The Sense of Space

Picture of a long hallway

The Sense of Space

So much of the teaching that we do, derived from the Alexander Technique, relates to our perception of where we are and what we are doing in space.  We often refer to proprioception1 as a primary sensory input into knowing where the parts of our bodies are, our Spatial Sense, but of course, the Spatial sense is a higher integration of a range of sensory inputs, incorporating information from all the of modes of sensing available to the mind, particularly vision along with proprioception.

In practise, the Spatial sense is not limited to either the world around us (knowing where we are), nor to the sense of the body (feeling where the parts of the body are), but can be consciously experienced as a gestalt of the experience of all that is available to the mind in the moment.

With this in mind, it is useful to make the distinction between sensing a body part or ‘feeling it’ and ‘knowing where something is in space’ as a part of the broader sense of the space around us. In practice, if a person becomes overly focused on what they are doing with their body, they lose the broader spatial context and the attempt to feel directs their attention ‘inwards’… the effect of this is an unnecessary stiffening of the musculature.

The idea of space is summed up nicely by Nobel laureate John O’Keefe in this clip from his recent talk to the The Royal Institution on How Your Brain Maps The World

See his complete talk here.

  1. Proprioception: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proprioception