It's a yawn. It's a stretch. No! It's... pandiculation??
We’ve all seen it. That moment when a baby wakes and they arch their back and stretch their arms overhead. Or when your dog or cat stands and “stretches” after sleep. Perhaps you even do it after you’ve been stationary for some time.
But it’s not stretching. It is actually a nervous system reset called pandiculation. And it’s pretty cool when you understand the processes behind it.
Here’s the thing about pandiculation. It’s not stretching and it’s not strengthening. It’s a nervous system action and response.
Pandiculation has 3 stages to it:
1. Contraction of the muscles 2. Slow controlled release of the engagement 3. A sense of “reset” in the tissue
By doing this, the muscles are relieved of tension and returned to their resting length using neuroplasticity. The sensory-motor system is awoken and prepared for movement.
Why is any of this of interest? Think of pandiculation in this way: turning on a light in the sensory nervous system, allowing for improved proprioception (essentially your awareness of your body in space). This heightened awareness, in turn, allows for better communication between your tissues and brain.
So, that yawn, is not actually just a yawn... it’s your entire body prepping for the day ahead.
This process is hard-wired into our beings. Fetuses have been seen to pandiculate in the womb. Unfortunately, our connection to this process gets lost through habitual movements as we age.