Thankfully, there is another, more effective method: pandiculation. This movement is actually quite natural and you have undoubtedly done it yourself. Have you ever seen a cat, upon waking up? The cat tenses up the muscles in its back and legs before relaxing and stretching itself out and relaxing. You likely do the same when you wake up in the morning. That is pandiculation.
Remember how stretching not only activates the muscle’s stretch reflex, but also communicates only as far as the spinal cord? Pandiculation begins with a contraction, and so, activates the body’s lengthening reflex, which helps it to remain relaxed afterward. The muscle is contracted even further than it is currently habituated to be, and then is lengthened out and relaxes. This particular movement sends information directly to the brain. What this means is that while stretching is very simply a body-only movement, pandiculation can actually provide new information to the brain and allow that muscle or body-area to learn something different. It can also serve as a reminder to your muscles that they do not have to remain tense and tight. This is especially helpful for anyone who suffers from sensory motor amnesia (SMA), or inefficient muscle patterns that you cannot sense or control. SMA is when the smaller more intrinsic muscles no longer remember how to move effectively and stop engaging fully during movements. Only the larger muscles are engaged and they take over the movements becoming overly strong as the intrinsic muscles become weak. This creates pain over time where the smaller muscles have stopped working effectively.
SMA is widespread in our modern society due to the excessive repetitive motions we all engage in on a daily basis. Think of the office worker who sits in the same chair and types on a keyboard for forty hours per week, or the nurse who stands and checks vitals over and over again. Our highly specialized lives cause us not to engage in a wide variety of movements the way our ancestors did.
Our bodies were built for a wide range of natural movements when we were hunting and gathering. Even today, our bodies still naturally want to engage all movement possibilities to stay at our optimal health. We used to crawl on our bellies when hunting, reach up to the top of the trees when picking fruit and bend over when planting seeds and harvesting ground plants. Our bodies need to move and we no longer have jobs that allow us to have that wide range of mobility which leads to pain in our bodies. So in slow motion... crawl on your belly, get on all fours and move your spine in the way it wants to move, reach for the stars (literally with your arms up), and bend over in slow small motions. It all helps relax, release and rehabilitate your body.
These movements all overcome sensory motor amnesia and provide deep release in clients to help those who suffer with impaired mobility, pain and repetitive motion syndromes. The trainings at ATIT also help people learn to facilitate pandiculation. These techniques have been around for a long time, but are only now gaining traction as science catches up and understands why they work neurologically. Until next time! Kim M. Green, CSTT www.advancedtherapyinstitute.net