If you experience pain in your body everyday, you may wonder how being more aware of your body is going to help reduce that pain. Fair enough. Let’s start with what Body Awareness is. Body Awareness means different things to different people. For the purposes of this article I will explain different levels of body awareness I have observed in myself and my clients. All my clients experience improvement in one of these levels of body awareness by doing sessions or classes with me, depending on their own personal interest.
Level 1 of Body Awareness: Knowing which muscle group to move
Whilst I have listed this first it doesn’t mean this is easy for people. This approach to body awareness does require some basic understanding of anatomy. Then we need to have done some physical training to develop the mind body connection to know you are activating the right muscles for the job. Many of my clients focus on this type of body awareness. This awareness of your muscle groups can be very helpful to reduce risk of injury and to build strength where you want it. Regular Pilates, where you get feedback from a teacher on your form, is fantastic for developing awareness of which muscle group to use.
Level 2 of Body Awareness: Knowing how to move away from pain
This kind of body awareness is less about your knowledge of anatomy and more about how connected you are to how your body feels. Do you register when you are developing tension? Do change your position or your activity to find a less painful way of doing something or do you push through? If you are a pusher it is worth asking your self ‘why?’. You may find you think you don’t have time to listen to your body, or you believe it won’t make a difference.
People who know how to move away from pain often like to move with their eyes closed. They are registering the sensations in their body as they are moving. These sensations are used to inform how we move next, do we do another set or do we reposition the neck first? This kind of body awareness can change the way you experience your body and your life, it can help reduce pain and lead to more simple joy.
A teacher who can help you to learn how to move away from pain is responsive to your body, giving you options and modifications. You don’t develop this kind of body awareness with a’ go hard or go home’ attitude or a teacher that has this attitude.
Level 3 of Body Awareness: Proprioception
Another perspective on body awareness is proprioception. Proprioception is the awareness of the position of ones body in movement. This is one of our senses, to feel it we have proprioceptors, specialised nerves located within our muscles, tendons and joints. The proprioceptors feed information back to our brain about the position of every part of our body in space, they work closely with the balance system to keep us upright and stop us banging into things. To test your proprioception, close your eyes and stand on one foot.
Pilates and particularly equipment Pilates is fantastic for improving proprioception. Proprioceptors respond to feedback, equipment Pilates with the springs, pedals and moving platforms is designed to stimulate the proprioceptors and their connection to the brain.
Improving your proprioception will improve your balance and greatly reduce your risk of injury.
I am Brigid Pearse a certified Pilates instructor and ex-dancer. I run a fully equipped Pilates studio from my home in Lennox Head and I run community Pilates mat classes in Byron Bay, Ballina and online. To receive regular body wisdom sign up below.