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Introduction To Proprioception By Karen Dawn Oei MA, Dip. BSS, SrSS


Proprioception is the body’s ability to perceive its own position in space.


The Proprioceptive System is part of the central nervous system that maintains alignment through the activity of specialized nerve fibers and soft tissues in the muscles, tendons, and ligaments.


Proprioceptors are sensory organs within soft tissues (e.g., muscle spindles, Golgi tendon organs). Sensory nerve endings wrap around the proprioceptors and send information to the nervous system. Proprioceptors can sense when tissues are stretched or experience tension or pressure and tell us how much to extend, stretch, contract, or relax, like a reflex action.


These sensory organs enable us to feel our feet standing on soft grass or on hard concrete without looking or even without wearing shoes; we can throw a ball without having to look at our arm, or we can close our eyes and move our arms forward towards our feet and as we stretch out, we can sense when we are reaching a line of tension or a point of limitation. We might know not to stretch further or we could tear a muscle.


So in a sense, proprioceptors can protect us from injury if the body senses that we have stretched our muscles too far. This is the physiological mechanism behind your Inner Guidance System.

Listening to and working with our Inner Guidance GPS becomes an embodied experience where we learn to be in touch with how we feel in our body and the space around our body (e.g., vibes, information). In addition, an injury (torn ACL or Achilles tendon) can damage the soft tissues where proprioceptors are located. Damaged tissues do not function normally and can result in a loss of proprioception. This can lead to a recurrence of an acute injury. Proprioception can also be impaired by neurological conditions eg Parkinson’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis.


PROPRIOCEPTIVE EXERCISES:

Proprioceptive exercises form a key part of Shiatsu Shin Tai training and practice; these involve a specific type of movement and focus that activates the proprioceptive system and expands one’s perception of space and time, sense of alignment physically, mentally, and emotionally and develops our Inner Guidance System.

Proprioceptive exercises balance energy in our body and around our body and affect our Physical, Emotional, Mental, and Spiritual state including consciousness-raising.

  • Physical – posture, more ease in the body, a better range of movement, release restrictions in the body

  • Emotional – stress, empowerment

  • introduction-to-proprioception-by-karen-dawn-oei-ma-dip-bss-srssMental – clarity

  • Spiritual – deeper alignment with our soul path / what feels true. This process is more internal than external.

  • Involves feeling sensations in the body and the energy system.

  • Expands our perception, sensitivity, awareness, and subtlety (we learn to perceive subtle energies during treatments).

  • You can use proprioceptive exercises to enhance other self-development practices (yoga, meditation, art, music).


KEY ELEMENTS WHEN FOLLOWING A PROPRIOCEPTIVE EXERCISE

BREATH: Breathe to the back of your nose and down the back of your nasal passage. This stimulates the part of your nervous system (olfactory nerve) that governs the relaxation response (activates the parasympathetic response).

SLOW MOTION: Move-in slow motion. If you think you are moving slow, move even slower. This is key to activating the proprioceptive system. Helps us gain a new sense of how the body feels on a microcosmic and cellular level.

BE COMFORTABLE: Move-in a way that is comfortable. We are not aiming to stretch as far as we can or push in a forceful way past our limitations.

DIRECT: Your attention to sensing the body and sensations in the body.

FLOATING SENSATION: As you move, invoke a floating sensation. This brings consciousness into the proprioceptive dimension. Expands our sense of time and space.


LINE OF TENSION: Breathe into the line of tension/point of limitation. Feel your breath expand into the joints of your hips, the muscles and ligaments, and tendons. The point of tension releases as you breathe in and out. You might find that you can stretch further.

ELASTIC STRETCH. Like a rubber band. Encourage yourself to feel the elastic stretch/elasticity. When the life force is trapped, the body loses its elasticity.

All these aspects give us a sense of:

  • Where a restriction is in the body

  • Micro-motion of structure, joints and tissue; and movement of energy inside and outside the body


Proprioceptive exercises help us to find realignment and recover our life force: elastic quality, strength, flexibility and agility that may have been compressed or trapped by stressful events in life.

***

I am grateful to Saul Goodman, the founder of Shin Tai International and to Lynn Goodman for their generosity in teaching and showing this work.

Shin Tai International: https://shintaiinternational.com


Karen Dawn Oei

Mobile: +44-7912357198

Location: Portobello, Edinburgh EH15 1HD

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