Somatic Muscle Releases to Release Tight Muscles
Updated: Aug 4
Somatic Muscle Releases
These muscle releases are a great way to target specific muscles as well as larger muscle groups that are held in a chronically contracted (tight) state to help them release using specific slow, mindful movements to contract and release - allowing them to reach a longer, softer resting state. This method is also known as Pandiculation.
To learn more here’s a little video on Pandiculation
Somatic Muscle releases are a LESS is MORE type of exercise, 2-4 repetitions are sufficient, I typically recommend 3x but sometimes the results are super impressive after only 1 or 2 reps. When I teach these in One-on-One private sessions often times the results are so amazing after 1 rep that the additional reps aren’t needed or beneficial.
REASON: The objective is to contract the already tight muscle even more using the conscious part of your brain (Prefrontal Cortex), taking the task away from the automatic part of your brain (Cerebellum) and then doing a slow release against gravity or manual/weighted resistance. The brain can only do this a few times before we switch back over to the automatic part of our brain to complete the task which defeats the purpose and can leave you with an unconsciously contracted muscle all over again.
These releases will activate and use your parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest not fight or flight) and can result in what I typically call the “Pilates High” but it’s essentially a dopamine rush in your brain. You will probably feel a little light-headed/high after even one somatic release, so it is best to rest afterward, especially if you are doing a series of releases on various muscle groups. By speaking to your muscles via the nervous system, there is a lot of information for your body/mind to process.
In addition, chronically contracted muscles suffer some sensory motor amnesia. Meaning that in the process of the slow eccentric contraction to the new resting state, muscle fibers that had previously not been connected to motor neurons are now being invited to the muscle party and they can be a bit jumpy (hence the slight twitchy/jerkiness you’ll experience during the release). It’s use it or lose it even on a neuro-muscular level. But don’t be discouraged with continued practice you’ll redevelop more neurological connections to these previously “resting” fiber bundles. Plus the bonus benefit beyond releasing unnecessary tension is that more muscle contraction efficiency leads to more strength, agility and ease of movement.
With all of this neurological talking and reprogramming occurring, I recommend a nice Savasana or resting mediation immediately after these Somatic Releases to allow your body to process the new information and lock it in. Here is a simple Guided Body-Scan Meditation I created that would make a great follow up to your release routine.
Best way to use these videos
1. Watch it one time through to see the movement then replay the video with your eyes closed so that you can mindfully move through the movement in your own body listening to my voice.
2. Complete each exercise 3 times or less and do a mini check-in with your body after each rep to know if you need 1, 2 or 3 reps.
3. Move through the somatic release portion of the exercise extremely slowly, add in as many breaths as you need to complete.
4. End your release exercise session with a laying down rest or meditation of your choosing. This is also a great way to unwind before bed.
If are interested in more information on these Hanna Somatics muscle releases feel free to message me directly or read more about it in Thomas Hanna’s Book titled, Somatics.