It’s not a trick question honest….do you reach for the alarm clock and hit the snooze button (just five more minutes pleeeeaaaase) or maybe you jump straight out of bed and into your day? Whatever you do, my guess is you’re not starting the day with a fabulous pandiculation, am I right?
And if not, you’re missing out on one of the best ways to keep your muscles relaxed, supple and free from chronic tension for your entire life (not to mention the fact that it also feels delicious too)
It’s what you (and all vertebrate animals) were born to do
So what the heck is a pandiculation? Have you ever watched how a dog or cat gets up after a sleep or rest? Watch this video of some really cute cats doing just that (and no, they’re not stretching).
Doesn’t it look and feel like it would be yummy to do, a bit like a full body yawn? Notice in the video how the cats and kittens alternate between arching and rounding their backs – it might look like they’re stretching but they’re not, they’re pandiculating. What they’re actually doing is tightening one group of muscles tighter than they already were, then slowly releasing and lengthening them before completely relaxing.
And it’s exactly what you do when you do a full body yawn, try it now and see for yourself. Imagine you’ve just woken up and slowly yawn – did you notice the slight tension in the muscles (jaw, neck, back, arms) before you slowly lengthened and relaxed them?
Why do we and animals do this? Well, it’s a really clever way of keeping your muscles under voluntary control of your brain and you can read more about how that works here. Basically, it prepares the nervous system and muscles for ease of movement – helping to reset your muscles to their natural length, allowing you to feel more relaxed and able to move more freely with greater awareness and co-ordination.
Your cat or dog pandiculates 40-50x every day so it’s not surprising they can move (and relax) so well. But it’s our birthright too (just watch a baby waking up), so let’s bring this natural movement back into our lives. Here’s what you can do:
Pandiculate before you get out of bed
When you wake up in the morning, take 5-10 minutes to slowly, gently move your body with this yawn-like quality; allow it to feel delicious and sensuous, noticing the internal sensations in your body. If you’re like me, not only will you find it really enjoyable to do but you may be surprised to find how much easier this aids your movement throughout your day (I credit my mentor and teacher Martha Peterson for introducing me to this).
Explore Somatic Exercises
Somatic Movements (also known as Hanna Somatic Exercises) are truly wonderful at releasing long held tension in the body. They are unique in that they teach you to actively pandiculate your muscles in ways that release accumulated stress in your body, leaving you feeling incredibly relaxed and able to move more freely. They have really helped me feel more at ease in my life as well as greatly aiding my Yoga practice. If you would like to explore these gentle yet profoundly effective neuromuscular movements that exquisitely create that whole body yawn feeling, then you are very welcome to join me in my 8 week Somatics Course: The Whole Body Yawn
Over To You
Are you going to have a go at starting your day with a fabulous pandiculation? If so, let us know what your experience was like and whether you noticed if it made any difference to how you felt once you got up and moving into your day in the comments below.
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Photo Credit: flickr
Great blog post Jahna, I love the cat video too! Will try this tomorrow morning. I have to do yoga every morning for muscle tension so am sure this will help too 🙂
Thanks Keri, the cat video is wonderful isn’t it – who can resist cute kittens 🙂 And yes, bringing these lovely yawn-like movements back into your daily life will really help release your muscle tension. Let us know how you how you get on.