Gwyneth Paltrow, the Academy Award-winning actress with way too much time on her hands, is an expert on something you probably didn’t even realize you could be an expert on: yawning.
Did you realize “yawning” is actually a fine, delicate artform? I sure didn’t. But as always, we can rely on Paltrow to educate us poor simpletons via her lifestyle blog, Goop.
In an undated but recent post on Goop, Paltrow recounted a fascinating conversation with mindfulness and meditation expert Michael Lear, who caught the Shakespeare in Love actress suppressing a yawn. “Please yawn,” Lear told Paltrow. “Really give into it, as it’s the body’s primary way to release and stretch the jaw and neck muscles after a long day of work and conversation.”
Paltrow learned a lot about yawning that night, and graciously explained on her blog how to “really lean into the yawn reflex.”
First, Yawn #1:
1. Gently tilt your head back to a comfortable position and allow your mouth to hang open widely while you gently extend into it.
2. Contract the back of the throat as if to perform Ujjayi breathing—a whispery breath—which is typically done through your nose with your mouth closed. Breathe deeply through your mouth so you feel the air hit the back of your throat.
3. Inhale and exhale completely while allowing your shoulders to relax as you exhale.
4. When the yawn comes, reach and extend into it, riding the yawn to stretch the jaw muscles.
5. Repeat 8-10 times until tearing starts. As your jaw muscles stretch and relax, and the yawn expands, the lacrimal glands around the eye are squeezed and tearing is induced.
And finally, Yawn #2:
1. Continue with steps 1-4 above, and when the yawn comes, bring together only the lips. Keep the teeth slightly separated. Creating this shape with your mouth as you yawn will take out more slack in the throat muscles to bring the lengthening and relaxation around the base of the tongue, and further stretch and relax the neck, jaw, and occipital regions.
2. Repeat 8-10 times until you begin to tear.
To be honest, it all sounds really complicated. (What the hell is Ujjayi breathing?) And what good is reading when we can be watching? Won’t Paltrow make a video of herself demonstrating the proper yawn and send it over to Van Winkle’s? It would be her best performance in years.