I know why we yawn.
Some say that yawns are deep breaths to increase oxygen to the brain. In medical school, I learned that’s incorrect. When we yawn, breathing stops and blood oxygen levels fall (!) slightly (say 2%), which is inconsequential.
Rather, yawning belongs to the same category as crying for a loss, trembling or blushing from fear, laughter or talking because of stress, etc. These are outward signs of very sophisticated brain recoveries. That’s why typically, we feel better after them and bad when we stop them.
Specifically, tears heal sadness or adjust you to loss or disappointment, trembling heals fears, laughter and blushing heal light fears, and yawning heals boredom,* the most painful feeling of all.
Yawns heal boredom * from similar situations in the past, just like tears heal old sadness.* An idea that may make it easier to keep yawning for total clean up is to repeat saying: “Everything now is interesting.” *
Now, no one knows HOW this all works. People who say they do, don’t. We see the results reported here but that’s all that’s known about them for decades already (https://www.co-counseling.org/). But it works and we can use this helpful, practical information notwithstanding the enigmas. Here are some other effects of yawning:
- Yawns, like laughter and tears, are often ‘contagious.’ Yawning out-loud signals: it’s safe here and now to let go. Did you manage to read this without yawning?
- Yawning also helps us integrate totally new thoughts or ideas. Any good teacher is pleased when some students yawn, and some even fall asleep in class. You can’t learn much while you’re too tense to yawn or sleep.
- Yawns may help a person sleep. Often, babies in a new surrounding who need to sleep, look around, yawn once, and are in dreamland already.” When the day is over, we start to relax. And we yawn. It’s hard to yawn when you’re still worried or making any effort.* The opposite works too. In order to dose off quickly: yawn.* But people that expect you to make an effort will be annoyed when you yawn.* It shows that you think: I’m done.
- Yawning, specifically, besides emotional healing, heals physical processes that hinder and make medical healing go slower in grownups than in babies. If a doctor gave you some poison (anesthetics), you will yawn, which shows that you’re busy neutralizing it. Yawning then often comes after first shedding emotional discharge (fears, loss, shame, etc.).
Most of the above, I learned from my late teacher and friend Harvey Jackins. Yet, he did not have a chance to discover everything about yawns. Statements followed by an * are about things I discovered after his death.