Proprioception is our body’s understanding of where it is in space. It is a sense that lets us know the position of our physical structure through receptors in our joints. We can stimulate or calm this sense through movement and through compression or stretching at the joints of the body.
Reduce Stress Through Yoga
Yoga poses (asanas) do this naturally and a regular practice can be beneficial for balancing and soothing this proprioceptive sense. Yogis use a simple term for this sense: “Body Awareness.” The more body awareness we have, the less stress and anxiety we experience.
A Small Move with Big Benefits
Yoga postures and practices, such as Sun Salutations, twists, the Boat pose and other balancing poses, can all help to develop body awareness. But when a full “meal” of body movement isn’t appropriate for the space or time available, try this simple “bite-size” technique for proprioceptive input. It is a hand gesture, called a “mudra”.
- Sit in a chair or crossed-legs on the floor and take a few moments to sit still, relax and focus on the breath.
- Place the left hand in front of the heart, palm facing out.
- Bring the palm of the right hand to meet the palm of the left hand.
- Curl the fingers and slide the palms apart until the fingers of the right hand hook the fingers of the left, in a tug-of-war.
- Exhale and tug, trying to pull the fingers apart without losing the grip.
- Inhale and soften, still maintaining contact.
- Repeat this for a total of seven times: Exhale, pull. Inhale, relax.
- Then, flip both hands so right hand faces out and repeat on this other side another seven times.
- Keep the shoulders (and face) relaxed and the elbows at the height of the shoulders through out.
The name of this mudra is “Ganesha” mudra. It is named after a jolly elephant headed character from Indian mythology that children love. He is the remover of obstacles and this mudra helps to strengthen the heart and lungs (can be helpful for asthma outside of crisis) and clear the mind. It also stretches the joints in the fingers and wrists while creating compression in the shoulders, giving rich input into the nerve receptors that help increase body awareness (proprioception).
Sharing Yoga with Your Child
When sharing this with your child, encourage him or her to notice how he or she feels in the body and in the mind both before and after this practice. Much of the benefit of Yoga is realized through daily practice – a “big breakfast” of practice each morning to start the day. Additionally, you can help your child develop autonomy with these self-regulating practices throughout the day by printing pictures of each pose or mudra and making a chart. Encourage your child to refer to the chart and pick a “snack” for what they feel they need to balance. Over time and with encouragement, your child will develop a repertoire of self-regulating techniques that not only help him or her feel balanced, calm and centered but also more confident in his or her ability to be in charge of their level of arousal or rest.