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(pronounced yôn)


Involuntarily opening one's mouth wide and inhale deeply due to tiredness or boredom


Voluntarily opening one's mouth wide to optimize brain activity, enhance introspection, increase empathy, and connect spiritually.

If you’re anything like me, somewhere during the day, you might yawn—especially on a Monday after a big weekend. But what exactly is yawning? And how can it help us in our search for spiritual moments? Let’s ease into Week 2 with a quick exploration.

Yawning is still a bit of a puzzle. Theories abound on why we do it, from being tired or bored to lack of oxygen or to lower the temperature of the brain. Sometimes it signals a change  in physiological states—from sleep to waking, boredom to alertness, waking to sleep, and so on. Instagram informed me a yawn was a silent scream for coffee.

Like conscious breathing, yawning can produce health benefits. Neuroscientists Dr. Andrew Newberg and Mark Waldman assert: “Yawning will  physiologically  relax  you  in  less  than a minute.” Here are “12 Essential  Reasons  to  Yawn  Each  Day,” developed for their book, How God Changes Your Brain: Breakthrough Findings from a Leading Neuroscientist:


  1. Stimulates alertness and concentration

  2. Optimizes brain activity and metabolism

  3. Improves cognitive function

  4. Increases memory recall

  5. Enhances consciousness and introspection

  6. Lowers stress

  7. Relaxes every part of your body

  8. Improves voluntary muscle control

  9. Enhances athletic skills

  10. Fine-tunes your sense of time

  11. Increases empathy and social awareness

  12. Enhances pleasure and sensuality


Wow, and I was always taught not to yawn because it’s rude. (That’s because, historically, we’ve associated the action with boredom. Also, because we’re not so fond of looking in- side people’s open mouths. Note to self: Always cover mouth when yawning.)

Even our pets benefit from yawning. Have you ever noticed your dog doing it after a particularly tough day or a visit to the V-E-T? Dogs often use a yawn to release stress, deal with nervousness, or get rid of pent-up energy. Similarly, my cat Bubaji does it after any exceptionally detailed self-grooming session. His tension released, he then drops into sound sleep.

Moving on to spiritual territory, recent neuroscience research presents some intriguing findings as well. It suggests that yawning creates a unique type of neural activity in the area of the human brain that plays a fundamental role in consciousness and self-reflection. What’s more, this activity is linked to generating social awareness and creating feelings of empathy. Try yawning in a crowded room. People who “yawn back” likely have a high level of empathy—or are silently screaming at you for coffee.


Let’s give it a try.


Excerpt  from Spiritual Rebel: A Positively Addictive Guide to Finding Deeper Perspective and Higher Purpose by Sarah Bowen. Get book.


  1. Find a private space. (This exercise could be a bit embarrassing in public unless you have strong self-confidence!)

  2. Silence your phone, computer, or anything around you that might ring, ding, or vibrate.

  3. Stand up. Stretch your arms straight up as high as you can, stretching the fingers wide, then release your arms down to your sides with an exhale.

  4. Take a deep breath—a really full breath, stretching your mouth open like a yawn—and then exhale, sighing loudly.

  5. Pause. Don’t skip this step. Passing out is not the goal of this exercise.

  6. Repeat fake yawn-y breath. Alternate breaths 12 to 15 more times with a short pause in between. (Most likely, your fake yawns will turn into bona fide ones.)

  7. Sink into 10 minutes of stillness, watching your breath.

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