The common advice in treating scoliosis is to stretch the damn curve out. But of course, we all know that it does not really work. In fact, forcing muscles into a particular position can do more damage to a twisted spine because the stretch reflex is triggered. The muscles tighten further to protect themselves from overstretching.
According to somatic expert, Thomas Hanna, a better alternative to static stretching is pandiculation. The motion of yawning and stretching where you squeeze your muscles at the peak of the stretch and release. This resets muscles at the nervous system level.
The theory is that by tensing our muscles when in a stretch, our fascia also becomes engaged. In my earlier post on fascia and scoliosis, I had explained how our emotions affect the fascia which in turn causes tightness and contractions within the musculoskeletal network.
Furthermore, the forces that the person’s tension and resistance created during pandiculation greatly exceed the forces that could ever be tolerated if administered from outside the person such as during deep tissue massage or rolfing. These extreme internally generated forces are necessary to remove accumulated dense fascia and scar tissue and thereby relax the myofascial system.
A Primal Reflex
Pandiculation is a primal reflex, that begins in-vitro, the baby kicking while in the womb is a pandicular response. Nearly all vertebrates are hardwired to instinctively stretch-contract-relax – when they wake up or move from a state of inaction to arousal.
Transitioning from sleep to wakefulness is a vulnerable moment. And pandiculation helps by systematically pre-tensioning the muscles, organs, and bones in our bodies to elicit a quicker, more rapid alert response into an awoken state.
Lack of Pandiculation – Sign Of Dis-function
The frequency of pandiculation correlates with various degrees of health Animals pandiculate as much as 40 times a day. Trauma or chronic stress blocks our innate pandicular response. We cannot yawn-stretch when we are in danger.
Additionally, parents admonish kids to behave and not yawn publicly because it is rude. And so as we age we lose our natural ability to pandiculate. Nonetheless, by stifling this natural urge we shut down our body’s natural reset mechanism.
When we lose our natural ability to pandiculate, our body’s self-sensing, self-regulating, and self-correcting biomechanical system is compromised.
Stretching versus Pandiculation
When we stretch, there is no cortical involvement. It is purely a spinal cord reflex action.
Stretching is a passive action, no learning is happening. There is no re-wiring of muscle memory and our body moves back into the same state of misalignment. It may seem that our curvature has improved but it only the muscles around have bulked up which gives the illusion that the curve has reduced.
Pandiculation changes the brain-body connection and thus alters faulty body memory patterns. Moreover, there is less likelihood of damaging your body when you pandiculate.
Additional Benefits of Pandiculation
1) The 3 three-step process of stretch-tense-relax, jolts areas of the sensory-motor cortex which may have gone into autopilot due to poor habits. Thus rewiring the connectivity between the brain and body.
2) Releases chronic, subconsciously held muscle contraction and retrains learned posture and movement patterns.
3) Increasing neural connections help improve interception, posture, movement, gait, coordination, and body memory.
4) Reduces pain, rigidity, and tenseness in the myofascial structure.
5) The limbic system, our emotional nerve center governs the pandiculation response. Hence, a simple yawn-stretch helps relax our stress-response system.
6) Helps regulate the temperature of the brain, which in turn can help reduce inflammation in the nervous system. It also releases beneficial neurochemicals like oxytocin and dopamine.
Scoliosis and Trauma Reflex
Scoliosis is a protective defense mechanism of our nervous system to deal with threats in our environment. Stress triggers our trauma reflex to kick in. Our brain reflexively causes the muscles to twist and bend sideways causing it to tighten on one side of the body. That’s the classic scoliosis pattern. Idiopathic scoliosis is caused by chronically tight muscles pulling the spine out of alignment.
Growing up with chronic abuse the subconscious program is – stay tight and ‘ready for action because our nervous system is in the ‘fight or flight mode. . The trauma becomes locked into our body’s pattern of sensory-motor amnesia. Tight muscles get tighter because the brain has forgotten how to switch them off. The mind-body system adjusts and thinks this is the ‘normal.’ pattern of body position.
If your nervous system is sending messages to your muscles to stay tight, no amount of passive lengthening (such as static stretching or massage) or forced re-alignment (such as bracing or chiropractic) will change these messages.
You cannot change your muscle memory without changing your emotional memory.
Pandiculation Changes Scoliotic Body Patterns
Correcting scoliosis is especially hard because our body has adapted to our emotional states of fear-shame held in our minds. Additionally, having scoliosis further aggravates our stress level due to the secondary trauma due to having the condition.
Trying to change our faulty body program through using the mind power is not effective.
Our alpha-gamma loops are compromised due to the structural imbalances caused by habitual scoliotic patterns and trauma. Muscles and fascia that are ‘stuck’ cannot send or receive the proper proprioceptive messages, causing them to remain contracted – unable to relax.
But when we pandiculate, we can very effectively release and lengthen muscles past the point that the brain had programmed and return it back to their full length. Pandiculation releases subconsciously held muscular contraction and brings muscles back into voluntary control.
Check 0ut the video below for:
A Scientific Understanding of Pandiculation
Give Yourself A Pandiculation Break
Though we may have lost that spontaneous ability to pandiculate due to trauma or chronic stress, we can redress this by voluntarily pandiculating.
Don’t jump out of bed when you hear the alarm in the morning. Spend a few moments giving yourself an internally sensed, conscious pandicular movement.
Try incorporating, some animal moves into your daily activities, do the dog pose, cat pose, lion pose and pandiculate.
Give yourself a pandiculous break, just stretch out and tense your body. You can do it sitting or standing. It takes less than a minute to reset patterns of contraction within the mind-body system.
Doing so has made me more aware of my twisted and tense portion of my body. This has subsequently made me conscious of the mental patterns that are keeping me stuck in this contorted position. Healing scoliosis is about replacing sensory-motor amnesia with sensory-motor awareness.
Pandiculate regularly, I can vouch that you will suffer less pain and muscle tension. In addition, you will feel better. Small moves can have enormous benefits.