Proprioception and Kinesthetic Sense
by Eric Borreson
Proprioception and Taiji
Taiji is a great exercise to improve proprioception and kinesthetic sense. During movement of any kind, we are constantly losing our balance and regaining it quickly. The better our ability to regain balance, the safer and more skillful our movement. Better balance makes athletes less likely to be injured and reduces falls among the elderly. Balance is improved by improving your proprioception and kinesthetic sense.
Proprioception represents your body’s ability to react to external forces. A kinesthetic sense is your ability to sense where your body is in space. It should be pointed out that not everyone agrees on the definitions of these terms.
Proprioception is an inner sense that works with the central nervous system. It is the ability of your brain to communicate and coordinate the movement of different parts of your body. It is your reflexes working to keep your body in balance. Good exercises to improve proprioception are those that challenge your balance and equilibrium, like taiji.
Proprioception works through proprioceptive nerve endings to sense your body’s location. Muscle spindle fibers in the muscles communicate information to allow the muscles to maintain proper muscle tension to support the joints. These nerve endings and muscle spindle fibers degenerate without regular use. Taiji works many muscle groups to restore and improve function.
Kinesthetic sense, or kinesthesia, is an outer sense that works with your body in space and time. It is your mind knowing where each part of your body is in relation to things around you. Good exercises to improve kinesthetic awareness are those that require coordination and movement control.
Your kinesthetic sense can improve through practice. Just be aware of every movement in your taiji forms. Be precise about placing your hands and feet. Check your placement to give yourself feedback, and learn from that feedback.
Combining proprioception and a kinesthetic sense improves your ability to control your body’s movements. Improving your proprioception and kinesthetic awareness can turn you from an eternal klutz into a skilled athlete. It helps you make more precise movements with less effort. In other words, it improves your balance and coordination. Taiji is very precise and controlled. This brings the player’s focus to the movement and that focus transfers to everyday life.
Eric Borreson – a student and teacher, finds teaching taiji, qigong, and meditation to be a path to a more meaningful life. Eric is the founder and director of Meditation in Motion, specializing in teaching about living healthier and happier lives. He teaches taiji, qigong, and meditation at the prestigious Heartland Spa, a top 10 destination spa, located in Gilman, IL. In addition, he teaches taiji (Yang 24, Sun-style taiji, and Dr. Paul Lam’s Taiji for Arthritis) at other venues. He conducts workshops and teaches private lessons on request. He writes a weekly wellness column at http://eric-taichi.blogspot.com.