Proprioception – Making Life Livable
Posted by terrepruitt on November 8, 2011
We exercise our proprioceptive sense in Nia in every workout. Generally proprioception is the sense of body parts in relation to the body. One’s own perception of one’s own body. You may have also heard kinesthesia which is very closely defined, both definitions debated, as the sense of movement. But for now I will tell it as I learned it and explain it as I know it. Proprioception is what we do by knowing where we are in space . . . not outer space, but in space. Knowing how far to reach for something. Our body knows or senses how far our arm has to reach. In our muscles we have proprioceptors that monitor, detect, and inform the rest of the body what needs to be done in order to achieve the goal of reaching the object. Proprioception makes life so much easier!
When you reach for your coffee/juice cup in the morning you probably look at the cup. You look, your brain makes a million calculations, your arm reaches out for it, and you grab it. Then do you look at the mirror to make certain you actually get the cup to your mouth? Probably not. You just know where your mouth is and you bring your cup up to you mouth for a sip of liquid. Yes, there have been times I am sure when we have all “missed our mouth” and poured something down our front, but more often than not we make it to our mouth. Same with eating and brushing our teeth. We know where our mouth is so we are able to get our hand to our face with the proper distance for the utensil.
Walking is the same. We have a sense of where the ground is so we don’t watch every step, we just allow our leg to go out to make contact with the ground and we step. I bet we have all missed a step or thought the ground was either farther away or closer than it actually was. So we might have jarred ourselves a bit. But again, more often than not walking is a smooth habitual action executed with ease.
What about touching your nose or scratching an itch? The same thing. We know where our body parts are so our muscles and our proprioceptors know what it will take to get our hand there to scratch.
This is part of the nervous system. This body function can be trained, it can be practiced, it can be improved. If you like sports such as golf or baseball, you are practicing with precision movements that allow you to use an object to make contact with a ball. You learn how and when to swing. You learn how hard or light to hit in order to get the ball to go not only the distance but where you want it to go. Practicing a choreography dance is training your muscles and your nervous system. Learning the steps and being able to place your feet correctly without looking is great practice. In Nia we use our entire body while dancing so we are able to keep our proprioceptors and our nervous system active. In many of our routines we actively look up while our feet perform specific moves. We encourage our students to allow their feet to dance what they know.
It is very important to practice with and train our proprioceptive sense. Learning new motor skills is a great way to get those muscles and nerves singing. As we age this sense seems to diminish and it could be just from lack of movement. I have seen many elder people stop moving and then become very afraid of the world around them. If we keep our proprioceptive sense then we are aware of where our body is and we are aware of the world around us, this helps us fear less. So keep moving. Keep practicing old skills. Keep learning. Learn new skills. Keep dancing. And keep living. Exercising our proprioception will help ensure a high quality of live and living!