, isn’t there.
What does the queen of yawning require?
Calming smelling salts. The softest cushions. A Wonderful Bed.
This makes me think of the Hotel Elliott in Astoria, Oregon, that’s their tagline. Wonderful Beds.
If I had a hotel, the tagline would be HARROWOLLOWORRAH. But that’s just me.
It is difficult to talk yawns without making puns.
I was raised in a family where communication was kind of a mess, but the one thing we all shared was a love of word play.
Very rarely do I miss anything about my family, but right now I wouldn’t mind having them around because it would be fun to play with yawn.
I imagine that my brother would say, But where do the yawns go when they’re done? Into the Great Beyond (Be-Yawned).
Someone else, my mother probably, would do something with Hither and Yawn.
My father would ask, Who was that Ingenious and Very Tired Gentleman who sets out to bring justice to the world? Yawn Quixote.
I would probably bring up that one soap opera that takes place at a research center for narcolepsy: The Yawn and the Restless.
Things would continue in this vein until someone would finally say, Which president tried to outlaw yawning? And then we’d all say, in unison, Herbert Hoover!
Ah. Of course. Yawn is a why word.
That is to say, a Y word.
When we did the year of Alphabet Rallies, Y stood for Yes.
We would say, Y is for YES and Why is for YES.
There weren’t a lot of Y words, but they were luscious.
Yellow. Yay. Yearn. Yoga. Yum.
And, of course, of course, yawn.
Let’s have eight yawns for the compass!
North: I yawn the yawn of Courage.
Northeast: I yawn the yawn of Play.
East: I yawn the yawn of Presence.
Southeast: I yawn the yawn of Releasing
South: I yawn the yawn of Beautifully Anchored.
Southwest: I yawn the yawn of Serendipity.
West: I yawn the yawn of Reverberating.
Northwest: I yawn the yawn of Energy.
May it be so! And come play with me.
This has been a channelling of the sea of wisdom on the subject of yawning, which also turned out to be a secret meditation on words that begin with Y.
Let’s have lots of yawning today. And if you know any good Y words (like yestertempest, yomp, and yttriferous!), and want to yell them out, go for it.
And of course you can share stories about yawns, anything sparked for you, more yawning sound effects, favorite Dr. Seuss Sleep Book quotes, yawn puns, or hearts and pebbles.
Love from my thank you heart to all my yawning companions. It’s much more fun having company.
Yawns are the best. I yawned so many times while reading this. (Not because it was boring.)
My favorite yawns are the ones that come after a thing I didn’t realize was stressful has ended and my body says “I’m going to tell you now that that thing was stressful. I didn’t want to worry you while you were doing it so I didn’t tell you but now you can yawn all the yawns to release the adrenaline that was keeping you going. Good job!” Then usually I nap.
Wonderful post! I, too, yawned about half a dozen times while reading it, and it was pretty much the total opposite of a boredom response.
One of my favorite Y words also comes from Dr Seuss. It’s the YOPP that is uttered by the tiniest inhabitant of the tiny dust speck in Horton Hears a Who. It signals to the world, I am here! We are here! It dissolves misunderstandings and saves lives. And see, now I am in tears. YOPP!
Y. It looks like a divining rod. May it always lead me to Yes.
I learned that reading about yawns sets me off yawning.
Clue: The number 5 looks like a yawn. To me.
The next time I read this post I will Not Be At Work.
YES for yawning! Have been playing with intentional yawning since reading your post. More air for me. I especially like it when there are three short heaves before the great release. Ahhhh.
Here’s my Y word to offer:
When I yawn, my toes curl and stretch and spread apart. My feet need space!
When I lived in the Black Forest, I started every day lying on the floor and would yawn thirty yawns, counting on my fingers. I’d stand up feeling like I’d had a really good cry and that my spine had come into alignment, curvy as a bow. I wrote the majority of my novel during that time.
When I have a headache (or dry eyes) and am in public or in the car, and thus am unable to access resources like sleep or closing my eyes or spritzing myself with eucalyptus, yawning is my secret weapon. You can do it anywhere!
My yawns are fairly quiet, and I have trouble making loud silly boisterous yawns, which now I’m wondering might have something to do with a closed fifth chakra or feeling unsafe to express myself.
Spouse always laughs at me because other people yawning is a sign stimulus for me (iow, I have to yawn too because Empathy). Even someone talking about yawns will make me yawn. And now, it turns out, reading about yawns makes me yawn.
But, since I do hold tons of tension in my jaws, this is likely something I needed. Happy tears! 🙂
I’ve been yawning the entire time reading this post, and I enjoyed every single yawn!
At the risk of being totally inappropriate, #28 reminded me of my own yoga classes, and queefing during shoulder stand… Secondary energy!
The part about 20 minutes of yawning turning into tears reminded me of that weird, hilarious thing sometimes called Laughter Yoga. It’s where two or more gathered together look into each others’ eyes and gaffaw artificially (at first) before they bust up for real. To me, tears and laughter are so similar, especially when shared.
Plus, the Bengali word for yawn is the onomatopoetic “Hai,” which is also Japanese for YES… Thank you for writing on your road trip, Havi. Wishing you many moments of pure presence.
I love this so much. And yes, I yawned all through reading this – perhaps 42 times. 😉 And the tears – who knew?! Ahhhh, feeling so much better now. I will take with me the superpower of I Yawn All My Cares Away. <3 <3 <3
In massage school we learned that yawning signals the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system. Basically, the mind and body are communicating relaxation to each other.
Also, perhaps if we are trying to uncover clues about yawning, we are on a Top Secret Mishyawn.
Love it! <3
Yawning as transition — interesting thought.
Love the word play. And thank you for the reminder that Y is for yes.
Waving hello and wishing everyone a happy Friday! Comments on the Friday Chicken post seem to be mysteriously (and, I suspect, temporarily) closed, and I am feeling effusive and eager to connect with people here, so I am taking this moment to wave — and to notice that every day, and therefore every week, ends with a Y! <3
This post reminds me of Tigris, who was perhaps the largest cat I have ever known, and who used to yawn so wide that one always used to wonder if had unhinged his jaw. He was a good cat.
“in retrospect, I look at still-growing-me, and am in shock that she managed to function at all” I have thought exactly that just yesterday. Life was really stressful when I was a little girl and there was little I could do to make it better. Tiny-us were courageous and amazing.
Yeah! Courageous and amazing! We really were! Flowers and presents for tiny us.
Yay for all the yawns, and even a compass of yawns! I read this the first time at the end of a day when I’d gotten up really early and changed timezones, so it was definitely a yawn-along experience. And now it’s giving me more yawns to help open my ears again after the cold I picked up travelling.
The Sleep Book is probably my favorite Dr. Seuss. Thanks for the reminder! I can’t remember any quotes, but images… a river tunnel… the people with the candles on their heads… the birds building those MC Escher nests out of bricks and ropes… I’m not sure how many of them are really in the book and how many have been blurred by dreams…
I liked this post a lot even though I kinda dislike yawning because TMJ and it actually hurts if I do it “right” so all my yawns are half-assed.
I used to get angry at my boyfriend for yawning every time I was explaining something to him, something I was passionate about. I was afraid he thought I was boring. I eventually stopped taking it personal, and now it’s good to give it some other explanations.
It was funny for me to see myself yawning so much while reading this, and mostly because the first thing that comes to my mind about yawns is that they’re extremely contagious…
thanks for writing this. <3