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NEW SURVEY:
What do you most want to know about breathing?

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Yawning: Frequently or not At All

"Seeing a dog, a horse, and a man yawn, makes me feel how all animals are built on one structure."  Charles Darwin 1838 notebook.

Chronic yawning is of medical importance because it is symptomatic of pathology such as brain lesions and tumors, hemorrhage, motion sickness, chorea, and encephalitis (Barbizet, 1958, Graybiel & Knepton, 1976; Heusner, 1946, Jurko & Andy, 1975). Yawning is also therapeutic in preventing postoperative respiratory complications (Cahill, 1978) and in adjusting the air pressure in the middle ear (Laskiewicz, 1953).

I (Mike White) yawned hundreds of times daily for over 40 years. I developed my breathing and the excessive yawning vanished.  Also, in the light of many believing that yawning is only a sign of fatigue, I have observed many clients yawning throughout our breathing development session only to find that they were soon energized instead of relaxed or sleepy.  Clearly yawning has many functions, including energetic, pumping, relaxing and it can even be contagious. 

The oxygen and carbon dioxide relationship in the blood plasma is being challenged by the observation that even fish and fetuses yawn. Not sure that is relevant.  Yawning to me is a reaction of the rebalancing of nervous system.  O2 may or may not play a moment to moment part but for sure the relaxation and rib release results of a yawn certainly allow for greater breathing, volume, balance and ease while inviting a greater state of calm.

"Yawning "improves lung compliance by ensuring re-inflation of collapsed airways and alveoli." Dr. Olivier Walusinski*.

I believe it does this via pumping in surfactants - kind of like motor oil for the lungs. One reason perhaps why omega 3,6,9 essential fatty acids Fish oil is so good for the lungs.  

In contrast to Dr. Walusinski quoting another researcher that there is no proof of the CO2 and O2 relationship with yawning, I have observed that "restoration of one's energy balance" does not work well if the body can not get enough oxygen. Vasoconstriction makes for very poor O2 distribution and CO2 releasing and CO2 O2 relationships are often critical to that balance. As I write this I was yawning a great deal (suggestion perhaps but most likely fatigue) and hooked up to my oxygen concentrator and stopped yawning immediately.

BREATHING MECHANICS
UDB.
If their is a mechanical restriction to breathing adequate air the body keeps trying and trying to rebalance and never quite does. Mechanically this is experienced as not being able to "get over the hump",
to catch a deep breath".
Yawning constantly 

BREATHING CHEMISTRY
and its relationship to excessive yawning may be greatly influenced by blood sugar swings as in hypoglycemia and diabetes. There may also be severe neurological issues that need be addressed or ruled out but from what I have seen the majority of yawning falls within the day to day worlds of distorted breathing mechanics, respiratory chemistry and uncontrolled blood sugar imbalance.

Yawning: From Birth To Senescence

Psychol Neuropsychiatr Vieil. 2006 Mar;4(1):39-46. Related Articles, Links
Medecine generale, Brou.

"
Yawning is one of the most under-appreciated behaviors. It is a stereotyped and often repetitive motor act, characterized by gaping of the mouth accompanied by a long inspiration, a brief acme followed by a short expiration. The vigor of the act may increase arousal. Although socially offensive to many, yawns often bring pleasure to the yawner. While influenced by several neurotransmitters, yawning is strongly affected by dopamine. Dopamine activates oxytocin production in the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus, oxytocin may then activate cholinergic neurotransmission in the hippocampus and the reticular formation of the brainstem. Acethylcholine induces yawning via the muscarinic receptors of effectors. Other neurotransmitters can modulate its occurence like serotonin, neuropeptides, hypocretin and sexual hormones. The decrease of yawning in the elderly suggests an associated decrease of dopaminergic activity. Yawning and stretching have related phylogenetic old origins. Ethologists agree that most vertebrates yawn. Yawning is morphologically similar in reptiles, birds, mammals and fishes. They may be ancestral vestiges surviving throughout evolution with little variation. In the human embryo, yawning occurs as early as 12 weeks after conception and remains relatively unchanged throughout life. Across the life span, night sleep undergoes several age-related modifications. Theses changes concern sleep duration and the amount of REM and NREM sleep. We can describe, for the duration of REM sleep, a curvilinear trend with a steep descending slope in the last time of fetus life and the first year of life, a plateau level across childhood and adulthood, slowly lowering until age. A parallel curve demonstrates the similarity of the evolution of yawn's frequency and the amount of REM sleep. Thus, from ontogeny, phylogeny and this modelling approach emerges a pivotal link between yawning and REM sleep. Yawning is modified in some pathologies associated with aging."
PMID: 16556517 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

Biochemistry is not my strongest suit and there may be exceptions or variations to all this due to alkaline or acid blood, and or dopamine levels in the brain and God knows what else.. For instance a newsletter reader reports

Dear Mike:

I HAD THIS PROBLEM FOR 5 YEARS, AND IT ALMOST DROVE ME INSANE....... I WAS DIAGNOSED WITH H-PYLORI ( STOMACH BACTERIA INFECTION) AND WAS ON 2 ANTI-BIOTICS AND A GOOD ACID RESTRAINER..... WHAT A MIRACLE ... THE YAWNING IS CEASED...................Mike would suggest Prescript Assist to aid stomach disorders related to bad bacteria. The good bacteria will if supplied often enough and in sufficient quantities, replace the bad bacteria.

J Immunol. 2006 Jun 1;176(11):6794-6801. Related Articles, Links
Helicobacter pylori CagA-Dependent Macrophage Migration Inhibitory Factor Produced by Gastric Epithelial Cells Binds to CD74 and Stimulates Procarcinogenic Events.
Beswick EJ, Pinchuk IV, Suarez G, Sierra JC, Reyes VE.

Department of Pediatrics.
Macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF) is a proinflammatory cytokine that has recently been implicated in carcinogenesis. Helicobacter pylori, which is closely linked to gastric cancer, induces the gastric epithelium to produce proinflammatory cytokines, including MIF. MIF can bind to CD74, which we have previously shown to be highly expressed on the surface of gastric epithelial cells (GEC) during H. pylori infection. In this study, we sought to investigate the role of the H. pylori-induced MIF on epithelial proliferation and procarcinogenic events. Upon establishing a role for the H. pylori CagA virulence factor in MIF production, MIF binding to CD74 on GEC was confirmed. rMIF and H. pylori were shown to increase GEC proliferation, which was decreased when cagA(-) strains were used and when CD74 was blocked by mAbs. Apoptosis was also decreased by MIF, but increased by cagA(-) strains that induced much lower amounts of MIF than the wild-type bacteria. Furthermore, MIF binding to CD74 was also shown to decrease p53 phosphorylation and up-regulate Bcl-2 expression. This data describes a novel system in which an H. pylori virulence factor contributes to the production of a host factor that in turn up-regulates procarcinogenic events by the gastric epithelium.
PMID: 16709839 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]

From Mike: This implies that ulcers may be indicated in chronic yawning or at the very least implies some sort of stomach issue.  Makes sense to me due to insufficient parasympathetic enervation.

The Phylogeny, Ethology and Nosology of Yawning
Rev Neurol (Paris). 2004 Nov;160(11):1011-21. 

"Charles Darwin might also have said that yawning was a useless piece of physiology. If so, then how should the survival of this very stereotyped behavior among the poikilothermal and homoeothermic vertebrates, from the basic brained reptiles to human primates, whether in the air, on the land or in the sea be understood? This issue of the ethnological, neurophysiologic and neuropsychological literature depicts yawning as being associated with an alternation of "awake-sleep" rhythms, sexuality, and nutrition, where it appears as a reference behavior of the mechanisms stimulating the state of vigilance. In pharmacology, yawning is used as an indicator of dopamine-ocytocinergic pathway activity, but in the Parkinson patient the neurologist sees it as an expression of therapeutic dopaminergic activity. J.M. Charcot and his school considered yawning as a clinical sign, long since forgotten. However, many patients complain about excessive yawning. Iatrogenic causes are the most frequent and can be found among many neurological diseases: vasovagal syncope, migraine, epilepsy, hypophyseal tumor, or stroke. Our ability to achieve motor and emotional behavior in resonance with others is deeply rooted in hominid evolution, and probably explains the strange phenomenon of contagious yawning."
PMID: 15602343 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

Babies in the womb also yawn.
v Hetil. 2006 Mar 19;147(11):509-15. 
In utero, the fetus is protected against biological and social influences of the outside world. This circumstance offers an opportunity for sonographic investigation of inherited fetal behavior free of extraneous effects. Observation of fetal activities with ultrasound permits the recognition of certain uniform features of fetal behavior. Immediately after birth, the neonate continues repeating those activities that he/she became accustomed to in the womb. Later these become modified by environmental influences. Nonetheless, basic inherited behavioral characteristics continue to be expressed and may remain recognizable even during adulthood. Some aspects of adult behavior may derive from experience acquired during fetal life. These include the hand-face reflex, various types of facial expression, such as smiling, crying, yawning, grimaces of dissatisfaction and desperation as well as sticking out one's tongue. PMID: 16607859 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

SEIZURES and YAWNING.
Epileptic Disord. 2006 Mar;8(1):65-9.
Post-ictal forceful yawning in a patient with nondominant hemisphere epilepsy.

Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery, Montreal Neurological Hospital and Institute, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
Yawning has been rarely described in association with seizures and not previously documented by video-EEG. We present a 48-year-old woman with a long history of non-dominant for speech hemisphere seizures and post-ictal (The period immediately following a seizure, characterized by extreme tiredness or listlessness) yawning. Yawning was irresistible, forceful and often repetitive. We reviewed the few similar epileptic cases described in the literature and discussed the possible mechanisms. [Published with video sequences].
PMID: 16567329 [PubMed - in process]

From Mike: I believe seizures have a very large breathing component. Many aspects of UDB can be associated with seizures.

NOTE: Excessive yawning may herald brain stem ischemia as vasoconstriction is often caused by too little blood carbon dioxide/hypocapnea.

To repeat:
Like Sheldon Hendler MD PhD, we believe breathing to be the first place to consider when evidence of any disorder presents itself, I counsel to address most breathing development in a natural hygiene/holistic fashion anyway: ie digestion should be investigated.  Non hydrochloric acid enzymes (3x usual amount and copious probiotics (10 times recommended dosages) should be added to the breathing development program and if improvement is not achieved (it may only take a few days to stop the yawning and a few months to re-establish the intestinal flora) in a week or two then I strongly recommend seeing a Naturopathic Physician. If you go the traditional route you may have to end up taking antibiotics with their inherent risks. If you think you might need more acid then I suggest you get tested for that.

*Walusinski seems to know more about yawning than anyone I ever heard of. I disagree  with his yawning "remains unchanged throughout life" in that he seems to have a slight SNS leaning to his way of thinking that would tend to make yawning length depth and breadth less likely with adequate PNS influence. 

If I understand it correctly I have to disagree with his use of Niselo's 1995  citing related to increase of "frequency in anticipated yawns to due to circulating concentration of corticosteroids" as it may lead one astray while it overlooks enzyme function and oxygen depletion of excessive dead food intake and the need to breathe more due to that oxygen depletion;  Fatigue-after-the large-cooked- meal syndrome. Holmgren - 1991 relating to increased yawns before feeding may more relate to blood sugar levels than most other factors.

None of the references take into account the role of live enzymes which I estimate to be HUGE.  www.breathing.com/video-ds-bhln.htm 

RECENT ADDITION TO BE EDITED LATER. from "Dr O. Walusinski" <walusinski@baillement.com>

"Gallup and Gallup propose to renew the theory of the yawn's finality. In order to observe yawns among the participants with the experiments, they projected a film showing the successive yawns of eight people (men and women) randomly stopped by scenes of laughter or neutral facial expressions. Then, they counted up the yawns induced by "contagion" (echokinesia). In general, the unavoidable interaction between voluntary and automatic control affects the outcome of many experiments in humans. Moreover, contagious yawning is not identical to spontaneous yawning.

First experiment: They show that the yawns occur normally and that 45% of the participants yawn when they can open the mouth but that no yawn takes place if the instruction is given to hold the mouth completely closed.

"The first experiment demonstrates that different patterns of breathing influence susceptibility to contagious yawning. When participants were not directed how to breathe or were instructed to breathe orally (inhaling and exhaling through their mouth), the incidence of contagious yawning in response to seeing videotapes of people yawning was about 48%. When instructed to breathe nasally (inhaling and exhaling through their nose), no participants exhibited contagious yawning."

Second experiment: "In a second experiment, applying temperature packs to the forehead also influenced the incidence of contagious yawning. When participants held a warm pack (46C) or a pack at room temperature to their forehead while watching people yawn, contagious yawning occurred 41% of the time. When participants held a cold pack (4C) to their forehead, contagious yawning dropped to 9%. These findings suggest that yawning has an adaptive/functional component that it is not merely the derivative of selection for other forms of behavior."

The only fact of laying a cold stimulus on the forehead is enough to stimulate the awakening and inhibits the yawn. In the same way, a constant attention does not make receptive to the echokinesia of yawning. Inversely, heat does not have this waking up effect. The increase in the ambient temperature facilitates sleepiness and thus yawning.

Room temperature is not considered. However, a quantitative analysis of the effects of different temperatures of the air inhaled via nose or mouth would be interesting.

Forehead cooling is not affecting directly and only the brain. It is a peripheral thermal input favoring inhibition and reinforcement of oral and nasal respiration, respectively, to warm the inhaled air. Oral ventilation in this condition would be necessary only to comply with the oxygen demand during exercise. "

http://www.yawning.info/

The research of Cabanac M. and Brinnel H. as reported by G & G relate to the control of the cerebral temperature during the fever. There is no work (to my knowledge) indicating that the cerebral activity modifies the internal temperature of the brain in a variable way according to the level of attention. Functional MRI studies in humans have shown that even when the brain is not engaged in any specific tasks, spontaneous fluctuations occur in the blood-oxygen-level dependent (Bold) signal (which is thought to reflect neural activity). These resting state fluctuations are not chaotic but are in fact anatomically and temparally consistent. The significance of this resting state activity is unclear but, intriguingly, it even occurs when humans or animals are unconscious. Thus, spontaneous fluctuations in brain activity maintain the brain in constant temperature somehow the step of neuronal activities (Vincent JL. et al.).

Sleep onset is likeliest to occur on the falling limb of the temperature cycle. The offset of sleep occurs most often on the rising limb of the circadian body temperature curve. In human, the most pronounced occurrences of yawning stays at awakening in the morning, in association with the stretching of muscles (pandiculation), and as sleep is about to occur, without stretching, as well as in any condition of lessened vigilance (Baenninger 1996, Greco 1993). Repetitive and monotonous activities trigger repeated yawns as have shown studies of individuals at their work stations. In not a single circumstance, the yawns appear with the acme of the circadian rhythm of the temperature.

The old authors often spoke about the yawns during the fever but have given to them the significance of a clinical sign fortelling the onset of vigilance's disorders. The assertion "deep inhalation of cool air taken into the lungs during a yawn can later the temperature the temperature of the blood in the brain through convection" appears largely conjectural. The air in the lung attains 37 so far its inhalation and prevents to harm the lungs. Ford GP, Reardon DC. report that intubated delivery of air into the lungs at a temperature significantly below body temperature, especially over a prolonged period, is likely to inhibit recovery from brain injuries.

Many authors (Parmeggiani 2007) have reported changes in brain temperature during the ultradian sleep cycle in several mammalian species. The temperature decrease in NREM sleep appears as a normal effect of thermoregulation operating at a lower set point temperature than in wakefulness. In contrast, the increase in brain temperature related to REM sleep appears paradoxical from the viewpoint of normal thermoregulation. The problem of the physiologic mechanisms underlying this temperature change remains unresolved.

Changes in brain temperature are in general relevant to both the energy metabolism of the brain and the function of the preoptic-hypothalamic thermostat. Heat is produced by cellular energy metabolism and is transferred to the arterial blood in inverse relation to its temperature, which is lower than that of the brain in normal conditions. It is obvious that brain homeothermy is altered essentially by quantitative imbalances between metabolic heat production and heat loss.

There are different mechanisms for cooling the brain in mammals and more than a single mechanism may be operative. In general, the cool venous blood flowing from the systemic heat exchangers of the body (upper airway mucosa, ear pinna, horn, tail, skin, according to species) to the heart mixes with the warm venous blood returning to the heart from heat-producing body tissues.

This systemic mechanism cools the arterial blood including that flowing to the brain (systemic brain cooling). In addition to systemic brain cooling, there is also a mechanism for selective brain cooling. In species like the cat, dog, sheep and goat, the carotid blood supply to the brain is again thermally conditioned prior to entering into the circle of Willis by countercurrent heat exchange between carotid rete and venous sinuses (e.g., sinus cavernosus). The carotid rete is a network of fine vessels (rudimental in the dog), derived from the external branch of the common carotid artery. The arterial blood flowing to the brain in the carotid rete is surrounded by sinus venous blood cooled in the upper airway mucosa and flowing in an opposite direction to the heart. The carotid rete is connected to the circle of Willis through a short artery (homologous to the distal part of the internal carotid artery of species lacking the carotid rete). As a result of the countercurrent heat exchange, the temperature of the carotid blood reaching the circle of Willis is further decreased with respect to that of the aortic arch blood. Vertebral artery blood is not thermally conditioned by a countercurrent heat exchange mechanism and enters into the circle of Willis at the temperature of the blood in the aortic arch. In conclusion, the difference between the temperatures of vertebral artery blood (systemic cooling only) and carotid artery blood (both systemic and selective cooling) flowing into the circle of Willis depends on the heat loss from the carotid rete.

Another mechanism for selective brain cooling is typical of species lacking the carotid rete (e.g., rabbit and rat). It is provided by conductive heat exchange between the basal portion of the brain, including the circle of Willis, and the basal venous sinuses that drain cool venous blood from the upper airway mucosa.

The effects of systemic and selective brain cooling appear in the temperatures of the hindbrain and forebrain, respectively. This is shown by the positive difference between pontine and preoptic-hypothalamic temperatures in cats, rabbits and rats.

Heat loss from systemic heat exchangers, affecting carotid blood temperature through the systemic venous return to the heart (systemic brain cooling), is the most important determinant of brain temperature in primates. Concerning humans, in particular, there is no consensus as to whether a mechanism for selective brain cooling plays a significant role. The arguments advanced by G & G appear quite slight and little demonstrated."

Colleague J Michael Wood offers:

"I read recently that yawning is not necessarily tied to tiredness, but is actually a way that the body lets off excess heat from the brain. It would make sense that it would be symptomatic of the pathologies noted in the article.
However, it is also a sign of the shift from SNS to PNS when correct breathing mechanics are engaged. One of the first symptoms of SNS is hypoxia, and the return of oxygenated blood to the brain (PNS response) will also trigger yawning.
This is simply the brain letting of heat."

A recent article in Readers Digest purports that there is "No evidence of contagious yawning in the Red Footed Tortoise". I am sooooooooo glad. (wink).

Bottom line is that blood sugar and bad breathing seem to me to be associated with most yawning that is not done on purpose such as in our speech clinics.  Recommendation

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