Yoga and Developing Proprioception
By Dr Carla Cupido • April 6th, 2008 • 13173 Views
Balance plays a pivotal role in our lives whether we notice it or not. We are constantly bombarded with external forces that disrupt our equilibrium. So much so, that we often fail to notice, as our bodies are so effectively equipped to deal with such disturbances. We do, however, notice when our systems fail us, resulting in injury or an embarrassing moment, or even worse, both! Understanding balance in its entirety makes it much easier to comprehend movement, appreciate how incredible our bodies truly are, and realize how something like yoga can develop abilities that we didn't even know we possessed.
There are three systems in the body that contribute to the function of balance: the visual system, the vestibular system and the proprioceptive system. The visual system contributes to the execution of balance as it provides feedback as to where we are in space. The vestibular system is a network of canals in the inner ear which supply information of our head's position (tilted, rotated, flexed or extended). The proprioceptive system is composed of sensory receptors in the muscles and tendons that 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.
The human body has many regulating control systems that function via the nervous system. Receptors exist in our muscles which recognize when the length of the muscle fibers are changing. These act as a protective mechanism for the muscles. With excessive lengthening of a muscle, a reflex will be initiated which will cause the muscle to contract in order to prevent a ligament sprain or muscle strain injury. A similar regulation system exists in tendons, but it instead is dependent on the force being loaded through the tendon rather than on its length. These two regulatory systems of the muscles and tendons contribute to what is known as proprioception.
Proprioception is the new catch term. Rehabilitation programs are now focusing their attention on muscle coordination and muscle inhibition with the intention of improving muscle firing (contracting) patterns. Throughout our lives, we develop motor patterns which are essentially the blueprints that muscles follow in order to accomplish a movement task such as walking or even chopping up vegetables. ...