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Creating a yawning space while singing has long been a part of vocal pedagogy.
Regardless of the many theories as to why people yawn, the benefits of this natural and simple action have big pay-offs for singers.
Today, let’s brush off this trusted tool in our singing tool belt and put it to work with heightened awareness….
Benefits of Yawning
– Provides a deep and gentle stretch to the jaw and soft palate
– Carries oxygen to lower lobes of the lungs
– Drops the diaphragm
– Expands the lower abdominals
– Relaxes the larynx
Scientifically speaking, here’s an excerpt from an essay written by Dr. Andrew Newberg about the benefits of yawning…
“Numerous neurochemicals are involved in the yawning experience, including dopamine, which activates oxytocin production in your hypothalamus and hippocampus, areas essential for memory recall, voluntary control, and temperature regulation. These neurotransmitters regulate pleasure… and relationship bonding between individuals… Other neurochemicals and molecules involved with yawning include acetylcholine, nitric oxide, glutamate, GABA, serotonin, ACTH, MSH, sexual hormones, and opium derivate peptides. In fact, it’s hard to find another activity that positively influences so many functions of the brain.”
Apply the Yawn to Your Singing
Memorize the Yawn Space
1. Take in a slow and open yawn.
2. Surrender to the stretch. Don’t be polite and cover your mouth.
3. Let the tongue go. At this point, it is okay that the tongue travels back while yawning. The tongue retreating may be part of a natural yawn stretch for you.
4. Feel the complete stretch in the jaw and soft palate.
5. Observe the open space in the back of your throat.
6. Notice the tall lift of your soft palate.
7. Recognize the relaxed placement of your larynx.
8. Note the low abdominal expansion.
9. Observe how your jaw naturally drops in the down and back position.
10. Notice how you feel: relaxed, calm, serene….
Take a look at the above list… spot the similarities between healthy vocal technique and the yawn. Impressive, huh?
Sing Through the Yawn Space
1. After you have yawned a few times, add a sliding “ahhhh” to the peak of your yawn.
2. When adding the “ahhhh,” allow your tongue to relax forward; tip of the tongue behind the bottom front teeth. As a variation, you may also stretch the tongue forward.
3. Add vowel melody to yawn and continue to sing when the yawn is finished.
4. Recreate the yawn space by taking in a silent “surprise” yawn through an open mouth.
5. Sing a vowel through this created yawn space.
6. Sing the vowel of your melody through this created yawn space.
7. Add your words to your melody and sing through this created yawn space.
Note: Pay close attention that you allow for your yawn space while using your articulators; lips, teeth, tongue.
Now that you are fully aware of the sensation of the yawn space in relation to your singing, play with different amounts of openness while singing. For some genres you may prefer a more narrow space.
But if you ever feel vocal tension or strain… return to the natural and simple yawn and play with filtering your singing through this space.
And why not add 3 or 4 yawns into your vocal warm-up?
A perfect way to relax your mind and your body before you practice, audition, or perform.
Let me know how it goes in the comment section below and share this post with a singer friend!