We’ve been told that stretching is good for us. Our pets do it. We did it at school. Even professional athletes continue this now outdated method. Contrary to the popular myth that we need stretching, there are other ways to go about getting our muscles to naturally lengthen.


What to do instead of stretching?

Use our brain instead.

The idea of the plastic paradox has the power to produce more flexible but also more rigid behaviors. Neuroplasticity can takes us to both ends of the game. By understanding both the positive and negative effects of plasticity we can understand the extent of human possibilities.

To be mobile and move well, consistent natural movement of the limbs will do. Learning something truly new with intense focus will create the changes in the brain according to Norman Doidge, The Brain that Changes Itself.

Stretching doesn’t engage our brain in the positive manner we thought.

“Science has moved on… many athletes’ warm-up regimens are not only a waste of time but actually bad for you. The old presumption that holding a stretch for 20 to 30 seconds– known as static stretching-primes muscles for a workout is dead wrong. It actually weakens them.” William Holcomb, PhD, University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Instead “central nervous system programming (changing our brain) is the most important aspect of all exercise-and must never be neglected at all stages of training”, Mel C Siff, Facts and Fallacies of Fitness.

When we stretch, we can actually pull the muscles so a reflex known as the stretch reflex re-tightens the muscles. While on the one hand it’s good to have a set point, so our leg doesn’t fly off of us when we kick. The flip side is when we try to stretch that leg, the brain sends the signal to recontract the tissues so we’re left tighter than before and we lose our mobility.

“Static Stretching can cause architectural damage and may interfere with the structural integrity of the connective tissue. The notion that people should be trying to increase range of motion every time they stretch is not one to be supported”, says John Sharkey, The Concise Book of Neuromuscular Therapy, 2008.

“You are physically flexible when you are agile, supple, and childlike in your movements…”, Bob, Cooley,The Genius of Flexibility.

Moving with easy mobility so the joints get their lubrication allows us to move freely as we age. The message is simple, stop stretching.

Some of us will be wed to the concept but we can lengthen muscles by not stretching.

Divorce counselor for stretching on the scene.

While I often get glazed looks at saying not to stretch on the soccer fields, our animals who we thought we’re stretching are going about it in a completely different way than we thought of.

How many times do we see a cheetah pull a hamstring running 60mph when all it takes for us to go into a back spasm is just to reach.

Healthy vertebrate animals pandiculate themselves to have all the range of motion, agility, speed, strength, and quickness, to move as well as they can. They keep their muscles nimble by being brain fit..

Fido not stretchingPandiculation is what a healthy vertebrate animal uses to arouse its brain to control its muscles. You see, when an animal stretches, it isn’t. It’s contracting itself in an entire body pattern, then it slowly releases itself. Now it’s ready to move…

If we understand how the brain works, then you can systematically unwind from stiffness, pains, and aches.

Can you recover from injury more quickly than your peers?

Your brain is the key in releasing the neurochemicals to change the resting levels of the muscles. Doing this lets us move easily, agilely, and as quickly as any healthy animal. Applying proper neuroplasticity will get you there.

Understanding pandiculation is like turning on the spigot to free drugs which naturally relaxes muscles.

The brain is just sitting there waiting for us to turn the key and awaken our pandicular process. Whoa!

The system of somatics exercises uses conscious pandiculation as the primary method.

As we pandiculate, we check for sensory-motor amnesia so we can first learn about where tension or an amnesia like disconnect exists.  This is why this is vastly different from stretching.

This systematic approach helps to instantly release tight, stiff muscles via a brain event.

When we mindfully use our brain, the way nature intended with a conscious process, then you’ve reset the brain and body so you can move freely.

So to stop playing our games like a stiff old person, we can change ourself using our brain’s own internal process… that most of us didn’t know existed yet once we experience it again, it’s like coming home.

Our muscles which we’ve tried to lengthen by pulling and stretching, may get their function compromised or injured. The return to function happens clearly via the brain’s motor cortex.

“Stretching one leg’s muscles can reduce strength in the other leg as well, probably because the central nervous system rebels against the movements… The straining muscle becomes less responsive and stays weakened for up to 30 minutes after stretching, which is not how an athlete wants to begin a workout”, Malachy McHugh, the director of research at the Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma.

Normally our focus is to activate muscles. Often times, we activate and use more than is necessary. With a pandiculation we get a chance to inhibit muscles to jump in and “try” to move. Turning less on, the muscles are freer to move comfortably.

Somatics, using the pandicular process, is designed for those of us who play our game in pain, move stiffly, awkwardly, or can’t recover from injury, etc. … and prefer to move with better performance naturally and effortlessly.

So please give up the stretching. Is stretching really working out for us?

If we let our brain adjust the information to the muscles we’ll not only understand why we need to program our muscles via our central nervous system. We’ll feel our muscles in an entirely new way.

Stretching our self is not using the muscles as they are designed… which is to contract and release and so on.

If we continue to play our games thinking stretching will help. Think again.

And think how many young people will have to endure the non-sense of ice baths, balms and eventually heating pads and taking pills to recover from what? Using our body and preparing it against natural movement. The brain can reorganize and reset our patterns effectively.

Movement is memory. We can create a memory of bad movement patterns which we adapt our self to or we can create a better memory and use our self naturally and easily.

Healthy animals are not stretching, they are strong, flexible and mobile by using another means. They keep showing us everyday the way to wonderful movement.

If you’re a coach… How long do you want to coach those younger players with the same old, out dated approach?

If we aren’t moving well or are no longer playing because of our pains, it’s time to keep up with the science of change and do what Fido does naturally.

We can pandiculate our way to health instead of stretching.
Ed Barrera is a Hanna Somatic Educator®, Holistic Health Advisor and author of Amazon Bestseller Move Like an Animal with over 14 years of experience, helping people find natural pain relief through somatics exercises which are the reverse to most approaches since it is a brain and body un-exercise system to muscle lengthening, relaxation and control. The brain’s motor cortex is a pathway to a healthy, fully-functional body. It’s not just “alternative medicines” or “an alternative to exercise”; it’s natural pain relief that actually works!

If you’re unfamiliar with the somatic definition, visit our What is Somatics? page, where we define somatic and explain more about somatics and how somatics information will help you direct your “well being” toward natural healing and pain relief.