How to Even out the Imbalances in Your Body

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We all have imbalances in the patterns of muscle tension between our right and left sides; that’s because of how we use the dominant side of our body differently than our non-dominant side. These imbalanced muscular patterns begin in childhood. As we get older, we can develop habits of using the right and left sides of our body so differently that our patterns of muscle tension actually pull our skeleton out of alignment. This can cause chronic pain and even damage to the structure of our body. In this article, I’m going talk about strategies to fix your imbalances so that you can use your body in a more balanced way and get out of pain.

imbalances in your body

Why you should balance out your muscle tension

Imagine that the piles of sand in the photo above represent the amount of muscle tension in the right and left sides of your body. If you practice Clinical Somatics exercises equally with both sides of your body, you’ll be reducing your overall muscle tension, and both of those piles will gradually get smaller. But the imbalance will still be there, and you may continue to experience your pain or issue because you’re still being pulled out of alignment.

You can use the same analogy for the front and back sides of your body. Imagine that there is more muscle tension in the muscles on the front of your body than the back; you’ll be pulled forward into rounded posture or forward head posture. If there’s more tension in the muscles on the back of your body, your back will be arched and you’ll have disc problems, sciatica, or plantar fasciitis.

This concept can be applied to smaller, specific areas of the body too. For example, the hip rotators: If you have more muscle tension in your external rotators than your internal rotators, then you might stand with your toes pointing outward. Your gluteal muscles might feel tight and sore, and you’ll be at increased risk for hip, knee, and ankle problems because your legs are out of alignment.

As you practice your Somatics exercises every day and become more aware of how you use your body in your daily life, I want you to start paying attention to the imbalances in your muscle tension and posture. Then you can start tailoring your daily practice to address those imbalances.

HOW PANDICULATION WORKS: Go deeper into your pattern and then release slowly out of it

If you’re already practicing Clinical Somatics exercises, then you’re familiar with pandiculation. Pandiculation is our nervous system’s innate response to the buildup of muscle tension, and it’s the movement technique that makes Clinical Somatics exercises so effective.

Pandiculation works by contracting the chronically tight muscles even more than they’re already contracted, and then releasing extremely slowly and consciously out of that contraction. This conscious contraction and release sends accurate biofeedback to the nervous system about the level of tension in the muscles, and it reduces the baseline level of tension being set by the nervous system.

So let’s talk about how to tailor your daily practice to address your imbalances. For right now, just pick one imbalance in your body to think about. To release the tight muscles that are causing that imbalance, you need go deeper into that pattern, contracting the tight muscles even more, and then release slowly out of it. So to start with, you need to think about which Clinical Somatics exercises bring you deeper into your pattern.

Here are some common examples:

A tight, arched lower back. Which exercises contract the lower back muscles even more, and then slowly release them? The Arch & Flatten, Back Lift, Arch & Curl and its variations, Lower Back Release, Standing Hamstring Release, Seated Hamstring Release, Head & Knee Lifts.

Rounded posture or forward head posture. Which exercises contract and release the muscles that are pulling you forward (your abdominals)? The Arch & Flatten, Arch & Curl and its variations, Head Lifts, Diagonal Curl.

Functional leg length discrepancy. Which exercises hike your higher hip up even higher? The Side Curl, Hip Slides, Big X, Proprioceptive Exercise 2, Hip Directions.

A scoliotic curve. Which exercises bring you deeper into that curve, and then slowly release out of it? The Side Curl, Hip Slides, Big X, Proprioceptive Exercises 2, 3, & 4, Hip Directions.

Other ways you can figure out which exercises to focus on are:

  • Look at the top of each exercise page in the online courses; the first paragraph lists the conditions for which that exercise is typically most helpful.
  • Check my blog—I’ve written posts on a number of conditions that will help guide you.
  • Base it on how you feel. As you learn each exercise, feel internally which ones are most helpful in releasing your tension or pain. This is THE best way to determine which exercises to do most often!

Strategies to even out your imbalances

Work more with your tighter side: One way to even out the imbalances in your muscle tension is to start by spending more time and doing more repetitions with your tighter side or with the tighter areas of your body. Working more with your tighter areas will allow you to gradually even out the imbalance in muscle tension—so, imagine that bigger pile of sand gradually getting smaller so that eventually they’re the same size.

For example, if muscles on the right side of your waist are tight, hiking up your right hip, then you should do the Side Curl more with your right side (curling up to the right side, contracting the tight muscles and then slowly releasing them). Some days, you can try doing the Side Curl only with your right side.

Alternate your focus: If you have an imbalance like this between the right and left sides of your body, you will need to go back and forth, alternating your focus. You should start by focusing your practice on working more with releasing your tighter or more problematic side. When you start feeling like you’re making some progress in releasing those muscles, then spend some time working with your looser or better side. We all have patterns of chronic muscle tension on both sides of our bodies, and they’re typically different—sometimes very different. Both sides of the body need to be released and retrained in order to fix pain and postural issues. The nervous system is best able to integrate changes in posture when you focus more on one side at a time. If you work equally with both sides of your body, you’ll gradually reduce your overall muscle tension, but you may still be out of alignment.

Focus on quality, not quantity: Don’t get caught up in the exact number of repetitions you’re doing or the end goal of releasing your tension; this will make you rush through the exercises and you will not get the benefit of the exercises. These movements are about quality, not quantity. You’ll get more benefit from doing one repetition extremely slowly and consciously than doing several repetitions more quickly. The nervous system learns more effectively the more slowly and consciously you move. So, when thinking about practicing the exercises more with one side, remember that “more” includes more focus and more slowly.

Learn from your “better” side: Another way to even out your imbalances is to learn from your more coordinated side. Do the exercise first with your “good” side, noticing how it feels and how you engage your muscles. Then do the exercise with your not-so-good side, and try to mimic that sensation and muscular control. You can learn infinite things about your body by going back and forth like this.


As you release tight areas of your body, your proprioception will gradually adjust. But this adjustment doesn’t happen immediately—so, when you stand up after your practice, sometimes you may feel unbalanced or that your posture is incorrect. Your proprioception is your internal sense of your posture, created by information sent from proprioceptors (sensory receptors) in your muscles and joints. The central nervous system integrates information from your proprioceptive, visual, and vestibular systems to give you a sense of where your body is in space.

Your proprioception has adapted to the muscular imbalances in your body, and as you release them, it will take time for your new posture to feel right. Don’t let this bother you—it’s just part of the process of changing your habitual patterns. Comparing how you feel internally to what you look like in a mirror (the proprioceptive exercises in Level Two and the Scoliosis Course) will help you to retrain your proprioception.

Peeling the onion

If you’re still not sure where to start, don’t worry. If you practice the exercises every day, and stay very aware of what you’re feeling in your body as you do them, your internal awareness will improve quickly. You’ll become aware of certain areas of your body where you feel tight—start by focusing on those areas. After a few days, you might feel that those areas are becoming looser and more relaxed, and you might become aware of other areas of your body that need attention. Take a few days (or more or less, depending on how you feel) to focus on those areas.

This process can continue indefinitely; that’s why I compare it to peeling an onion. You’ll release an area of your body or pattern of tension, and then become aware of the next, and the next. So, one sequence of exercises will not address your needs forever; you’ll need to let your daily practice evolve as you unravel your patterns of tension.

Pandiculate patterns of tension, and don’t get caught up with specific muscles

I encourage you to pandiculate patterns of tension, and don’t get caught up with focusing on specific muscles. This concept is easier to understand if you’ve been practicing the exercises for a while and you’ve become aware of your full-body patterns of tension. One tight muscle is never the sole cause of a pain or problem. You might be feeling tightness or pain in just one muscle or one small area of your body, but I promise, there’s always a larger pattern of tension present. You probably won’t make lasting progress until you address that entire, full-body pattern of tension.

What if I hit a plateau in my progress?

If your daily practice of Clinical Somatics exercises isn’t feeling as effective as it used to, or if you’re stuck and can’t figure something out, try these three things:

1. Do different exercises. Practice and explore exercises that you learned in the courses and then forgot about, or ones that you thought weren’t helpful for you. You might be amazed at what you feel and learn from the exercises that you don’t do very often. They might become part of your regular practice, or they might make you aware of somewhere in your body that you’re holding tension. Remember, insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. So if you’re stuck, try something new!

2. Do the same exercises but more slowly. I cannot stress enough how important it is to release extremely slowly out of each contraction. Stay engaged and release as slowly as you can up until the very end of the movement. If you’ve stopped feeling benefit from a particular exercise, try doing it more slowly.

3. Notice what you’re doing in your daily life that could be keeping you stuck in patterns of tension. Is it how you use your body when you’re exercising? Is it how you sit at your desk or on the couch, or the position you sleep in? If you practice the exercises for 30 minutes a day, you’re spending the other 23 and a half hours reinforcing habitual patterns. Integrating what you’ve learned from your Clinical Somatics practice into your daily life is critical if you want to make lasting changes.

Don’t rush it!

When you first start learning Clinical Somatics exercises, it’s easy to feel goal-oriented about the process. When will you get out of pain, or when will your posture become perfectly straight? Every person’s muscular patterns are unique, so there is no way to predict how long it will take. What matters most is that you’re heading in the right direction. Once you slow down and focus on the exploratory learning process rather than the end goal, releasing long-held, complex patterns of muscle tension is actually a lot of fun!

Don’t try to rush the process or force something to change—it doesn’t work. You have to relax, stay aware, and allow change to happen. Explore the exercises each day as if it’s the first time you’ve done them; this allows you to learn something new every time you practice.