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A Better Alternative to Stretching

    Whether you’re just about to begin a workout or sport, or have just finished one, you’re probably planning to do some stretching. But stretching only does so much. I want to share something that is far more effective.

    A better alternative to stretching is something called “pandiculation”. What exactly IS that?

    A ground-breaking technique

    Pandiculation is your body’s natural way of preparing for movement. Humans, along with animals, tend to automatically pandiculate upon waking up or when sitting for too long (e.g. stretching arms overhead and arching the back).

    a cat pandiculating to relieve tight muscles

    You may see cats or dogs do this, when they wake up from a nap. They reach their paws out in front of them and arch their back with their rear in the air. Then they do the opposite and round their backs.  After that they trot off to their next adventure. These are automatic responses to stiffness, called the pandicular response.

    Pandiculation also sends feedback to the brain regarding the level of tightness in our muscles, which helps prevent the buildup of muscular tension. This is a very important function of the pandicular response to maintain healthy posture and movement throughout our lives.

    Over time we can get ourselves into certain bad habits of standing and moving.  This happens because we get busy and do certain things because it’s faster. Unfortunately, our natural pandicular response can’t counteract all the bad habits. As well, we rarely allow time for this natural response to happen – we set our alarms and get on with our busy days. As we lose that awareness and control, the pandicular response often becomes blocked.

    How to relieve tight muscles

    GAIN sensory-motor awareness and control through practice. Through voluntary pandiculation.

    Thomas Hanna, the founder of Clinical Somatic Education, explored movement techniques that would directly address the muscular tension that was the underlying cause of his clients’ pain. Hanna developed self-care exercises that made use of the pandicular response.

    Voluntary pandiculation (contracting and releasing slowly, with awareness) proved to be a groundbreaking movement technique. It quickly reduced muscular tension and the effects were usually long-lasting, as long at the movements were practiced regularly.

    Where can you learn this technique?

    Learn how to relieve tight muscles through Somatic Education.  A Clinical Somatic session or Somatic Group class are both effective way to relieve chronic tension and pain. There is also a daily “Cat Stretch” routine to maintain the muscles, or be used before or after a workout.

    Read Gail’s testimonial: For years I’ve been dealing with chronic neck and lower back pain. My first Somatics class focused on releasing the muscles in my lower back with a very small, gentle movement. The release I felt was huge! Since taking the classes, the pulling sensation in my neck is gone, I can sleep the entire night without shifting to alleviate the pain in my shoulders. Bending over no longer hurts my back and I can sit cross-legged easily. My overall flexibility and range of motion is noticeably improved. I would highly recommend Somatics for anyone who is experiencing chronic pain and wants to learn how to help him/herself.

    If you have had pain or issues for a while and have “tried everything” (chiropractic, massage, physiotherapy, etc) give Clinical Somatics a try and see the difference.  Read more about the difference between Somatics and other modalities here.

    Lenore Foster is a Certified Yoga Teacher and Somatics Educator. She teaches Yoga and Somatics group classes and offers Clinical Somatic sessions in her home studio.

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