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The power of proprioception: how to improve your ‘sixth sense’ – and become healthier and happier

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The next time you’re somewhere non-embarrassing, try this quick test: stand on one leg with your arms stretched out to the sides, imagining that one hand is holding a rock. Next, the tricky bit: “pass” the rock overhead to your other hand without putting your leg down, then pass it back, and repeat the whole movement 10 times without losing your balance. Don’t worry if you can’t manage it: that means you’ve got something to work on.

Dan Edwardes, one of the UK’s most experienced coaches in the athletic obstacle-leaping discipline of parkour, calls this the “rock pass” drill – and says it’s one of the simplest ways to check up on your proprioception, or your body’s sense of where it is in space. Sometimes referred to as our sixth sense, proprioception is what helps high-level athletes take a penalty without looking at the ball, or orient themselves in the air while doing a twisting somersault. But it’s also what lets you touch your nose with your eyes closed, push open a door without shoving it too hard, or adjust your gait when you hit an unexpected root on a trail run.

“Any complex movement skill, from jumping to vaulting to climbing, requires a high level of proprioception,” says Edwardes. “Think of adding these moves to your daily movement ‘diet’ to keep yourself strong and functional.” Or, in other words, it’s becoming clear, as our understanding of it improves, that improving or maintaining our proprioceptive ability is key to our quality of life as we age.

“In the last five years, we’ve learned a lot about the brain through functional MRI studies, and that’s allowed us to more deeply understand which regions of it are most involved in proprioceptive processing,” says the exercise physiologist Dr Milica McDowell. “Research has identified specific neural pathways and brain regions, such as the cerebellum and somatosensory cortex, that are involved – and that’s allowing us to understand a lot more about how to protect our proprioception throughout our lives.”

Proprioceptors are receptors mainly located in the muscles, tendons and joints, which work in conjunction with our body’s other sensory systems to deliver us information on our movements and environment. These let you sense the position of your limbs or even digits – “Think about splaying out your toes: you know it’s happening without looking at them, right?” says McDowell – but also gauge the weight of objects you’re interacting with, or pick up on changes in the surface you’re walking on.

Some people seem to have more finely tuned proprioceptors than others, but it can also depend on the task. It’s possible, for instance, to be rock-steady in a yoga pose but have below-average hand-eye coordination, or vice versa. It’s also something that can be affected by health issues including stroke, neurological disorders or even diabetes.

It also worsens when we get older. “As we age, proprioceptive abilities can decline, leading to increased risk of falls and reduced coordination,” says McDowell. “If you notice your elder family members having a tough time with coordinated movements or fine motor tasks like typing or playing cards, proprioceptive decline is at least partly to blame.” But, crucially, studies on everyone from pensioners to military personnel suggest that proprioception can be improved – or at least maintained – if it’s worked on, with results that can reduce the risk of falls or injury.

“Proprioception is one of those things that no one thinks about until they realise they’re not great at it,” says Jarlo Ilano, a physical therapist and managing director at Gold Medal Bodies. “But it’s something that separates good athletes from better ones – or it can be the difference between falling and breaking a bone or just scuffing yourself up a little.”

So how can you improve it? The simplest option is to add more movements to your everyday life that challenge your balance, hand-eye coordination or sense of movement – or embrace the opportunity as it arises. “Standing on one leg while you’re brushing your teeth or chatting on the phone is one of the simplest things you can do, but using movements that include reaching, bending or twisting is important, too,” says the physiotherapist Calum Fraser. “Things as simple as practising movements with your eyes closed can challenge your proprioception – forcing the body to depend more on internal signals than visual feedback, and strengthening the neural pathways responsible.”

In the gym, using bodyweight exercises or “free” weights such as kettlebells, barbells and dumbbells beats sticking to the machines. “Try exercises like planks or leg lifts, which emphasise core stability,” says Fraser. “Strong cores help with posture and better proprioceptive abilities. Another thing to try – if you’ve already got a base of strength – is plyometric movements like jump squats or bounding drills (basically, jumping from one foot to the other, like you’re taking very long strides), which strengthen how quickly muscles react to positional changes.”

Also a good idea are forms of exercise that use slow, purposeful movements that build a sense of where your body is in space – recent studies suggest that pilates and tai chi can both be effective for building proprioception in the regions they focus on (trunk and core for the former, legs for the latter). A systematic review of studies on yoga’s relationship with proprioception concluded that more research is needed, but the combination of balance, deliberate movement and closed-eye exercises is likely to be beneficial.

“The concept of our five senses is generally attributed to Aristotle, though much older Hindu scripts talk about these senses and more,” says Bassanti Pathak, founder of the London-based Pathak Yoga.

Pathak teaches her students to draw on less talked-about senses, with proprioception being taught and honed by letting students close their eyes in postures or in movements such as the sun salutation, as long as they feel balanced enough to complete the movements safely. “The more you practise, the easier it becomes,” she says. “It’s definitely a sense that can be honed. One of my students, who is in her 70s, told me that it wouldn’t scare her to lose her eyesight, because in my classes she is getting a glimpse of how other senses would take over and heighten her enjoyment of the world in a different way.”

Proprioception is also useful, of course, for faster and less predictable movement. It’s what allows veteran trail runners to run efficiently on mud, sand and gravel, but it’s also what helps road runners avoid injury – according to a recent review of studies, people who undertake proprioceptive training suffer fewer ankle sprains, whether they’ve had them before or not. And for anyone who wants to take things a bit further, there are more adventurous options.

“Almost everything in parkour requires and improves proprioception,” says Edwardes. “Regular parkour training hugely improves your ability to navigate space and overcome movement tasks – from simple, everyday things like getting up and down from the floor to more advanced problems you may have to solve like climbing over a gate, playing a sport or even dodging a car when crossing the road.”

Research to back this up is fairly limited, but one study found that experienced parkour athletes (also known as traceurs) had a better sense of balance with their eyes closed than a control group. And even for people too risk-averse to scale walls or tightrope-walk along rails, managing imbalance while in motion causes more motor neurones to fire and many more neuromuscular connections to coordinate throughout the body. “Essentially, it’s far more complex than just balancing on one leg and far more ‘functional’ in terms of movement outcomes,” says Edwardes.

To sum up, then: improving our proprioception has a positive knock-on effect on our health and our lifespan – and it seems to be very trainable. It will reduce the chance of a fall in later life, help us avoid injury in daily activities, and the improved coordination helps us to enjoy movement – which makes us more likely to keep moving on a regular basis.

But what if you struggle to even pass an imaginary rock overhead? “Everyone can benefit from moving more mindfully, but if you have poor proprioception, it’s even more important,” says Ilano. “Being present in your body and paying attention to your movements and your surroundings means fewer accidents and better success with whatever skills you’re trying to learn.” In other words, concentrate on what you’re doing as you move – and take every opportunity you can to challenge yourself in everyday life. You might surprise yourself with what you’re capable of.

How to check and improve your proprioception

Want to see what you can already do? Try these simple tests.

Heel-toe walking
It’s like tightrope walking, but without the risk. Find a straight line on the ground – or mark one out with tape – and walk along it, touching your front heel to your rear toe at each step. Try not to wobble, or step off to the side.

Wall bounces
This one’s about hand-eye coordination. Grab a small, bouncy ball – a tennis ball will do – and throw it underhand into a wall, then catch it with the other hand as it bounces. Repeat as many times as you can.

Ball pickups
You can use the same ball for this one. Put it down either in front of or behind you, then pick it up again with the other hand. Repeat, trying to get more creative with the ways you lower yourself to the ground (think squats, lunges and splits) or the spots where you put the ball.

Jumping turns
Don’t do this one if you aren’t confident about your coordination – or your knee health. Bend your knees slightly and then jump, aiming to do a quarter, half or even full 360-degree turn in the air. Land as softly as you can.

To improve your movement, try these parkour-inspired exercises

Easy: mobile balance “Whenever you can, walk along a thin surface such as a kerb or a low railing in the park,” says Edwardes. Before you go for height, work on your movement: use your free leg as a counterweight, and keep your knee slightly flexed. Try to keep your upper body relaxed – this will improve with practice – and once you get the hang of walking, try turning or even squatting on the object you’re balancing on.

Challenging: precision jumps Practice small, accurate steps or two-footed jumps onto a target, like a bench, kerb or – if you’re feeling confident – a low railing, so that you have to maintain your balance after the jump. Work on taking off and landing softly, and use an arm swing to build momentum before your jump and to control your body afterwards. As you improve, try jumping for distance or height, or putting more than one jump together.

Hard: rail crawl For a more advanced movement, try crawling on all fours along a low railing – moving one hand and the opposite foot at almost the same time. Parkour practitioners sometimes call this the “cat balance”, so think feline: try to keep your back parallel to the rail and your hips not too high.

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bluebec
16 hours ago
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The real threat to ‘social cohesion’ is the ongoing genocide of Palestine

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Over the past 6 months, the diarrhoea tsunami that is Australian political discourse found its new favourite meaningless phrase: ‘social cohesion’.

Those who use the phrase claim that it is about maintaining a respectful society, so we can all come together around the campfire at the end of the day and sing Kumbaya. Oddly enough, the ongoing genocide, which is attempting to wipe out an entire society, does not seem to count as a ‘threat to social cohesion’. Just the protests against it. 

The term has gained steam in the last two months, reaching its peak a month ago when ‘Teal’ MP Sophie Scamps used it in Parliament so that the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader could have a chance to rant about the alleged ‘threats to social cohesion’ seen around the country: protesters and anyone else who criticises the government over their lack of action regarding the ongoing genocide in Palestine.

Throughout those speeches, as well as many others from Anthony Albanese, Penny Wong and whoever the fuck Peter Khalil is, the message is simple: ‘People are spreading misinformation to destroy our social cohesion.’

Even when the so-called ‘misinformation’ is true (like Australia being involved in the weapons trade with Israel), the media is happily repeating Labor’s gaslighting like dogs doing tricks for their owners hoping to get a little pat on the head at the Midwinter Ball.

‘Social cohesion’ is just another term for the status quo used by people who know the status quo is broken. 

Asking the government to not be beholden to the American military industrial complex? That breaks the status quo. Asking them to actually sanction their ‘good friend’ Israel for the war crimes they are committing? That breaks ‘social cohesion’.

Someone who disrupted the status quo last week was Senator Fatima Payman, when she dared to vote in favour of acknowledging that Palestine exists now instead of when Albanese wants to, which is maybe sometime in the future when the people trying to wipe Palestine off the planet say it’s ok. 

Following the vote, she was backgrounded hard by Labor in conjunction with the media. We saw the Lattoufing of a senator in real time. Yet another Muslim woman being villainized by powerful racists. Further proof that what happened to Yassmin Abdel-Magied can happen to anyone. Well, anyone who isn’t a powerful cis, straight, white, able-bodied man, of course.

The backgrounding went so far as to push against her ability to be a senator now that she is no longer a Labor senator. 

The reason she has dual citizenship is that there was no way to renounce her Afghan citizenship without going as a former refugee woman turned politician to the Taliban for approval. Something only a blatantly racist fuckwit would tell the media that she should have to do just because she voted with a conscience.

There were headlines trying to scare people about her faith and claims that she’s plotting to lead a ‘Muslim Party’ ‘bringing religion into politics’ in a way that Albanese and Dutton both said was a ‘threat to social cohesion’. Despite Albanese openly talking about his religion, a christian prayer at the start of Parliamentary sessions and numerous already existing outwardly Christian parties in the political landscape.

Interestingly Labor doesn’t seem to think religion in politics ‘threatened social cohesion’ when it was the reason Labor voted against same-sex marriage – something they reminded us of when they bizarrely bragged about it as part of their attacks on Payman. 

Stoking Islamophobia for cheap political points in a way that genuinely hurts thousands of Australians was of course deemed by those who dictate the term ‘social cohesion’ as defending the cohesion, despite clearly doing the opposite.

Interestingly while Payman was a threat to the ‘social cohesion’ for going against Labor’s official stance in Parliament, MP Josh Burns wasn’t accused of going breaking ‘social cohesion’ when he slammed Labor’s stance and the UN in Parliament regarding the potential of the UN considering adding Palestine as a member state. 

It’s only breaking ‘social cohesion’ when the actions are Pro-Palestine, when anyone else speaks up, even if they are being inflammatory, it is simply ‘voicing concern’.

Of course The Australian had to come in with their own racism when Paul Kelly wrote: “Payman has broken the unwritten rules of multiculturalism.” 

Multiculturalism is only multiculturalism when you accept multiple cultures, it’s in the name. But when Kelly said that he was saying the quiet part out loud: in Australia, the ‘rules’ for acceptance of women of colour are to sit down, shut up and do what the powerful white man says.

That is what those in power mean when they say ‘social cohesion’. They don’t mean striving for an actually cohesive society, they mean the unquestioning support of powerful cis, straight, able-bodied, white men while they impose their bigoted status quo.

If their version of ‘social cohesion’ involves the silencing of minorities and the continual shrugging at genocide, then their ‘social cohesion’ can get fucked. 

Society can not be held together by inflicting pain onto large communities in desperate need. For us to have actual ‘social cohesion’, the genocide, the lies and the bigotry must end. 

Those are the REAL threats to social cohesion.

The post The real threat to ‘social cohesion’ is the ongoing genocide of Palestine appeared first on The Shot.

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bluebec
3 days ago
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TONES AND I - DANCE MONKEY (OFFICIAL VIDEO) - YouTube

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TONES AND I - DANCE MONKEY (OFFICIAL VIDEO)
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bluebec
4 days ago
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Banksy’s Olympic Street Art: Truths About the Games

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As we gear up for the 2024 Olympics in Paris, it’s the perfect time to remind on the powerful statements made by Banksy’s street art during the 2012 London Olympics.

Banksy, always unflinchingly honest, used his art to challenge the commercialization and militarization of the Olympic Games. Here’s a look at these iconic pieces that still resonate today.

More: 24 artworks by Banksy: Who Is The Visionary of Street Art



In “Hackney Welcomes the Olympics,” Banksy depicted a javelin thrower hurling a missile instead of a spear.



In his “Pole Vaulter” piece, an athlete vaults over a barbed wire fence, with barbed wire replacing the usual bar.



“The Thrower” portrays an athlete ready to throw a grenade instead of a discus.


More: Street Art Legend Banksy Reveals His Name in a Rare BBC Interview


What are your thoughts on Banksy’s 2012 Olympic artworks?

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bluebec
5 days ago
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The Avengers Assemble for Lakota Dub

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Members of the original cast of The Avengers (Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Jeremy Renner, and Mark Ruffalo) reunited to dub the movie in the Lakota language.

Mark Ruffalo and members of the initiative sit down with us to share the story of this amazing reunion and its very special cause. From the recording studio to the big screen, we explore this important cinematic milestone and celebrate the release that took over 15 months, 62 Lakota-Dakota language speakers, and the original Avengers team to come together and Assemble!

More details from the Lakota Times:

On June 14th, 2024, Disney plus will release the Avengers film that will be dubbed in Lakota. Cyril “Chuck” Archambault, Ray Taken Alive, Dallas Nelson, Lawrence Archambault along with the Lakota Reclamation Project, Grey Willow Studios, students from McLaughlin school, elders from the Standing Rock community and many others have all worked very hard together to complete this project.

A couple of years ago, Ray and Chuck talked about the idea of dubbing the Avengers movie. From there, Chuck spoke with Mark Ruffalo about the idea and Ruffalo said he will get back to them about it. Several months later, a meeting was set up with Marvel and Disney to discuss this idea. Not only did they approve of the project, but Marvel and Deluxe studios helped them through it.

From there, they were able to receive a grant to help with funding, within the budgets they made sure that the Elders would be the highest paid in the project.

Here’s the poster for the Lakota dub, which is now streaming on Disney+ (change the language option to Lakota).

See also Why Star Wars Was Dubbed Into the Navajo Language.

Tags: Avengers · language · Mark Ruffalo · movies · Native Americans · remix · video

💬 Join the discussion on kottke.org

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bluebec
5 days ago
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Gene Kelly Doesn’t Want to Perform Singin’ in the Rain on the Muppet Show

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The legendary dancer, actor, and singer Gene Kelly appeared on The Muppet Show in season five, in what turned out to be the last episode of the show ever filmed. The episode’s gag involved Kelly being under the impression he was turning up to watch the show and not perform. Kermit tricks him into it, but in the final act, Kelly refuses to do his most famous song, Singin’ in the Rain. Until…

As Jonathan Hoefler said about this bit on Threads:

For all the satire and irony and anxiety that shaped Gen X, we were so lucky to grow up with the gentleness, wit, kindness, and respect of Jim Henson, the Children’s Television Workshop, and public television generally. How lovely is this?

Tags: dance · Gene Kelly · music · The Muppets · TV · video

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bluebec
5 days ago
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