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How to stop a yawn: “Clench your jaw, and keep your mouth closed.” I came across this tidbit of etiquette in Meg Cabot’s wonderful book series; “Princess Diaries.” Grandmere was teaching princess-in-training Mia Thermopolis, how to behave at public functions. I took this advice to heart, because I am a yawner.

I yawn at the symphony. I yawn during my granddaughter’s dance recital. I yawn while I am praying. At no time while I’m yawning am I bored or tired. Just the opposite. I find myself yawning when I am completely and totally relaxed. It’s as if my breathing isn’t paying attention to my surroundings.

Science suggests that yawning regulates carbon dioxide and oxygen levels in the blood. Yet the scientist can’t explain why a fetus yawns while in the womb, even though there is no oxygen in the lungs until after live birth.

I have my own theory. The Hebrew word for ‘spirit’ is nishama. It’s the exact same word for ‘breath.’ I suggest that yawning is exercise for the spirit, but in reverse. Our spirit needs to relax, our breathing becomes shallow, and it is at this point where the spiritual push-ups begin.

One of the goals of prayer is to release the tension from our body and mind. When we pray, we become closer to God and the spirit within. Any change in breathing, can help us achieve the connection we seek when praying.

So I am starting a one-woman campaign to embrace yawning. I hereby give formal notice to all the churches, synagogues and places of worship where yawning is frowned upon: God is at the gym! The breaths we take; shallow and deep, belong to God, and our yawn is proof-positive we share in the glory that is life.

– Susan Diamond, Prayables

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