By Elizabeth Claire Burr.
Scroll down for a guided meditation video.
The word pendiculation means ‘to yawn’ and it is a three-part process of contraction, a slow mindful release, and then letting go. This process is natural to our being. When an animal, for example, experiences trauma, it moves into a pendiculation process. So it contracts, releases, and lets go. The animal doesn’t hold onto trauma – the mind doesn’t hold onto trauma and make a story of it – because it is able to let it go. Animals release trauma more readily than humans do because the mind grasps onto the trauma and makes it concrete in the body.
When we hold trauma in our bodies, over time it becomes sensory-motor amnesia.
Sensory motor amnesia is when parts of our body no longer function at their optimal level. For example, a muscle that stays contracted even when we go to sleep and it is supposed to be relaxed. Imagine, I am slumped over in a curved spine position and I think it’s just because my age is 53. Maybe that’s what 53 year olds are supposed to look like. But it’s the muscles contracting in my back and they don’t actually need to be like that. The pendiculation process wakes up the places in our body that have gone to sleep – contracted, dull, congested parts of our being.
The whole process is to bring awareness to those parts by contracting them even more. In this way the brain listens.
When we contract those muscles more than they’re contracted and slowly, mindfully release that contraction, we open up new neural pathways and we open up into our greater potential, greater ease, and no pain. The third part of the process is letting go – it is a very important part of the process because it is the integration. The brain can then integrate this newness.
In yogic practice, going back to neutral is called tadasana.
By contracting those places of trauma, we are able to release things on the emotional level, the energetic level, the spiritual level, the mental level, and the physical level. Coming, leaning into those places of trauma, whichever level they may be, can release them. Sometimes we have a deep sadness and usually we just push away from feeling it. And then when something happens in our life and we feel a little sadness so we start to cry and all the sadness that we’ve put on hold starts to come up. But what if we were able to access that stored sadness by coming into our emotional being and leaning into it a little bit. Then we would open up, and with a mindful, skillful means, we can release it more effectively.
You can pendiculate any part of your body at any time – it is about moving into a contraction and a slow, mindful release, and letting go.
What Thomas Hannah did, which was very important as it made the practice accessible to everybody, was that he began to understand that as we move through our lives, traumas are held in reflex patterns. He chose three reflex patterns that we hold in our being: the red light, the green light, and the trauma pattern. Once you have identified the reflex pattern, you can perform different exercises to release them.
In this video below, I share Tonglen, a practice that comes from the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. Although different, it is very similar to the pendiculation process in Hanna Somatics. Instead of turning away from our pain and avoiding it at all costs, we lean into it. In Tonglen we actually invite the pain right into our hearts, to transmute the difficulties or challenges we are experiencing into release, relief, love, and compassion. It is a very powerful practice that is focused on the purification of our heart centres and on the waking up of strength and courage in our hearts and in our daily lives. It is a very direct way to cultivate wide heart, which is one of the 8 vital principles in the Vijnana Yoga tradition, including relaxed body, quiet mind, wide heart, intention, rooting, connecting, breathing and expansion. The Essential Yoga and Somatics that I practice is an integration of Tibetan Buddhist practices, Hanna Somatics and Vijnana Yoga.
Elizabeth Claire Burr is a Vijnana Yoga International teacher, ERYT and the co-founder of rasa – a centre for the healing arts in the Comox Valley. Elizabeth offers workshops, retreats, Yoga Mentorship Programs and leads community Kirtan. She is an inspired and skilled facilitator, teacher and healer, committed to the path of Awakening through service and Love for the benefit of all beings.