I’m a bit of a skeptical yogi. Whenever I hear teachers say anything about *wringing toxins* I curl up inside, and I definitely don’t use any of that in my own teaching. But I love finding things that DO support the things I’ve found to be true in my own practice. And by practice, I’m including yoga, meditation, mindfulness, and proprioception.
Also called kinesthetic awareness, it’s “…the brain’s ability to sense the relative positions and movements of the different body parts. Because of proprioception, you know exactly where your hand is in space as you move it around, even though your eyes are closed.” Close your eyes and touch the tip of your nose. That’s proprioception in action: knowing where your nose is, where your finger is, and bringing them together.
To do this, the brain creates body maps that represent our various body parts with correlations to different parts of the brain, communicating through mechanoreceptors where everything is and what it needs to do next. Even as I type these words, my brain is creating infinite body maps to determine the keystrokes, how I’m moving my feet under the desk, blinking, everything.
Just like navigating to a new location, having a good map makes the trip easy. Having a bad map can make it less easy. The same logic applies to our body maps. And confused maps cause pain. You’ve probably heard of phantom limb pain, where an amputee can still feel sensation in their missing limb.
How to Improve Your Body Maps with Mindfulness
Tara Brach wrote that “…Buddha called physical sensations the first foundation of mindfulness because they are intrinsic to feelings and thoughts and are the base of the very process of consciousness.” After we’re born, our brain automatically labels some areas, like the psoas muscle, as unconscious to help conserve energy. Like breathing and our heartbeat. We don’t have to conciously think about every breath we take or every beat of our heart like we have to think about scratching our neck.
But yoga and mindfulness work to reawaken those energy-saving muscles and systems, to bring our attention to our own bodies and how they’re functioning. Yoga means “to yoke”; it truly works to connect all the dots within our physical awareness in addition to our emotional awareness and beyond.
Proprioception and body awareness go hand in hand, and are nearly identical depending on who’s defining them. As we move through asana practice, we develop a deeper sense of how we’re feeling. I’ve noticed students automatically keep their finger tips engaged, their abilities growing to make micro adjustments through the hips, and more. And what we do call this ability to check in with ourselves, to find those areas that need to relax and allow us to move deeper? Mindfulness, babycakes.
Developing a consistent practice is the perfect way to enhance proprioception in your body. Finding ways to move, everyday, can and will have major effects on your mental and physical health. No wringing out of toxins needed 😉