What Is Pandiculation?

By Yasmin Lambat

That early morning urge to move and revitalize your body when you wake up in the morning is called pandiculation. It is linked to restoring your body’s homeostasis through motion, while awakening the sensory pathway of your nervous system. It’s often described as the stretch-and-yawn response, except that the involuntary motion is nothing like the stretch. 

Stretching is associated lengthening, like pulling an elastic band to increase the flexibility at a joint. Pull too much and you lose the integrity and stability of the body. When you stretch, the stretch reflex arc of the brain pulls you back. It is an automatic response from your brain to maintain integrity, which is why stretching feels difficult for most people who are stiff.

Pandiculation, unlike a stretch, feels like an expanding sensation from within. Like a whole-body yawn. The whole body is involved, not a specific area. The urge is accompanied by an inbreath, followed by an unwinding motion as the breath is held in suspension, until you find the urge to sigh. The sound of a sigh is very much part of the pandiculation. Dogs, cats, and newborn babies have this spontaneous ability.

Luis Bertolucci, a manual therapist studying the physiology of pandiculation, describes it as “nature’s way of maintaining the functional integrity of the myofascial system.”

Fascia and pandiculation
Fascia is the fabric that gives your body its form. Otherwise known as the connective tissue. The fibers of the fabric are like the strings of a musical instrument, vibrating with health and vitality in resonance, and feeling stiff and inflamed under strain. Every living cell begins life within this fabric and is shaped into muscles, nerves, organs, blood vessels, lymph, and bone. It is the fabric that provides the living environment for every biological system, which is why the vibrancy of this tissue is crucial for wellbeing.

When you pandiculate, you are nourishing every living cell in your body, not only helping your body to be supple but to return your nervous system to homeostasis. Your nervous system influences every biological function in your body.

How does it work?

Bertolucci uses the word "stretch" to describe pandiculation; fascia anatomist John Sharkey prefers expansion. So, do I. It speaks to the auxetic or shock-absorbing property of fascia. Look up "auxetic materials" and you will notice how these fabrics are used in running shoes and other sportswear. In packaging too. They offer cushioning, are energy-efficient, and are shock-absorbing!

Auxetic means “increases in size” when you pull — unlike a stretch, which elongates. The secret is to move the entire fascial fabric from the inside out, making movement efficient and effortless. Knowing this property offers a lens into how feel-good, gentle movements can also make us strong, as well as enhancing our shock-absorbing ability,

Pandiculation is nature’s way of restoring homeostasis through motion. The movement itself feels restorative, right? Studies of the pandiculation response have shown how it auto-regulates, triggering the release of oxytocin, the nurture hormone — helping to soften areas of stiffness and changing the chemistry of the fascial environment, which helps calm chronic pain signals.

You may have lost the urge to pandiculate, due to living a sedentary life, being hypervigilant, or experiencing sensory amnesia because of trauma. It's a sign that your fascia needs tuning and your nervous system is out of sync. Fascia Tuning Somatic Movement can help you restore your sensory awareness through pandiculation and other intuitive blueprints. Pandiculation helps you to:

  • Feel supple, mobile, and agile
  • Breathe better without having to learn breath exercises
  • Tone the vagus nerve
  • Release the psoas
  • Ease back pain
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Reduce anxiety

Yasmin Lambat is the creator of SomaSensing, a trauma-sensitive, fascia-informed therapy. She is a registered Somatic Movement Educator with the International Somatic Movement Educators and Therapists Association (ISMETA). She is known for placing the body at the heart of healing the whole.

Yasmin's early experience with the body began with a “nuts and bolts” approach to chronic pain, correcting postural alignment or focusing on core strengthening exercises. She found herself being drawn to somatic practices to find the link between pain and emotion, the body/mind connection, and what makes us whole. So began the shift from posture to embodiment. She spent the next 15 years learning how science can inform the felt sense, integrating the neuroscience of stress, pain, and trauma, with fascia research and biotensegrity. The culmination of this approach was seeing the body as designed by nature.

SomaSensing began as a movement practice that emerged intuitively: an awakening from somatic amnesia by quieting the noise, finding the quiet within, and letting soma become the guide. This practice can help regulate the nervous system, ease chronic pain, revitalise fascia, calm the mind, and restore wellbeing.

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This article appears in: 2021 Catalyst, Issue 6 - Somatic Movement Summit