How Pandiculation Can Transform Your Dance Training
Dancers begin developing learned muscular patterns—aka muscle memory—as soon as they begin their dance training. Deeply learned muscular patterns are necessary in order for dancers to move quickly and effortlessly. But if young dancers aren’t trained correctly, or if they increase the difficulty or intensity of their training too quickly, they can easily develop compensatory muscular patterns that become damaging to their body over time.
The more we repeat a posture or movement, the more deeply learned it becomes by our nervous system. As we commit a muscular pattern to our muscle memory, the muscles involved in that pattern tend to build up more and more chronic tension. For example, the more often we tip our pelvis forward and arch our lower back, the tighter our lower back muscles become.
Just as muscle memory is initially trained, it can be retrained. So, dancers are not stuck with their damaging muscular patterns for life. Unfortunately, most dancers do not know how to reduce the level of tension in their muscles so that they can effectively retrain their muscle memory. Dancers are taught to stretch, stretch, and stretch some more to lengthen their muscles—but the effect of stretching on muscle length is temporary, and it does not allow for the retraining of muscle memory. Stretching also tends to lengthen tendons and ligaments, leading to unstable joints and giving the illusion of flexibility.
If you want to learn more about why stretching doesn’t work:
Watch Why Stretching Doesn’t Work
Read What is the Stretch Reflex (Myotatic Reflex)?
Read Why Stretching Doesn’t Work
Read The Pain Relief Secret
Pandiculation is the nervous system’s natural way of releasing built-up muscle tension, and it is far more effective than static stretching. Pandiculation involves gently contracting a muscle or muscle group, then releasing extremely slowly against gravity or resistance provided by a practitioner. The extremely slow release against resistance sends accurate biofeedback to the nervous system about how much tension is being held in the muscle. As a result, the gamma loop (a feedback loop in the nervous system that regulates the level of tension in muscles) is reset, and the baseline level of tension in the muscles being pandiculated is reduced.
As a former dancer who suffered recurring injuries and was addicted to stretching for many years, I can tell you that my life changed when I stopped static stretching and started pandiculating my muscles instead. My muscles felt truly relaxed—a very different feeling than I ever had after stretching—and I felt completely comfortable in my body for the first time that I could remember. I can only imagine that I could have kept dancing for many more years if I’d discovered Clinical Somatics at a younger age.
Pandiculation releases the chronic tension in muscles that has built up due to overuse. As the chronically tight muscles relax and lengthen, dancers are freed from the prison of their deeply learned muscular patterns, and become able to retrain their bodies to move correctly and safely.
Clinical Somatics exercises also develop finely tuned muscular control and proprioception (internal sense of body position) so that dancers are able to sense when their posture or movement is the slightest bit off and correct it before any damage is done.
In an ideal world, dancers would be taught Clinical Somatics exercises at a young age, and would practice the exercises as their daily self-care routine instead of static stretching. This would allow them to learn ballet technique safely and correctly, without developing damaging compensatory patterns, and would give them the sensory awareness to avoid injuries as they get older.
If you’re a teenage or adult dancer and you have chronically tight muscles, pain, or recurring injuries that are affecting your training or career, you can incorporate Clinical Somatics exercises into your daily routine to release your chronic muscle tension, relieve your pain, and prevent future injuries. You can use the exercises to gently release tight muscles throughout your entire body. Once you start practicing the exercises daily and feel the effects that they have on your body, you’ll wonder how you ever danced without them!
You can learn Clinical Somatics exercises in the online Level One & Two Courses. The courses teach 40 exercises for the entire body, one-by-one through video demonstrations, audio classes, and written notes. By the end of the courses you’ll be self-sufficient, able to lie down and practice the exercises that your body needs each day.