Brain Awareness Week Kai class 5: Proprioception, Kinesthetic awareness and the Nervous System

In this age of technology most of use spend too much time sitting and not enough time feeling the body....in fact often we don't move till we feel pain.  Proprioception is considered one of the 7 senses ( sight, touch, taste, hearing, smelling, vestibular and proprioception) is the term to describe how our body measures movements through the central nervous system.  For instance it's your bodies ability to touch a finger to the nose without needing to think about it, it's also how we learn to walk a straight line.  How we "know" how far to place a dish down without looking. This all seems like something we never have to pay attention too until we either have a body or brain injury.   

There was a time when my son was 9 months old that I brought him into a dance class with me.  As we were sitting in a circle with him beside me, I sensed he was falling backwards ( he couldn't walk yet, and just sat up on his own).  Without missing a word of what i was saying to the group,  my right hand reached down and caught his head ( and I didn't even have to look and use my eyes!) before it hit the floor and pushed him back up into sitting.  At the time I didn't think much of it but now as i look back I think what a miracle it has been to trust my body this much to know what to do.  This is evidence of how my body thru years of dance has a natural response to my environment.  My nervous system is calm, and my awareness is keen through practicing it on a daily basis, I hardly ever get injured and it helps me function in life optimally.  

Kinesthetic awareness is considered an "intelligence" that some of us are "wired for" more naturally and others need to work harder to learn. We are all born with a genetic gift in how our brains initially "wire" up as well as our environment and we all have the opportunity to expand on this wiring throughout our life.   Kinesthetic awareness is  our ability to feel where our body is in space ( spacial awareness) as well as to learn movements through the joints and muscles.  We ALL have the ability to learn math, reading, languages, why not learn the language of the BODY?  To feel for sensations like strength, flexibility, balance and coordination are largely connected with the cerebellum, a small bell shaped area at the bottom and underneath the brain near the stem.  This is the area that gets "lesions" with disorders like Parkinsons disease and science is finding more and more research of how dancing can help stave off symptoms of this disease as well as promote more joy ( depression is a major side effect of many brain disorders)

Proprioception and Kinesthetic Awareness are both employed when re-learning to move a part of the body that is healing from an injury.  Re-learning movement can only be done by DOING IT and  moving it in ways you may have developed sensory amnesia ( a numbing that occurs from lack of use) around. This may mean having a physical therapist access and prescribe movements.  It can also mean noticing deeply yourself and exploring from a place of curiosity and body feedback.  

 Many nervous system disorders like Sensory Integration disorder are showing up more frequently in autism spectrum children.   Therapists work with the parents to learn more about what the childs sensitivities are ( like sounds being too loud, or lights too bright) and through playing and finding the right proprioceptive connection children learn how to "self soothe" later in life through the feedback from their own bodies.  For some it may be wrapping up in a blanket and for another tapping or rubbing the skin a certain way.  Imagine how helpful this is for adults as well!

In our Kai classes we explore sensations internally and externally, starting with our feet and ending at the top of the head.  We also explored moving in unison with another as well as contrasting and moving with the whole group and learning new patterns of movement.  This deepens a dancers ability to sense themselves in the context of another and is a learned skill over time.  The movements we do in class are designed to stimulate all areas of the body in a specific and holistic way giving the students time to learn kinesthetically.  

Our bodies are amazing resources that can be used to heal and re-learn functional movement through the brain. Noticing sensation and redirecting movement is a way to awaken Kinesthetic Intelligence as well as help heal the brain.