Question: Close your eyes. Imagine you are an astronaut in the middle of a space walk. You can’t feel anything through your space suit. Your headlamp goes dead and you can’t see the Earth, moon or space station. What do you do?
Answer: You call upon your proprioception, or sense of where your body is in space and in relation to other parts of your body. This “Joint Position Sense” allows us to stay balanced and move without engaging sensory perception, such as visual, auditory or tactile clues.
Proprioceptors are composed of sensory neurons in the inner ear and stretch receptors in muscle and joint supporting ligaments. Astronauts endure intensive conscious mental and physical training until their bodies and minds subconsciously habituate each scenario. Practice makes permanent for astronauts and everyone else.
Astronauts can then also seek out visual, auditory or tactile clues to better understand their position in space and to act on them. They can move their body to see objects, listen to the sounds of the space station or instinctively reach for their tether to grab it and move back to the correct position.
Let’s have another adventure. Imagine you are standing in your Pilates class. Close your eyes and then “stand correctly.” This is very similar to your astronaut adventures. Your proprioceptors will remember how many times you have stood correctly before and your joints will begin to stack in-line, with neutral pelvis and good balance.
Luckily you and others can open your eyes and solicit both auditory and tactile cues and feedback in order to learn the correct start positions and Pilates exercises. Once you have learned these exercises you can further challenge your proprioception with small equipment such as the soft ball and foam roller.
There’s one other adventure. Very often our hectic and stressful lives ignore our body’s needs. Our proprioception diminishes almost to the point that our bodies and minds feel completely disconnected. Pilates helps us to concentrate, relax, align and breathe deeply. The lengthy and weak tethers connecting our mind and body become stronger and shorter until our body and mind are the same.
This is the Pilates Journey.