This is your joints' ability to tell you their position spatially in relation to you - just like giving you their GPS position.
The information relayed enables us to perform and coordinate all types of movements, from walking, turning, climbing stairs, eating, playing a musical instrument and even standing, to delicate hand movements.
Your brain receives this information from the receptors situated in the connective tissue around the joints. There is a direct correlation between the quantity and quality of the receptors and how much motion the joint experiences. So when you’re active and moving, you develop more receptors in the connective tissue, so your proprioception improves. It is truly a case of use it or lose it!
Maintaining and improving this ability
Often our reference points of where our joint positions are located can alter or the actual relaying or processing of this information can be slightly out of tune. Accumulated stress is one of the main culprits here.
Examples of poor proprioception:
- When our spines lean forward or backward during the tai chi form and we believe we are upright.
- When over time we carry increasing loads of tension in our shoulders and we think our shoulders are relaxed even if they are next to our ears (that's when I take the weight of your arms by holding your wrists and encourage you to relax, relax and relax those shoulders again - and the shoulders drop from ear level and, guess what, your neck suddenly reappears.)
- When I correct your hand or foot position again and again and you wonder why I am being so picky!
Tai chi fine tunes your proprioceptive ability!