More than Meets than Eye

If you haven’t seen this word before, I’m going to talk about it in greater depth than simply the definition.

When you google it, you more than likely going to see this:

Definition of Pandiculation

“A stretching and stiffening of the trunk and extremities, as when fatigued and drowsy or on waking, often accompanied by yawning.”


Or you might see it like this:

“An instinctive movement, consisting in the extension of the legs, the raising and stretching of the arms and the throwing back of the head and trunk, accompanied by yawning.”


So a lot of people will think, “got it”. 

No big woof!

If you’re relatively healthy, you still wakeup and pandiculate with what you've been led to believe is a morning "stretch".


The “act of pandiculation” is what every animal with a spine does to reset and reboot its movement system.

See, those cute stretching maneuvers your cats and dogs do, are actually pandiculations.

In a moment, you'll get to feel or experience what lies beneath our own skin with this natural movement act.

First, we'll go a little deeper with the "act of pandiculation" since there is certainly more than meets the eye since it's not as readily observed from a casual glance.

Spontaneous Unconscious (Yawning) Pandiculation

A tiger naturally yawns or pandiculates  by opening its jaws.

Tiger Yawning - Pandiculating by Tightening its Jaws

This might happen to us when we're bored out of our mind at some meeting and we start yawning away.

Or we might try to suppress it, so you still can act like you're interested in whatever another person is saying.

If we see another person yawn or even think about it, we might start to yawn like its some kind of infection we can't stop.

So let's go one step further when you consciously pandiculate.

Conscious Pandiculation

This type of pandiculation, for instance, is when you consciously yawn.

So why not give a it a go right now.

Try this type of pandiculation

Go ahead and yawn.

Afterwards you might feel the need of another spontaneous pandiculation wanting to or taking place.

So let 'er rip.

You see, when you are more conscious or mindful of "doing a yawn", another yawning pandiculation may follow or not.

As a consequence or result, you might feel a little more relaxed, sleepy or drowsy on account of paying more attention to physically doing a yawn.

That relaxation response happens for a reason.

What Muscles Do & Where the Message is Coming From

So now you know what a pandiculation is and that it can happen either spontaneously or consciously.

Here's the thing.

Last I checked, muscles receive information from the brain to contract.

Brain to Muscle Connection via the Nervous System

They don't ever get a message to stretch.

Now I get it that you might feel like you want to stretch.

So if you feel like stretching, it's because certain muscles either feel stiff, tensed up or you know you gotta move something some which way to feel a little more comfortable.

The fact remains - a muscle or groups of muscles are designed to contract.

"There are those rare moments when scientific research reveals a new twist on an old topic that gets your attention in a big way.

Pandiculation is one of those unique applications of neuroscience to change how we prepare to move well, compete and assists in the rehabilitation efforts, stress, tension, injuries and pain."

- Timothy Berger, BA, MA, RN, ATC. Professor of Sports Science, Muskingum University

Pandiculation - Not Exactly This

So we know from certain types of methods such as contract-relax. 

You can elicit or feel how when you tense up your muscles and then let them go, you might get what is called the relaxation response.

While that is close to a pandiculation, and certainly may be what people will think based upon the definition.

Again, there's more to it since tensing up muscles like tightening a fist, where many muscles in the hand and forearm tense up is more of a bracing type of action.

That's not exactly what healthy vertebrate animals are doing, even though some people think (and do) stiffen the trunk where they can brace themselves.

Pandiculation - What's Missing

While we can see from the definition, the word stretching.

Contrary to popular belief, muscles don’t stretch.  They receive a command from the brain to contract.

When a muscle or set of muscles contract, other muscles can allow for a lengthening to occur.

This is what we typically feel or sense as a stretch.

By the way, have you ever stretched out a piece of dead meat and watched how it returns?

Freaky, it's dead, yet somehow that muscle returns like it's been programmed from another world.

This distinction of whether a muscle or muscles are stretching may not seem like a big deal, yet it gets right down to the heart of the matter of being able to see or more clearly feel what is actually going on in a pandiculation.

What Actually Happens in the Act of Pandiculation - Part 1

When this woman reaches to yawn (or pandiculate) the so-called stretching is actually a movement.

Reaching Movement Pandiculation What is Contracting

Now “if” it’s an instinct, again certain muscles are contracting, even though you may be so used to looking for a feeling of a stretch.

Try that Move

So go ahead and try the same move.

Reach and instead of normally paying attention to what you thought is stretching.

Feel where your muscles contract or tense up.

Could You Feel This?

Were you able to feel your shoulder, upper back, and part of your neck contract?

And when you opened your mouth, did you feel your jaw or even the front of your neck contract as well?

Ok, that's part 1 of a conscious pandiculation.

But wait, you might have felt other muscles contract or chime in too.

See that can depend upon any number of compensations, restrictions or substitution patterns for a normal lengthening of the arm.

Did You Feel This Too?

Reaching Movement Pandiculation Where Else is a Contraction

As you reached the arm up, did you feel or get a sense of your opposite side contracting?

Or as in the definition, did you stiffen your trunk?

If so, I don't know about you, but when I stiffen my trunk, reaching up is entirely another experience.

And this is what some people actually do.

They might brace without realizing it.

Or that can happen from any number of negative life events where we end up bracing or over stiffening just to reach.

So the first time you reached up you may have been mostly focused on reaching the arm (possibly feeling the stretch on that side) and you might not have noticed all the other muscles chiming in.

Another Level of Awareness

That kind of awareness is another level of what is going on in a conscious pandiculation.

Forearm contracting as part of a yawning pandiculation

Plus, if you did it like the woman here, did you feel how you flexed your wrist back?

As a result, certain muscles of the forearm got involved too.

That could have been conscious or unconscious as part of a habitual pattern where we simply do it or go at it automatically on autopilot.

Natural or Un-Natural

So here is where we go down the rabbit hole a little further.

If you do "exactly" what the woman is doing.

Reaching the arm, opening the jaw, flexing the wrist back and - bringing your mouth to your hand.

Is that really a part of a conscious pandiculation?

Well yes and no.

It is not natural to bring your hand in front of your mouth and contract your biceps in order to yawn.

Pandiculation of the Biceps Too

That is a learned movement or habit.

A natural yawn or opening of the mouth is like the tiger above.

We had to be taught that additional movement, since I highly doubt bringing your hand in front of your mouth is instinctive.

Who knew those polite manners added in another level of muscular contraction which is not natural to a normal yawn, but learned, to act or be polite.

Of course, there are any number of ways we can reach in the morning and pandiculate unconsciously or consciously.

Man Pandiculating

Who knows if he then spontaneously went into a yawn on account of feeling more relaxation from his biceps, neck and other muscles of the spine contracting while turning.

Conscious Pandiculation - Part 2

Thought we were done with it.

Again, more than meets the eye.

Normally, we simply pay attention to the doing of a movement (in what you now know is not a stretching yawn).

What happens when you let go of the movement?

Much like the contract-relax method, there is a relaxation response.

However, in a conscious pandiculation, you can also tune into what is actually happening when you let go.

Applied System of Conscious Pandiculations

This is what we do in our system of somatics exercises - where we are more consciously tuning into, being mindful and feeling - the entire act of a particular purposeful pandicular movement as part of a series of mindful movements.

Certain muscles are actively involved along with the layers and chains of connections they make in order to move our parts and entire self more cohesively around.

Undoing Conscious Pandiculation

What would happen if we payed attention to the rest of the pandiculation, the undoing or letting go of it in a conscious manner?

So while you can consciously pandiculate (a yawning movement for instance) and pay attention by feeling how certain muscles can get revved up.

Did you simply let it drop or let go after you finished doing a yawning type of movement?

Did you pay as much attention to what your muscles felt like or were doing in the letting go?

The Movement Information System

The brain-muscles-fascia-bones-tendons-ligaments is a system of movement intimately coupling the carrier of the information, the nervous system.

The information processing system of neurons in the nervous system

This lets you tune into, dial in or feel how much stiffness, tension, freedom and of course, any pain or discomfort you feel as you move (or attempt to move).

Sensing and Feeling

You can become intimately aware of what you feel or notice as to how the brain organizes and re-organizes "the act of movement itself".

When you drill down or journey into the various layers and chains of connections throughout the body, such as the fascia.

This part of the movement system has more sense receptors than the muscles where you can really go down further and deeper down the rabbit hole of a mindful conscious pandiculation.

And since we're applying a certain level of consciousness to the doing of a movement.

Watch the Animals

So now you know an animal with a spine will contract its muscles.

The cat is even contracting the paws too.

So watch your cat or the dog next time when they pandiculate.

Then closely watch what happens as they let go of the first part or act of pandiculation.

Often times, you can see either a subtle or sleight hesitation.

So to feel what your pet or any animal with a spine is doing.

Try This

Extend the leg (by definition of pandiculation) or simply move it or lift it backwards off of the floor.

Oh, this doesn't have to be a big lift either.

Do You Feel This?

Can you feel how the back of your leg and buttocks muscles can contract?

Then when you lower the leg slowly without dropping it.  Are you able to do that smoothly?

Did You Get SMA-ed?

Could you feel the back of the leg or buttock contract when you lifted the leg?

If you didn't feel it, then place your hand on the butt or just beneath it and feel how those areas can tighten up when you lift.

When you lowered the leg, did it hesitate, jerk or seem to misfire a little here or there?

If you didn't at first feel things contracting or you could feel any slight stutter - that can happen and is what we call sensory-motor amnesia (SMA).

This is where you either don't feel things happening or you can feel a loss of control, a small unexpected stutter - which is perfectly normal too.

No big woof if you didn't feel any misfiring, jerky release (bet I can find a conscious pandiculation where you will have SMA), nor will you die from it either.

Another Side of SMA

Another part of SMA has to do with feeling how you are connected from the inside and how your body can counterbalance your conscious attention to do a movement such as lifting the leg.

So while you are lifting the leg - which is the conscious doing part.  You may have felt how the back of the leg or the buttocks and even the spine or back muscles chimed in too.


Plus, did you feel how the opposite shoulder and even up into the neck also contracted or generated tension too?

Did you happen to notice how the other leg seemed to move forwards or move into the surface?

See normally as one leg goes back, the other leg goes forwards which is what happens when we walk thus you might have noticed (or not) how the other leg played along.

Getting to know or learning how we are internally connected during a small movement is vital in setting up our ability to coordinate more easily and move effectively with greater comfort and balance.

30 Second (or so) Hamstring Pandiculation

Now that you are beginning to get the idea.

Let's do a quick comparison from the usual way that many were (and still are) taught to stretch the hamstrings.

So you can do a comparison by watching below.  Then pandiculating in a different conscious manner.

Did you feel where the tension came from?
Did you gain any length?

If you did.  You brain exhibited the capability of the sensory-motor connection.
If not.  This could be another form of SMA.  High levels of tension.  Or certain compensations and substitutions patterns needed to be cleared out.

No Movement & Over Doing It

So when a cat or dog is lying there and it’s time to get up, they’ll naturally pandiculate to take out any accrued tension or stiffness from lying there.

It’s why we can feel like stretching (maybe groaning too) first before we get up from sitting too much.  Or being sedentary for some time.  Where muscles go to sleep.

When we use our muscles.  We want them to work for us.  Not against us.  Not be stiff.

Where if we decide to carry a big stick a long way.  The muscles are capable.  So afterwards we may need a break from over doing it.

Am going to pandiculate after carrying this stick

Kinda reminds me of being in the dentist chair opening the jaw for what feels like - forever.

So here’s where things get really interesting.

See a pandiculation is a brain event.

If you go about it in a more unconscious manner, a learned physical event happens in the lower parts of the brain.

When we consciously pandiculate like our beloved furry animals.  (And as we did above).   We are actually targeting a very specific part of the brain.

This part of the brain is the sensory-motor part where we can plan, execute and make a movement happen.

Pandiculating Part of Brain

Once we’re done, the brain will release certain chemicals of relaxation, i.e. a relaxation response, where it resets tension levels.  Thus, we can gain comfortable, natural range of motion.

Since you just used your muscles, you are actually re-programming or rebooting your movement software via a couple of feedback loops.

(Find out more about the brain and the feedback loops involved here).

"The new frontiers of understanding brain plasticity have given us exciting insights into how basic motor activities can be controlled through brain-altering stimulation such as applied muscle contractions.

Mindful pandiculation takes these new revelations and effectively applies them to the sports, medical and integrative medicine worlds."

- Timothy Berger, BA, MA, RN, ATC. Professor of Sports Science, Muskingum University
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Those Healthy Animals

You know animals move with great grace and agility.

This is all set up by the act of pandiculation, which you're now getting is more of a process like breathing.

Before they move from periods of chilling out, they'll naturally pandiculate.

So how often do they do it?

No wonder they sleep so well… and so you can you when you take out any accrued tension or stress from a busy day with a series of mindful pandiculations.

So now let's go down the rabbit hole of how we professionally use pandiculation for the human animal.

Pandiculation Re-Defined

Here’s our take on pandiculation.

"A pandiculation is a process of a motion or movement where tension or a series of muscular contractions occurs in part of the body or felt throughout the entire body and yawning can be one of a number of relaxation responses."


Similar to breathing, pandiculation is a living process, where the act of inhalation is part of the movement we normally think of as breathing.

The entire process of a pandiculation can be intentional like breathing, so you can focus more or tune into the sense perceptions or feelings of the fundamentals of the nature of movement itself.

Clinical Pandiculation

As a trained Hanna Somatic Educator (H.S.E.), we use either or both a hands-on pandicular process and verbally guided pandicular movement patterns (known as somatics exercises) to help educate a person how to target the brain’s motor cortex so it can reset programmed habitual unconscious levels of tension or compensations.

So for starters, stiffness is alleviated quite quickly.

Once the movement system is rebooted, you learn how to keep things flowing more smoothly so that in addition to stiffness letting go, pain and tension is no longer an issue in the long run.

Self Pandiculation

Since pandiculation is at the heart of somatics exercises, we teach people both in the office and in movement classes the variety of types of pandicular movement combinations.

Help with all sorts of conditions, limitations and for purely educational purposes, general conditioning or experiencing what a deep dive mind-body approach experience is offered.

The mindful movement experience of pandiculations is what separates and distinguishes this from other types of exercises and certainly is not at all, like the stretching we were taught.

The old, traditional approach of stretch, stretch, stretch, is sadly behind the times in preparing our bodies for strenuous activities and in rehabilitating injuries and the discomforts that impede our life.

Since our muscles were designed to contract, isn’t it logical that contractile applications will facilitate their true preparation for activity and bring them back into a state of normality when they have been injured or linger in discomfort.

- Timothy Berger, BA, MA, RN, ATC. Professor of Sports Science, Muskingum University

Self-Assisted Pandiculation

This is where you can learn what we do in the office with respect to the hands on method.

Since pandiculation can be felt at numerous levels, you can also learn how to even do some of the hands-on maneuvers yourself so you can get yourself out of tricky spots when life goes bump.

One More Word on Pandiculation - Just Ask Mom

As babies, we pandiculated inside Mom.

Go ahead and ask her how she felt when you were moving around.

Bet you didn’t know that you were already learning how to set yourself up for comfortable movement when you got out and joined the world.

Pandiculation is nature’s antidote to reclaim and retain your birthright to move well for life!

And since we now know about neural plasticity.  The brain can change at any age.

Come over to the natural animal side and consciously pandiculate with us to find out what all the healthy animals are doing to pandiculate your way to health and well-being.

Edward Barrera is leading the way in his design of specific contractile muscle movements to prepare people for their health and physical pursuits. Pandiculation is the exciting application of the latest brain science that will benefit people on all levels.

- Timothy Berger, BA, MA, RN, ATC. Professor of Sports Science, Muskingum University

ed-barrera-hanna-somatic-educator-holistic-health-advisorEd Barrera is a Hanna Somatic Educator®, H.S.E., Holistic Health Advisor, H.H.A., Muscle Balance & Function Development Trainer, M.B.F.

Ed is the author of 2 books.  His latest, The 1 Thing to Do.

His first book. Move Like an Animal:  Feel Comfortable, Move Well for Life in 3 Simple Steps, Amazon Bestseller in Pain Management & Aging.

Notice:  His 3rd book.  The 2nd in the series of Move Like an Animal will be available in 2023.

Ed lived with chronic pain and fibromyalgia in his 20's & 30's, so he appreciates the long road out and can help you shortcut your way back to feeling comfortable for life.

Ed has over 20+ years of experience, helping people find natural pain relief with somatics exercises which are the complete reverse to most approaches since we use conscious gentle body movements that targets the brain’s motor cortex, resets the nervous system, and provides deeper states of relaxation which leads to a healthy, fully-functional body.

Essentially it's motor control exercises (MCE), mindful-based stress reduction (MBSR) and progressive relaxation (PR) all rolled into one which now the American College of Physicians (ACP) are saying is "the first thing to do relieve pain".

Muscle lengthening, recovery, relaxation and control are restored by this "alternative to exercise” approach; plus it's natural pain relief that actually works!

Learn more about our mindful pandiculation movement classes.

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