Do you ever find yourself rushing around, feeling busy or overwhelmed?  If so and you’re like me, it can create this sense of being on the go all the time, with a mindset that goes something like “I’ll be able to relax once I get (you fill in the blank) done”.

In another blog I’ll share with you ways I’ve found most helpful in finding peace and in ease in those moments but today, I want to share with you what happens in our body when we experience this kind of stress in our lives.

Your muscles respond to every thought and emotion you have

Isn’t that amazing!  It really helps me appreciate how truly the mind and body are one.  It also helps to understand why if you experience this sense of busyness for long enough, you might end up with chronic lower back pain or stiffness even when you no longer feel stressed.  Why is this?

Simply put, your brain controls your muscles

So every time the alarm clock goes, you run to catch that bus or you’re thinking “I have a million things to do today”, your back muscles contract to help you move forward and accomplish all the things you want to do.

Now, this isn’t a bad thing in and of itself and it can also be a joyous response – a “yes” to life – it only becomes a problem if it becomes a habituated way to how you live your life.  So much in the same way that once we learn to ride a bicycle or play the
piano it becomes automatic and we no longer have to think about it, your muscles can learn to stay “on” even when they are no longer required for an activity.  This helps to explain why even when you just want to chill out, your muscles can remain tense and sore.

image2Basically, your brain has literally “forgotten” that it is holding your muscles partially contracted.  It’s called Sensory-Motor Amnesia (SMA) and you can read more about it here.  It sounds a little scary but it’s quite normal to have SMA to some extent – and not surprisingly given the fast paced nature of our society and the amount of stimulation in our environment, it’s often leads to tight back muscles that over time can result in lower back pain.

You can retrain your brain to release tight, stiff & painful muscles

It really is possible to release and relax your muscles and ease out of stiffness and pain.  The secret is through a weird sounding  thing called pandiculation – and only YOU can do this for yourself.  Pandiculation is a natural movement for all vertebrate animals and research has shown that animals pandiculate 42X per day.   image3 

Pandiculation is nature’s way of waking up the brain

There are three components to a pandiculation:

1.  You contract a muscle tighter than it already is (this wakes up the brain so it can begin to sense the contracted muscle)

2.  You SLOWLY release and lengthen the muscle (the brain relearns to release and relax the muscle to its natural length)

3.  You completely relax at the end (so the brain can sense what a relaxed muscle feels like)

Here’s a gentle Somatic Exercise to release the lower back

I’m sharing a video of my teacher and mentor Martha Peterson in which she shows you how to do Arch and Flatten, a wonderful Somatic Movement to release the lower back.  I do this movement everyday to help keep my back muscles relaxed and under the voluntary control of my brain.  Even if you don’t have lower back pain, this movement is fantastic for preventing it.

Over to you

Explore Arch and Flatten everyday for a while and see how you find it.  The most important thing to remember is to go slowly, gently within your comfort range and with maximum awareness of the internal sensations within your body.  I would love to hear how you get on so please feel free to share your experience in the comments below.

If you would like to learn more Somatic Movements to help keep you supple and moving without pain, you can explore them with me in a variety of ways:


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