What is Proprioception?

Foam Rollers, Rotational Discs, Stability Balls Develop this Sense

Proprioception is sometimes referred to as the sixth sense. The term is used to explain a person’s understanding of where her body is in space and where the different parts of the body are in relation to one another.

How Proprioception Works

Nerve receptors that are located in the muscles, tendons, and joints send signals to the brain, telling an individual about her positioning in space. This process, which a person rarely thinks about, allows her to perform tasks without looking at every body part to verify where it is when performing a task.

Why Proprioception is Important

Proprioception is an important sense. Understanding one’s positioning allows her to walk without looking at her legs and play the violin without looking at her finger placement. It allows her to drive a car while reaching for the map in the back seat and read the newspaper while sipping from a coffee mug.

Without proprioception, a person would be unable to complete many tasks. Proprioception allows an individual to multi-task and perform activities that would be nearly impossible if she needed to look and verify where her body was in space all the time.

Proprioception Can be Developed

Trainers and physical therapists often focus on proprioception after a client has suffered an injury. When an injury occurs, it can throw off a person’s proprioceptive sense. Trainers therefore focus on delivering proprioceptive feedback to the client. This can come in the form of visual, auditory, or tactile cues.

One need not have an injury to develop proprioception, though. Just like any other muscle activity, understanding one’s body positioning can be enhanced through regular exercise, and when proprioception is not practiced, it can deteriorate. Many forms of mind-body exercise develop proprioception. Yoga, Pilates, and Tai Chi are among them.

Pilates Instructors Use Props to Enhance Proprioception

When the aim is to stimulate proprioception, Pilates instructors will use props to alter the regular exercise repertoire and challenge the client. Foam rollers, the BOSU balance trainer, rotational discs, and stability balls all encourage development of proprioception, balance, and coordination.

The Pilates instructor may have her client stand on rotational discs as she completes Reverse Expansion with arm springs on the Cadillac. She may have her client perform breathing on the stability ball. She may place rotational discs under her hands as she does push-ups or leg-pull front. Depending upon the client’s needs, a wide array of exercises and props can be used.

Unstable Surfaces Used in Pilates Benefit Clients

Like other activities, proprioception can be compromised because of injury or disuse. Focusing on developing this sense can be beneficial, especially as the body ages. Pilates trainers use a wide range of apparatus and props to promote instability and help clients develop better a proprioceptive sense.

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