More Sensation Means Better Body Control
How do you increase the sensation in your body? If you can’t feel it you probably can’t control it.
Have you noticed that some parts of your body are easier to feel than others? For instance, the tips of your fingers, your lips…and areas of the body that are painful. While other parts of the body, although we know they exist, it’s hard to get any sensation from except a vague sense of shape and weight, like the upper arm or the lower leg.
Partly this is because of the way that nerve endings are concentrated in our bodies. There are actually a great many more nerve endings in our fingers and hands than there are in our arm.
But this ability to feel sensations is also a learned skill. There are just as many (if not more) nerve endings in our feet as there are in our hands, yet we don’t often find ourselves reaching for and exploring our environment with our toes.
We have an influence on how much sensation we experience, and we can deliberately work to feel more of our body in more detail.
Why this matters, aside from adding ineffable richness to our limited time on the planet, is that if you can’t feel part of yourself, you probably can’t control it.
Control is one way of looking at it. I have slightly mixed feelings about that word because it can land rather differently for different people. Alternatively, I would say that we lose connection to that part of our body, and change, iteration and relationship are no longer possible when the connection is gone.
For instance, when I’m swinging an ax or a hoe, I want to feel a sense of solidity and unity, a sense of control, extending from my feet through my hips and low back and shoulders…all the way to the working end of the tool. If part of my body is not within my sphere of awareness and therefore outside of my control, this whole motion of using the tool will be disrupted, it will be weaker, and I will no longer be in charge of choosing where in my body the force of my effort is landing.
So, that is what is meant by control. When someone can feel their whole body they can create unity and solidity in their motion, whether it’s rowing a boat, wrestling with a snow blower or rototiller, or even chopping an onion.
A good example of how this works, or doesn’t, is to consider scapular stabilization, or scapular winging, or if you haven’t heard of those two terms then to just think about what the shoulder feels like and how you use it in your own tasks.
Often when we move the arm there is a sense of its looseness and generous mobility. It seems easy to use the arm without involving the rest of the body. You can feel that right now by making a big circle with your arm in whatever range is comfortable.
That kind of looseness is fine and has a place in our experience, but when you want to do larger amounts of work through the arms then it’s better to trade some of that looseness for a bit more solidity and power by firmly anchoring the arm to the rest of your body.
You can feel the difference by now contracting the muscles of your shoulder blade so that your arm becomes tied to your rib cage. Now when you move the arm you’ll notice there is a tendency to rotate the torso as well, because the arm and torso have gained some unity and force can be readily transmitted from one to the other.
If you were having trouble engaging the muscles of the shoulder blade to anchor your shoulder to your torso then it could be that you simply haven’t practiced that skill.
Was it hard to find the muscles I was speaking of? You know, the ones that anchor your shoulder blade to the ribs? If you can’t locate them then it’s certainly going to be difficult to engage them when you want to.
If you put some attention into developing finer sensation in that area, then you will have the ability to choose whether to control it or not. But if you can’t feel it, you probably can’t control it.