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Anna Pfeifer Mar 15, 2023 7:00:00 AM 5 min read

Yoga & Proprioception

I’m sure you’ve heard of body awareness but do you know what proprioception is?

Proprioception is our perception and awareness of the position and movement of the body. It’s knowing where your body lives in space.

It’s a sense which allows us to ‘know’ (without looking or consciously thinking) where our body parts are in relation to each other and where our whole body is in relation to the environment around us. Everyone has the skill, however, some are better at it and this can have dramatic effects on sports performance, because it plays a critical role in controlling your joints and muscles during movement.

For example, someone may ask you to breathe deeply so you do but notice that you had no idea that you were breathing so shallowly in the first place or being able to run without looking at your feet. These are all actions we don’t take much notice of, however for high performance especially in sport, these little things can be the difference between winning and losing.

To get a bit scientific about it, we have lots of receptors for this sense (these are called proprioceptors) which are found all over our body, deep within our muscles, joints, ligaments, tendons and connective tissues. Every time we contract, squeeze or stretch a muscle, each time we compress or put traction on a joint, these sensory receptors are stimulated. They inform the central nervous system as to the varying lengths of muscles, as well as force loads traveling through tendons. This notifies us as to how and where our body and limbs are oriented in space.

There are two types of proprioception:

Unconscious: primary function is to monitor and modify movements. It is involved in the acquisition and maintenance of complex, skilled movements such as walking, talking, and writing

Conscious: deals with aspects such as judging the weight of an object or where a person’s limbs are in space.

Proprioception is necessary for precise and fluid movements, making it essential to athletes and non-athletes alike. It’s important sensory function for all normal movement activities, including the ability to maintain dynamic balance and move accurately.

So how can yoga improve proprioception for performance in sport?

Balance is a big part of proprioceptive training and yoga has varying degrees of balancing poses which if practiced over time can help improve this sense. With poses such as tree, warrior 3, high lunge and chair, we can really begin to challenge and strengthen our balance system while increasing strength and stability. Moving between poses, as we do in flow yoga classes, reinforces your ability to balance in space and strengthens the stabilizing muscles that keep you upright.

When these poses become easy, try closing your eyes to remove another sense (sight) which is closely linked to balance. You’ll very quickly notice the difference between them! Essentially we are training our body to become more aware of itself and the movements we make.

With better balance and proprioception, you are able to keep control of your body by understanding where it is in space. This is important for virtually everything you do in sports or in the gym. Better proprioception allows for more efficient decelerations and changes in direction and for greater understanding of how your body is moving during an exercise, so you can perform it with perfect form. With good proprioception, you can perform the moves with more power and strength, because you won't waste energy on unnecessary movements caused by being out of position. The risk of injury will also be less.

Yoga for Muscle Recovery* is on the schedule in Leeson St and is part of your membership:

  • Wednesdays @ 08.00
  • Saturdays @ 09.3o & 10.30 (45mins) 

*Classes are a combine dynamic yoga flow (vinyasa style) and mobility exercises as it's all about feeling good and moving with intent and control.