Clarify Your Self-Image and Self-Perception Using Your Sixth-Sense: Proprioception
A few years ago, I came across a curious pair of lessons taught by Dr. Feldenkrais. When I first tried these lessons, I became completely enamored with them.
I have recently published both lessons under the title Backward Standing.
The Backward Standing lessons have an interesting effect on your self-image and self-perception as they focus entirely on your backside. We are typically not that aware of ourselves in the back unless we have an itch, ache, pain, or something else that calls our attention.
There are a couple of reasons for this.
The first is that we have fewer nerve endings in our back and, therefore, fewer tactile sensations than in our front.
Try this two-point discrimination test on your fingers or chest and then again on your back:
Hold two points—like two toothpicks—a small distance apart on one of your fingers. How far apart do the two points have to be for you to sense them as separate? Try it again on your chest. How far apart do they have to be to feel the two points separately here? Have a friend help you and try the same thing on your back.
Chances are, you can discriminate between the two points closer together on your finger and chest than on your back.
Why is this? Different parts of yourself vary in their density of tactile nerve receptors. In your fingertips, for example, the points are sensed as close together at 1/16th of an inch apart. It can be as much as one and 9/16ths of an inch apart on your back1. That is a big difference!
Because of the diminished density of tactile nerve receptors in our backs, more of our attention is on the parts of ourselves with more sensory nerve density. These are the parts of ourselves through which we interact most with the world. The fingers, hands, face, lips, tongue, and chest are all examples of parts with dense sensory tactile nerve endings, which results in our being very frontally oriented.
Our frontal orientation is the second reason we have less awareness of our backside.
We always look forward, move forward, and reach forward. We interact with things, people, and animals in front of us. Sensing with our eyes, ears, and nose is primarily in front of us; we especially feel our emotions in front of ourselves.
We can enhance our sensory awareness of our backsides with our proprioception.
Proprioception is the sensory information sent from the muscles, tendons, and joints to the somatosensory cortex about where your body is in space as you move. Proprioception is also known as our "sixth sense."
Sensing your skeletal structure and making small movements, combined with heightened awareness, will improve the proprioception of your backside.
The skeletal structure: By emphasizing the movements of specific skeletal parts, you activate the joints and tendons above and below those parts; this sends detailed information to your somatosensory cortex.
Small movements: These will enhance subtle sensations and engage the joints that might not engage with more significant, powerful actions. Large movements will engage too much muscular effort and obscure the refined sensations.
Heightened awareness: Moving your attention to specific skeletal parts activates the neurology associated with those parts in your somatosensory cortex. It is like shining light to illuminate areas of a dark room. Your neurology associated with those parts lights up when you illuminate them with awareness.
How do we do this? Through Backward Standing!
Backward Standing is a two-lesson audio series that will enhance the proprioception of your backside.
Can you imagine sensing your backside as clearly as you do your front as you move through space? Feeling yourself in this way will provide you with a clear three-dimensional perception of yourself.
This three-dimensional sense of yourself will enhance many activities you love, like Tai Chi, dancing, walking, gardening, martial arts, swimming, and even working in the kitchen.
Check out the lessons. One caveat, though. Because we do the lessons in standing, the demands on your attention are great; I consider this to be more of an intermediate series. If you are new to the Feldenkrais Method®, please start with a basic series.
That said, if you’ve been doing Feldenkrais lessons for a while, dive on in!
And since you made it to the end of the blog post, I have a special offer for you. Use this coupon - StandingBackward - to get a 20% discount on the series.
1. Brennan, Dan. “What Is Proprioception?” WebMD, 27 Nov. 2021, www.webmd.com/brain/what-is-proprioception.
2. Raju, Harsha, and Prasanna Tadi. “Neuroanatomy, Somatosensory Cortex.” PubMed, StatPearls Publishing, 2021, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK555915/.
3. “Two-Point Discrimination.” Wikipedia, 15 May 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Two-point_discrimination.