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Yawn in the Face of Anxiety

Nobody knows why we yawn. 

Yawning’s an semi-automatic reflex found in almost all vertebrate animals, from sharks to koalas to snakes, most animals on this planet yawn.

But why?

Now, I’m not a chasmologist (seriously, that’s what yawn scientists are called), but I recently learned as part of my Gupta Program that yawning and stretching is a way to send signals to the brain that we’re safe.

At first, I was skeptical, but then I noticed that since my anxiety has become really bad, I almost never yawn anymore. I also noticed how resistant my body was to yawning and

stretching during the daily guided meditations.

So, I tried it.

Now, I’m not going to tell you that my anxiety is completely cured and all I had to do was yawn and stretch.

But, I’m going to tell you that it made a difference. One more free and easy tool in the calming arsenal can’t be a bad thing. 

The more anxious I am, the tighter and more rigid my body becomes. My body goes into a freeze pattern, my breathing is fast and shallow, my heart rate is fast and doing anything requires a herculean effort.

But, for me, making that effort to yawn and stretch, breaks me out of my freeze pattern and gives me more space to use other mindfulness and breathing techniques to get to a better place.

When I think about it more, it makes sense. Yawning is something we do when we’re relaxed, tired, bored or hungry. No one yawns and stretches when they’re in danger. There are no animals fleeing tigers in the jungle who pause to have a nice yawn along the way.

No matter what the ultimate purpose of yawning ends up being, it doesn’t hurt to use it to our advantage, right here and now. The more exaggerated the actions and sounds, the more effective your yawn will be (it can even be a lot of fun, especially if you’re in an elevator full of people!).

So, the next time you’re feeling scared, stressed or anxious and you feel a freeze response coming on, yawn in the face of anxiety. (Let me know if you find it helpful!)

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I read an article by an Australian ortho-bionomist, Rob Rich, about how different types of yawns release different hormones.

For example, a yawn with an extended exhalation releases dopamine, which gives a feeling of satisfaction and achievement.

A yawn with a short inhale and a long exhale releases oxytocin to calm fear, decreases stress, and activates the parasympathetic nervous system.

A yawn with a long inhale and a short exhale increases cortisol levels to help perk you up if you are bored or tired.

It is from a piece called Exploring Your Intelligent Body: Using mindfulness and simple self-care exercises to explore how your body can self-correct musculoskeletal, mental and emotional dysfunction by Rob A. Rich

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Very fascinating indeed!

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