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.