Stretching Like Animals Do Can Relieve Tension


Animals stretch frequently out of habit. It is instinctual to remain as loose and limber as possible to accommodate fight or flight situations when they come up. Humans can help to keep themselves in tip-top physical shape by replicating the stretches that animals do.

Animal Stretches

When animals stretch it is called pandiculation, which is a full body stretch that involves multiple muscle groups that work together. Instead of isolating muscles to stretch, you work with multiple muscle groups and allow them to stretch and relax naturally. A great example of this is how cats and dogs do the full body “yawn” in which they lower their front half, allow their back end to float high in the air, and lean back. Another is to roll into a ball while laying on your back and rock gently from side to side.

Somatic Exercises

Somatic exercises are a form of pandiculation. Somatic exercises mimic natural body movements that we perform frequently. They are more pleasurable and effective than most of the common stretches that are taught in gym class or adult fitness classes. One example is a side bend. Somatic exercises have shown to be much more effective at helping to prepare for physical activities than regular stretches. Breathing is also an important component of somatic stretches.

Benefits of Doing Animal Stretches

Animal stretches and breathing exercises can have the following effects:

  • Improved resistance to illness
  • Increased stamina
  • Improved range of motion
  • Decreased occurrences of strains and injuries
  • Better circulation
  • Possible weight loss over time
  • Increased control over stress and emotional well being

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