Go ahead and yawn. Do it a few times. Feels good, eh?
People often try to hold back or cover up their yawns as they would with belches. Don’t be shy about yawning! It is good for you (maybe belches are too but we’ll leave that for another discussion).
Recent medical research shows that yawning is a natural antidepressant that reduces the reuptake of serotonin. And it also seems to help transition the brain from one state to another, e.g., waking to sleeping or vice versa.
But I am recommending here as a warmup for musical activity, especially singing. And as a general relaxation technique.
I did not discover this idea on my own — I give full credit to Kim Scanlon, a wonderful singer and singing teacher whom I met at a music workshop a few years ago. I spent way too little time with her, but I did spend enough to learn a little about yawning, which I use regularly. I am not an expert on yawning, but since I don’t see any websites or books on the subject by Kim or anyone else, I will explain how I use it and recommend you experiment with it and let me know how it goes.
The first thing is just to do it, to yawn, fully and repeatedly, without trying to hold back or cover your mouth or apologize for it. If you are new at this, try it in private at first. But eventually you will find that it is fine to yawn when people are watching. Unless you are in the front row at a lecture, or someone is pouring out her heart to you tete-a-tete, no one will be offended by your yawns. It might even get the watchers yawning (as we all know, seeing a yawn often leads to yawning), which, as you will know well by then, is very good for them! So spread those yawns around.
Yawn, and then yawn again. And again. At first you might have to make yourself yawn, but after the first couple you’ll be in the groove and the yawns will be natural and flowing. You may stretch your arms up and out if you like. Or just focus on your face and throat. All the myriad muscles in those areas will get stretched and relaxed. Keep yawning. Yawn for three to five minutes straight, or longer if you like. To avoid boredom, try different styles of yawn: eyes closed or open. Lips closed. Mouth closed. Yawn while smiling. Yawn with tongue curled up and then curled down. Yawn on one side only, and then on the other side. Pucker your lips and yawn. Curl your lips in and yawn again. Make up your own yawns. Have a yawning session with your friends, family or bandmates, and show one other different yawns to try.
How are you feeling? Guess what — those face, cheek, jaw, throat and tongue muscles you’ve stretched and relaxed are just what you use in singing. Your eyes may have teared, giving them a nice wash (without sadness). Your breathing has slowed down and your mind is calm — what a great preparation for singing and playing, for performing, for a competition of any sort, for public speaking, for any stressful situation.