What is Proprioception?
Proprioception is the awareness of our body in space. We have proprioceptors in our muscles, tendons, skin and joints that communicate with the cerebrum or cerebellum. The cerebrum is most likely what you visualize when you think of a brain and is responsible for conscious control of movement. The cerebellum is located at the back of the head, behind where the spinal cord meets the brain and coordinates movement. Take a look at this cool 3D graphic Here if you need a good visual of the brain.
Examples and Impairment
An example of proprioception is when you walk (move freely) without looking directly down at the surface you are walking on (don’t consciously think about the environment). The most well know test of proprioception is a sobriety test. That’s why officers ask that someone appearing impaired reach out their hand and touch their finger to their nose while standing on one foot. However, alcohol is not the only thing that impairs our proprioception. Disease and injury can also impair it as well as aging. Fortunately, we are able to improve it. As an example, professional athletes do proprioception training so they can process more information faster to and from the brain to enhance performance and reduce injury. Luckily, you don’t have to be an athlete to improve your proprioception for daily function.
How Does Yoga Help?
In addition to improving balance and muscle strength a yoga practice allows us to be more mindful. We can train our bodies to pay more attention and reduce our chance of re-injury as well as increase the rate of rehabilitation. Moreover, having better balance reduces the risk of falling (Important to the aging population). Proprioception involves a process with rapid communication to the brain. Slow yoga that allows for moments to pause and reflect on bodily sensations is a great way to improve it. Slow yoga also awakens any sensory amnesia we may have from traumatic experiences (physical or emotional).
Stay tuned for more about our sensory system and yoga that integrates improved awareness of our bodies and feelings.