So what exactly is proprioception?
You know when you’re watching TV in a really dark room, but you still know the distance between your arm and the table holding your drink? And you’re capable of reaching for it and can grasp it without looking away from the screen? Your drink can also find your mouth even though you can’t see your mouth.
That’s what proprioception is. Proprioception is essentially knowing where your body lives in space. This is why proprioception is so important in your yoga practice.
Proprioception – An Overview
In an enlightening article, Elise Walker offers a deft description of the scientific definition of proprioception:
“Your brain receives signals from all your muscle spindles, along with other sensory receptors in your tendons and joints, and constructs an overall sense of the position and motion of your body.”
Proprioception is essentially knowing where your body lives in space.
It’s the link of movement to sensation that is the beauty and deeper definition of proprioception.
Without it, we have a very difficult time functioning and moving in a graceful, purposeful way. Some folks come by proprioception more naturally than others. But if you’re not one of those people, proprioception can be developed.
Here’s How to Develop Proprioception
We can increase proprioception by developing our self-awareness and extending that awareness to everything and everyone around us.
Proprioception is therefore especially relevant to our yoga practice. Without it, there are challenges we’ll face that aren’t necessary – certain poses will feel unnecessarily awkward and unobtainable.
Sometimes, these feelings and sensations are unavoidable. But with the help of proprioception development, we can mitigate the unpleasant effects.
Have you ever taken too short or too wide of a stance in Warrior 2? If so, you know how uncomfortable it is. Knowing the exact distance of the length of your legs allows you to find the distance you need to feel the benefits of the pose in an optimal way.
Removing this obstacle that never served us in the first place frees us up to focus on our personal goals. It also eliminates the distraction of knowing something isn’t quite right but not quite getting how to fix it.
Developing a more profound understanding of proprioception also provides an opportunity to tune in to the details and subtle nuances that each pose has the potential to offer. So how do we achieve this?
Practice! Practicing proprioception exercises will bring this developing awareness into the forefront of your mind. And like all practices, the more we do it, the deeper our understanding.
Try These 3 Proprioception Exercises:
These proprioception exercises are fun, enlightening, and will definitely help you in the pursuit of self-awareness.
1. Step off your mat
Begin at the top of your mat and close your eyes. Begin to walk backward, aiming for the back of your mat. When you think you’ve landed there, open your eyes to witness how close you came and how close you stayed to the outer edge of your mat. Now try it walking forward.
Ready to increase the challenge? Step at least three inches away from your mat at the beginning of the exercise so you’re less likely to try to find the mat with the edge of your foot as you’re walking backward.
Resist the urge to cheat and open your eyes. It took me at least three tries before I was willing and able to do it with my eyes closed the whole time.
2. Film yourself practicing
Sports teams review game videos as a regular part of understanding what’s not working. Seeing how you actually move versus how you think you’re moving is an exceptionally helpful way to make changes.
Do this regularly. And when you practice, do so as if you’re being filmed. I know this can feel a bit intimidating and might cause a bit of self-consciousness. But trust that it will quickly turn into self-awareness. You’ll begin to notice and feel things you never have before.
3. Practice mat-to-mat
Either find a very crowded yoga class to attend or get together with some yoga-loving friends and set the group intention of proprioception. When you have no choice but to consider the people on either side of you, in front of you, and behind you, this skill-set will become much more attainable.
You can also do this while practicing a little yoga the next time you find yourself on a plane. Any crowded and/or small space ensures you’ll have to practice with more thoughtfulness.
Proprioception: The Takeaway
Remember, these proprioception exercises are meant to help us progress.
At first, it may feel uncomfortable, but the idea is to move through the discomfort to get to the underlying information that will do nothing but help us grow and flourish.
Have fun with these proprioception exercises, and let us know in the comments how they work for you.
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