By Ray Long MD, of The Daily Bandha
A central concept in all healing arts is that of correcting imbalances within the body. The principle of re-establishing balance can be found across all cultures from Navajo sand paintings, Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine to modern allopathy. And anything with true healing power also has the capacity to cause injury when practiced without balance. For example, joint mobility is beneficial for a number of reasons–provided it is balanced with joint stability. In this blog post I discuss the concept of joint proprioception and its relationship to joint stability and yoga, concluding with a tip for “re-setting” muscular proprioception following hip openers.
Proprioception refers to the sense of the relative position of neighbouring body parts, such as the femoral head within the hip socket (acetabulum) as well as the muscular force utilized in the movement of those parts. This is in contradistinction to exteroception, which is the perception of the outside world (like the feeling of the feet on the ground) and interoception, which is the perception of the inside of the body (pain, hunger etc). I look at proprioception as a type of “GPS” for the joints.
Joint position is detected by specialized nerve endings known as “proprioceptors” that are located within the muscles, ligaments and joint capsule and the periosteum (on the surface of the bones). These receptors communicate information about the joints to the brain via the sensory columns of the spinal cord. Conscious sense of joint position is transmitted to the cerebrum of the brain; unconscious proprioception is communicated to the cerebellum. Figure 1 illustrates this pathway in a cross section of the spinal cord.