STOP Yawning While Singing [Do This Instead]
So you're experiencing strain and tension when you sing, and at this point high notes seem like a pipe dream - someone else's pipe dream because it feels like you'll never be able to sing them without straining, right? You've tried all of the throwaway instructions out there, from yawning to smiling, from supporting like a bowel movement to singing like a dying cat (yes, I've seen this in a YouTube singing lesson before), both NOTHING seems to work for your voice - don't give up yet though!
I felt exactly the same way for a VERY long time.
That's right, I tried lowering my larynx, singing with a book on my head for better posture, clenching my stomach like I was experiencing food poisoning, figuratively paddling like a duck in the mid section while pretending to be all calm and graceful on the surface - and I also went through a period of time yawning while singing. But nothing seemed to work, and I was really at the end of my tether with singing after almost a decade of singing lessons and buying singing courses that made me relearn all the same breathing exercises, the same trills, the same damn process of yawning while singing, but what was it all for if I couldn't actually sing any better after all these annoying exercises and tricks? There was no point, because none of these superficial tricks actually help you sing any better, they just give you an initial rush of excitement because they feel 'different' and you catch a glimpse of what it might feel like to sing without strain and tension - but you haven't actually learned anything tangible, so you're unable to apply this new feeling into actual songs and you end up right back at square one again, and unable to sing any better than before you started yawning, or smiling when you sing, or clenching your belly - or the countless other throwaway tricks that get thrown around in the guise of professional singing techniques. It really sucks, doesn't it?
There's light at the end of the tunnel (and it's not a train!)
My singing finally saw the light of day again when I found a coach who actually took me through each of these tricks one by one and explained to me which ones were legit, how they really worked, why they made me feel like I was improving when I wasn't really singing any better at the end of the day, and why they're so common when they obviously don't work that well - and the answers are going to shock you.
What Does Yawning Do Exactly?
In most cases, a yawn will lower your larynx, encourage diaphragmatic engagement and raise the soft palate - these are all positive things in singing, right? Yes, but forcibly depressing the larynx, raising the soft palate in the wrong way and breathing inefficiently are all incredibly BAD for your voice - and this is exactly what yawning does for many singers.
The diaphragmatic engagement that you feel on a yawn is superficial - for a complete beginner who isn't breathing properly at all, it seems like your whole world opens up when someone tells you to yawn and you feel those first few pangs of diaphragmatic engagement, but the slight extension you feel around the sternum is less than 10% of the engagement you require for effective control of your support mechanism.
The same goes for lowering the larynx - which is actually a result of the way you form your vowel sounds. If you sing with a speech sound, lets say an Aussie "AYE" like in my own accent, which results in a raised and tense larynx as you ascend up a scale - and forcibly push the larynx down like you do when you yawn, you are putting your voice at extreme risk of strain and tension, and guess what - your vowel still sucks. That's right, lowering the larynx like you do when you yawn is not healthy technique and really isn't a part of vocal technique in any manner other than the sympathetic neutral or low position you achieve when you form your vowel properly. It's a bit of a chicken and the egg thing - you can't just lower your larynx to sing a great vowel, and a great vowel always involves a neutral or lowered larynx. Learn to sing your vowels properly first and you'll notice there is no need to forcibly lower your larynx in such a muscular and risky way.
Thirdly, the soft palate is more than an "Up and down" switch, there are an incredible amount of varied shades of wide, narrow, raised and even open that occur in the soft palate as you learn to sing better - simply shooting the soft palate high into your head doesn't actually teach you how to create and manage resonant space in any form, and will again put you at risk of improper use of the voice - leading to strain, tension and a lack of connectivity through the middle voice into your high range.
Superficial Instructions = Superficial Results
Learning how to form your vowels properly will take care of your larynx position for you naturally, learning to engage the diaphragm efficiently to achieve powerful support and compression takes care of the weak breath you're getting on the yawn, and correct control of the soft palate while managing resonant space will allow you to connect your voice from your lowest to your highest pitch in full voice without even a hint of strain or tension. The superficial improvement you might get when Joe YouTube tells you to yawn, or tells you to sing with a wide smile will result in superficial results - an immediate feeling of "wow, this works!" followed by a few days on cloud nine until you come crashing back down to reality without any real improvement and no actual tangible ability to sing any better than you had before you started yawning or spreading your mouth on high notes.
A better way to sing is to form a solid foundation first, build from each fundamental of the voice;
By first setting up your foundation, this will enable you to independently build and grow each aspect of your foundation as you move into the secondary stage of singing - the growth stage where you will start developing powerful compression and a rock solid support mechanism so that you can sing with a forward placement while developing a stronger and more finely tuned space for each of your vowels.
The Foundation, Growth, Balance approach to singing has not only changed my own voice as a professional singer and helped my students all around the world become better singers - many of my students are actually singing coaches themselves who have either been experiencing issues with their own singing voices as they've started to dedicate more time to their students than to their own singing, or they're struggling to help their students overcome and troubleshoot certain issues in their voices - after all a great teacher is one who can confidently say "Yes, I've experienced these same issues too" and speak from experience rather than just passing on throwaway instructions like yawning when you sing, or singing with a wide smile, or supporting like a trip to the bathroom.
A great place to get started today is this free Vocal Quiz which will help you work out exactly how much your voice could improve, while also providing a voice plan going forward so you can start making tangible improvements and real gains in your singing.