In my Beginners Yoga class at Yogasana center this morning I had worked them pretty hard in a forward bending standing pose and I wanted to give them a break. I asked them to bring their legs together and stand in a simple Mountain Pose. In a room of fifteen people, almost all of them looked down at their feet to do to it. It made me think about kinesthetic awareness, awareness of the parts of the body by use of proprioception. It’s something I take for granted at this point and I started to think about a process through which to go about teaching/learning it. Here’s what I came up with:
Basic Kinesthetic Awareness
1. Locate a simple sensation in the body. This might be the feeling of your feet on the floor if you are standing, or of your clothes against your skin. It might be the feeling of the movement of the breath in your chest or back. Keep your attention on this sensation for several minutes as you sit, stand or move around.
2. To develop a sense of something deeper in the body, put one hand on a joint that you can see, say an elbow or a shoulder. Perhaps do this while looking at yourself in a mirror. Move the joint around while looking at it and touching it. Get a sense of the feeling of that movement in the joint itself. Then let go and move the joint without touching it, but while still looking at it. Stay with the feeling of the movement in the joint. Finally, close your eyes or look elsewhere and track the movement of the joint with just your inner sense. You can practice this with each of your joints and with different parts of the body until you build up an awareness of the body as a whole.
1. Locate two sensations inside you at once and hold that awareness over a period of time, either while still (easier) or in movement (more challenging).
2. Increase the level of difficulty by tracking successively more sensations at one time.
3. Refine your awareness by locating definite structures within the body, such as a muscle or organ. You might find a picture of the muscle, for example, and palpate it in yourself, feeling out with your hands its location and what happens when you use it. Or you might find a picture of the organ, such as a kidney, and place your hands on the skin around its location of your body and move the trunk around gently to get a sense of the space within your hands. Create an image in your mind of the organ as you move.
4. Pick an inner awareness, such as your primary control (neck free, head forward and up), while maintaining an awareness of the room around you.