And here we go again…

I was sitting there. She was writing the numbers. I kept looking and my eyes were about to shut. I would have been off for a nice sleep, if only I hadn’t let opened my mouth and yawned. The music that it generated turned all heads towards me. I was now alert and even more embarrassed. This was my fourth classroom yawn that day.


Yawning is an involuntary action of the human body, wherein one opens their mouth wide, stretches their arms and may even produce some sound. What causes a person to yawn is still unknown and this is what makes it very mysterious. Yawning has also been claimed to be highly contagious.


The major causes of Yawning vary from researcher to researcher. Certain scientists claim that yawning is an act to control brain temperature. The movement of air during a yawn brings down the brain temperature, like a fan brings down temperature in a computer.


Other studies claim that yawning is triggered by boredom and sleepiness and aims at bringing back alertness. After a yawn, a person feels less sleepy than before and becomes more focused. It can thus be hypothesized, that a yawn is an action by the body to force awake-ness.


Some, however, claim that we yawn because we need more oxygen and to reduce the carbon dioxide level in the body. This hypothesis also proves the contagious nature of yawning. In an area where the oxygen level is low, more and more people will yawn. However, we need oxygen when we are doing physical activities, and that is when the chances of yawning are least. Thus, this cause, like many others, is self contradictory.


Some researches show that yawning could be a part of our evolution. Early man might have used yawning as a sign of danger and being alert. If one yawned, the other would too, and the chain reaction would continue until everyone got the message to be alert. We might have inherited this, and can be termed as vestigial.


Yawning has strange characteristics. It is believed that if one sees someone else yawn, he yawns too. While reading articles on yawning, I myself yawned many times. Even seeing a picture of someone yawning makes you yawn.. Even babies of 11 weeks have been found out to yawn.


Yawning is not restricted only to humans. Animals like monkeys, dogs, cats etc. have been seen yawning in a similar way as that of humans. Their reasons, however, vary, as some yawn to scare their enemy, while others for realigning their jaws and some, possibly like humans, for respiratory reasons.


Yawning, like every other activity, is not prone from superstitions. The Greeks believed that when the mouth was open for yawning, the soul of a person might come out and lose the body. That is why the gesture of keeping your hand on your mouth emerged, to stop the soul from going away.


Yawning is still a mystery to man.. It isn’t that science has failed; it’s just that science has looked at much more. Every field has its X-files; Yawning belongs to the category of aliens, dreams, ghosts and many others. Here we go again… :O


To conclude on a humorous note: “A yawn may not be polite, but at least it is an honest opinion”


Rohan Chawla



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