Pandiculations and the Valsalva Maneuver

Hello there my beautiful people! Today I’d like to talk about the relationship between muscle tension and the nervous system as well as the role that valsalvic pressure, the pressure built up when the lungs are full of air. We’ll discuss this in relation to circulation and stimulation of the endocrine system through pandiculation. The relevance here is that this act will allow you to relieve chronic muscle tension, balance your muscles and guide your nervous system to a calm state.
We all perform pandiculation on a daily basis just as we breath. When we yawn and tense stretch our arms out while tensing the torso this is a pandiculation Beginning to do so more consciously will greatly improve your body awareness and muscle balance. Pandiculation is a 3 part act. First, intentionally tensing a muscle or muscle groups to their full contraction, holding it for 30 seconds or longer. Next, releasing the contraction very slowly. Finally, a pause period of no movement.The aim is to stimulate the nervous system with the full contraction so that during the slow release, we can recalibrate the resting length of the muscle, releasing any holding patterns we may have. In order to this effectively we must be very attentive to all details of the contraction, release and pause. Check out this video of animal pandiculation which is done by all mammals:

When it comes to muscle tension, we have a kind of thermostat in the sub-cortical areas of our brain. They hold programmed levels of muscle tension. This can occur as compensation from an injury or as a result of repetitive movements or stressors. The cortex is used for adaptation and learning.

By activating the motor sensory feedback loop by being hyper attentive to our movement and very intentional about the contracting and tensing we do (apha and gamma systems, respectively are responsible for this in the brain) we are able to update the software our nervous system is running on the hardware of our muscles. In this way we can regain balance and symmetry allowing us to move faster and be stronger! Addressing muscular holding patterns is critical to being able to train optimally, living free of pain and moving well into old age.

In order to generate stronger muscle contractions during pandiculation it is useful to manipulate our breathing. Check out this video on how to build the valsalvic pressure (air/muscle pressure inside the body) and how to cultivate the all important body awareness needed to pandiculate effectively.

An example of a valsalva maneuver can be seen in any power lifting records. The athlete will always take a giant inhale and hold it as they execute the lift. They are not only holding the breath in but creating tension up the spine by first crunching the torso down then drawing in the navel, pushing out the chest, flexing the neck and reaching the chin down and crown of the head up. Check out this video for a visual…

Notice he hyperventilates several times beforehand and then holds his breath in during the lift, he is also doing those internal squeezes. (bandhas) By doing this maneuver we are much more stable in our muscular system and therefore able to lift more but also stretch better as well as deliver oxygen more deeply into the tissue.

During the valsalva maneuver blood vessels are temporarily constricted. You can think of this as water building up at a dam. When we release the breath but maintain the constriction the dam bursts and our blood flows out with impressive force, much deeper into our tissue than with normal breathing. The result is a halt in the buildup of lactic acid, better lubrication of the joints and muscles (more flexibility/ less pain).

The wonderful thing about pandiculation is that it allows for us to reset the optimal resting length for our muscles and overcome holding patterns which are responsible for chronic pain and could lead to further injury. When tensing the muscles it is even more powerful when using the valsalva maneuver. Along with resetting the resting length of our muscles over time, pandiculation also has the immediate effect of providing deep relaxation by producing a pleasant chemical cocktail including dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin.

Pandiculation is a principle which can be applied from a wide variety of positions. In this video we review supine (laying back down) pandiculations for the two major global movements, pronation and supination.


Published by Primal Fitness Project

Hello and welcome to the Primal Fitness Project. I’m a Personal Trainer with a deep interest in the body/mind. I believe it’s coming to light there is much more overlap between body and mind; physiology and psychology. In the context of evolution, the conditions we are experiencing are quite new and surprisingly unpleasant to our genetics. Major environmental conditions like lighting, temperature, food and stress are having negative impacts on our genetic expression. Negative impacts on our very human blueprint. I’m not suggesting we run off into the woods or abandon the progress that benefits us. I am suggesting that we begin to ask questions about where our culture has lost balance with the human blueprint. In an industry oriented purely the physical and worse still, dominated by dissection mentality. Disconnecting the body instead of training it as a whole. Isolating muscle groups is being shown to have negative impacts on our Fascia, the organ of form which integrates all systems of the body. The rates of injury and degeneration are fire alarms signaling our straying from the path. This BIG! It means we are unintentionally limiting ourselves in the quality of our movement and psychology. On top of that there are the environmental challenges of diet, distraction and sleep. It’s fair to say we’ve hit a low point in health and happiness with the epidemic of diseases both mental and physical. This space represents our resurgence. We’re building a community conscious of these challenges and prepared to take action back towards balance. Our weapons are information and practice. Here you will find information from people looking to empower you to take control of the six major points in our Hexagon of Health: Mentality, Movement, Breath, Sleep, Nutrition and Community. Let us put this information into practice and become stronger together.

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