We all know how important great posture and balance are for dancers, but not everyone is necessarily aware of the role of proprioception (kinesthesia) training in achieving these qualities. Before we dive into how we should start working on improving our proprioception, let’s quickly examine what it actually is. We won’t go into too much detail as things can get pretty scientific very quickly, but we might get an expert to come and chat to us about in on one of the future episodes of our She’s Just A Dancer Podcast .Have a look here to catch up with previous episodes!
WHAT IS PROPRIOCEPTION?
Proprioception (or kinesthesia) is the sense through which we perceive the position and movement of our body, including our sense of equilibrium and balance, senses that depend on the notion of force (Jones, 2000). To put it in simpler terms- proprioception is your body’s ability to sense its movements, locations, and actions. The main purpose is to prevent injury by increasing spatial awareness and balance. It involves a close relationship between the nervous system, soft tissues, and proprioceptors You may hear people refer to proprioception as body awareness- proprioception is your body’s ability to sense where it is in space and adapt to sudden changes in the environment, such as those relating to force, tension, and body position.
As dancers, we need a good sense of body awareness to feel or know where our body is in space so we can accurately use arms, legs, feet, and whole-body positions. We need to navigate around other dancers without bumping into them and we should be able to feel what we’re doing even when our eyes are closed (super difficult as I’m sure you know).
Balance involves three sensory systems: the vestibular system (motion), vision (sight), and proprioception (touch), so proprioceptive training helps improve balance, allowing your body to stay upright and move while maintaining control in various environments.
5 EXERCISES TO START WITH
Proprioceptive training and consequent improvement of balance and posture are lengthy processes, but luckily the exercises you can start with are easy to learn and don’t require much specialised equipment.
You can start working on your proprioception by just executing simple exercises on the floor (without shoes is best) or start on a wobbly cushion immediately. Whatever your chosen method, make sure your core is engaged and your posture as correct as possible at all times. Give it some time every single day and you will start feeling the difference relatively quickly. We use it as part of our warm-up routine as well as it gives a sense of greater control to our dancing.
EXERCISES TO TRY FIRST: (we use a wobbly cushion):
- STAND WITH FEET CLOSED stand with both feet on the cushion and keep your knees straight. Try and keep the balance as central as possible, not allowing the body weight to travel towards the edges of your feet and keep your body upright
- ONE FOOT ON CUSHION place on foot on the cushion and repeat the process from above, this time keeping the other foot free but close to your standing leg
- TREE POSE one foot on the cushion, free foot lifts to at least calf level (or above the knee if you can)
- SQUAT if you have two cushions this will be easier, but you can try it on a single one as well. Stand upright with feet apart and lower into a low squat position, trying to keep the wobbling to a minimum. Return to standing and repeat. If you’re working with a single cushion take care not to squat too low and keep your knees from shifting forward.
- REPEAT THE EXERCISES WITH EYES SHUT making sure there’s support nearby (grab a partner) as this is more difficult than it seems!
Hold each position for a minute and repeat at least three times. Start with 3 series of 10 squats.
ENJOY YOUR TRAINING!
Luca & Tjaša