Why do we yawn in Yoga?

I have always been fascinated by yawning, or more specifically the fact that I begin to yawn frequently as I start a yoga class... and I have often wondered why?

This quote is perfect. I found it here...

Everyone knows how satisfying a good yawn feels, and how refreshing it can be. When we yawn, our bodies are doing yoga involuntarily. An unconscious impulse arising from oxygen-hunger triggers a stretching in the mouth and breathing system, flushing the skull with fresh, oxygen rich blood, and heightening our mental focus and clarity.

Hatha Yoga is an ancient, systematic practice for re-creating the "yawn-experience" throughout every part of the body. Every muscle, sinew, and tendon in the body is "put through its paces" - flexed, stretched, and relaxed.

Our most basic need is oxygen, it is our most basic 'fuel.' Every cell in our bodies, especially the brain, craves oxygen. Yogis speak of "Prana," which means many things, but on the most mundane level, it means "Oxygen." The Yogic science of Pranayama is a system for maximizing the body's efficent absorption and utilization of oxygen.

I belived that my brain was getting stimulated with more oxygen due to deep concious yogic breath and thus causing stress and tension to be released in the form of a yawn. This does seem to be the case, which is contrary to the belief that I was tired or bored with my clients, which I got accused of ... jokingly of course.

The latest studies reveal that yawning is an involuntary mechanism that assures that the body will become more alert. Yawning is literally waking up the brain with cool air. The cooler air coming in fully and completely seems to stimulate the brian cells to work efficiently. This increased brain activity is keeping us more awake and alert.

Some more interesting information that I found on yawning:

A more recent hypothesis is that yawning is used for regulation of body temperature. Another hypothesis is that yawns are caused by the same chemicals (neurotransmitters) in the brain that affect emotions, mood, appetite and other phenomena. These chemicals include serotonin, dopamine, glutamic acid and nitric oxide. As more of these compounds are activated in the brain, the frequency of yawning increases. Conversely, a greater presence in the brain of opiate neurotransmitters such as endorphins, reduces the frequency of yawning. Patients taking the serotonin reuptake inhibitor Paxil (Paroxetine HCl) have been observed yawning abnormally often.

Another theory is that yawning is similar to stretching. Yawning, like stretching, increases blood pressure and heart rate while also flexing many muscles and joints. It is also theorized that yawning helps redistribute an oil-like substance which coats the lungs and aids breathing. Some have observed that if you try to stifle or prevent a yawn by clenching your jaws shut, the yawn is unsatisfying. As such, the stretching of jaw and face muscles seems to be necessary for a good yawn.

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Anonymous said…
what a great blog and interestingly enough my husband is looking at yoga poses as I type this. :)
Anonymous said…
This is interesting, Tah. I've oftened wondered about it too. And, these are sweet images! Cool post.
Anonymous said…
This is interesting, Tah. I've oftened wondered about it too. And, these are sweet images! Cool post.
Dazediva said…
great article and very insightful :) Have just written something similar and have linked your post on my page

Have a great day !
pamela said…
I had the side effect of excessive yawning while taking some medication, so I do believe there is a trigger somewhere in the brain.
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