Often, during a Pilates class, the ultimate goal is to find balance and awareness of one’s body, performing exercises with or without small tools, with the aim of stimulating proprioception.
The proprioception is defined as the sense of position and movement of the limbs and the body that you have independently from sight. It can be divided into a sense of static position of the limbs and a sense of movement of the limbs. This is a fundamental quality for control of movement and posture. A correct posture is maintained through a constant reworking of the parameters of muscular activity, which is essential to maintain the center of gravity within the base of support. The barycenter is in continuous movement both for the action (on the body) of external forces, and for the displacements caused by voluntary movement.
This perception of our body, we can call it a “sixth sense”. In the total absence of proprioceptive sensitivity, with our eyes closed or in the dark, we could not even know what position our fingers are in, whether our arms and legs are stretched or flexed, or whether our muscles are at rest. It is necessary to learn to “feel” the part of the body that moves and feel its weight, its warmth, its position in space. To keep in mind that proprioception should always be trained during physical exercise, even in anticipation of possible accidents or traumas with the aim of making students more and more masters and aware of their body, and the work with eyes closed, without the use of a mirror or with appropriate tools, are of great help.
Proprioceptive sensitivity is a nervous network capable of collecting information from tendons, muscles and joints. A quantity of data that allow us to feel the exact position of the body, the state of contraction of the muscles and again, the speed and direction of each movement of the limbs and the head and together with other specialized structures, such as the eyes, responsible for sending visual information, the inner ear, which warns of the situation of balance, the bowels, sensitive to comfort and pain, are able to inform the Central Nervous System of their state and, to induce a specific postural response for that particular moment, modifying the state of the muscle chains and the osteo-articular balances.
There are disciplines that develop and train proprioception such as artistic gymnastics, figure skating, diving, dance, Pilates, but also activities such as shooting and archery have an effective proprioceptive sensitivity.
In contrast, sedentary people are more uncoordinated and clumsy in unaccustomed movements and physical activities. It is a quality that can be trained and optimized with exercise, but easily loses efficiency with inactivity.
Proprioceptive sensitivity can (alas 🙁 ) be damaged by trauma. A sprain, an articular damage or a surgical operation, can compromise the functionality of the knee and ankle, joints rich in proprioceptive endings. Sagging, instability and the lack of a safe control of the injured part are the consequences and also, dizziness and nausea if the cervical spine, an important proprioceptive station, is damaged by a trauma. The best defense against this type of injury is prevention.
Proprioceptive gymnastics represents a valid therapeutic means.
Let’s see together which are the most used tools in our case (with Pilates), for an effective proprioceptive training:
You can perform a wide variety of exercises with monopodal or bipodal support, with eyes open or closed, standing, sitting or lying down, all having as their objective, the postural and proprioceptive improvement, necessary to stimulate the proprioceptors: small sensors located at the level of the joints that can record changes in pressure, position and tension.
In conclusion, we can say that there are many exercises and tools available in gyms or specialized centers, but, even the work barefoot and with eyes closed, with direct contact with the ground, can be of great help to develop and train proprioception.
Good day to all! 😉