Ever since we can remember we’ve been told to stretch. Stretch if your muscles feel tight, stretch before and after your workout, stretch if your back hurts. Most of us were taught what’s termed “static stretching.” You hold the stretch and pull, with the intention of releasing the tight muscle(s).
But does it actually work? For many of us, stretching is uncomfortable, painful even, and does not achieve the desired result of relaxing our muscles.
How can this be? To understand this a bit better, let’s begin with some basics about muscle function.
Muscles have no control of their own; they only respond to electrical signals from the brain and nervous system to contract and move. The brain can coordinate our muscles to contract in order to learn how to ride a bicycle, walk, dance or play a sport. The brain can also learn to keep muscles tight and involuntarily contracted due to emotional trauma, accidents, injuries, repetitive tasks, or on-going psychological stress.
Therefore, if a muscle is tight, it is being told to stay tight by the brain.
The general intention of static stretching is to pull a muscle into a specific length or state of relaxation. The reason this doesn’t work (and may even result in overstretching injuries such as herniated disks, muscle trauma, and muscle dysfunction) is because the brain, the command center of the muscles, is not engaged in the action.
There is no feedback loop to the sensory motor cortex. In order to change what the muscles are doing the brain must be fully and consciously engaged in the process.
So what can you do instead?
There’s a simple movement that we’ve all been doing since the beginning of time. It is nature’s “reset” button – a way of restoring full muscle function and length to a muscle. It is far more effective and safer than stretching.
It is called Pandiculation.
There are three parts to a pandiculation:
- A voluntary contraction into the tension of your muscles (it doesn’t have to be vigorous!)…
- Followed by a slow, controlled lengthening….
- And a complete relaxation. This gives your brain time to integrate the new feedback you just gave it.
Clinical Somatic Education uses pandiculation to teach people to re-set muscle length and function. Somatic Movements, which are gentle, easy, movement patterns that incorporate pandiculation, retrain your brain and muscles to “remember” how to move more easily and effortlessly.