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Proprioception is our body’s ability to sense where we are in relationship to our surroundings. It is the self awareness system. Think of the skills needed to play Simon Says, or one’s positioning/placement on a surfboard or canoe. These activities require us to use our body’s sense of awareness to interpret the world around us. Without our proprioceptive system, we are unable to know where different parts of our body are without looking.

Any time you walk the board, change over the canoe, or place your paddle in the water without looking, you are using your proprioceptive system. This system helps us move though space effectively without hitting things. This system also helps an individual feel safe and secure in their surroundings.

There are people that never want to do anything, avoid being touched, dislike all activities, and lay down when going outside. Their bodies tell them to avoid input and that it would be too much work for their muscles and joints. Their brain  is trying to protect them from the danger of activity.

We call this sense the “safe sense”  because stimulation of this sense has an effect of organizing the brain and making sense of the body in relation to its environment. This sense can particularly be important while participating in water activities especially during swimming, wipeouts, paddling, and surfing.

What does someone with impaired proprioception look like?

  • Pushes against people while standing
  • Plays rough
  • Bangs or shakes body while sitting
  • Chews or bites on clothes, etc.
  • Likes to wear tight clothes
  • Has difficulty popping up on a board or paddling in a canoe
  • Has poor postural control while sitting, standing, and kneeling
  • Bumps into people and objects often

Activities to Activate the Proprioceptive Sense:

  1. Heavy work through resistance
  2. Frog jumps
  3. Bear hugs
  4. Pushing/pulling things like the beach wheelchair or even a surfboard
  5. Squeezing things or the body
  6. Climbing or lifting
  7. Stretching the whole body
  8. Wearing weighted or compressive clothes

We can manage our own levels of alertness with proprioceptively rich activities (like those listed above).

This is because proprioceptive input, along with deep pressure touch (including a massage, or a big hug), is the most accepted and tolerated form of sensation by our body.  These sensory-rich activities involve the steady stimulation of several senses, including the proprioceptive and vestibular senses, and aid in learning new tasks or making sense of the body in context. This in turn makes our bodies feel more grounded and less anxious.
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