Want to improve your golf swing? Can you tell when you start to fall? Today’s article will give you some insight about how you feel your body.
This is the second article in a series based on The Twelve Attributes of Human Functioning which Michael Murphy wrote about in his book, The Future of the Body, and as listed in the book The Life We are Given, which he co-authored with George Leonard. Last week I wrote about the first attribute, The Perception of External Events. Today I write about Attribute number two, Somatic/Kinesthetic Awareness.
Kinesthetic Awareness refers to the body’s ability to sense its own movement and relative position in space. It is often used in conjunction with the term Proprioception which refers mostly to the body’s sense of its own parts and what they are doing. The terms are often used interchangeably but there are differences. Kinesthetic Awareness refers to the ability to coordinate motion to perform an activity. An example would be a gymnast or a dancer. Both must know their position in space at all times, and what their bodies need to do to move around in that space to perform a movement.
Why is it important to older adults? Because it is something we lose without practice, and without that awareness, we are subject to injury. For example our inner ear’s ability to provide the brain with information about gravity, direction of movement, speeding up or slowing down of movement, prevents disorientation, loss of balance and loss of stability. As we age, we lose this kinesthetic awareness if we don’t do something about it. What do we do about it? We practice moving our bodies through various positions, and do specific exercises to improve our balance. Practicing standing on one leg with our eyes both open and closed is the granddaddy of balance exercises.
On a more pleasant note, Kinesthetic Awareness provides feedback to our brain so that we can improve our golf swing, throw a ball better, even put up groceries on shelves. It takes practice.
It’s also important in the way we carry ourselves on a daily basis. If our mind gets used to slouching, we will slouch. We can correct that by reprogramming our mind and body, and making a determined mental and physical effort to improve our posture. Physical disciplines such as the Feldenkrais Method or The Alexander Method of body movement training, will go a long way to improve our posture. Both are based on the improvement of Kinesthetic Awareness and are easily performed by active older adults. But being aware of our posture at all times and making corrections to improve it, will work for most of us.
Michael Murphy, in his 800 plus page book, The Future of the Body takes a more esoteric approach to Somatic/Kinesthetic Awareness. He uses the term Somatic Awareness to refer to our ability to feel our body, perhaps better expressed as feeling the Experience of our Body. Murphy writes that our bodies are always talking to us and suggests that we are all capable of some extraordinary bodily experiences when performing at our peak level. He mentions that some runners, when performing at their maximum, have experienced seeing their own internal organs and being able to work with them. He also claims that these “experiences” can be developed in normal people through fitness training, martial arts, meditation, biofeedback, and even prayer. Really? Hmm.
I do know that if we exercise, train our balance, and become aware of what is going on inside and outside our bodies, we can become more aware of what is going on around us in everyday life . . . and can improve that everyday life for the better. We can avoid falls, prevent injury and have more fun with our physical movement. That’s all we really need to know.
Thank you for reading.