Homonculus and hips

Do you know the word, homonculus? Translated in latin, it means small human.  In the movement and neuroscience world it means, the motor cortex region of the cerebrum.  Each area of our body has a density of nerves that receive sensory information and send out motor information.


This sculptural representation by Sharon Price-James demonstrates which parts of our body have the greatest density of nerves that receive and supply information.  That density allows for a lot of incoming information (like proprioception)  and a lot of fine tuning of outgoing information (piano playing, chewing, language) . Those parts that are most important to SURVIVAL are largest, right? Our hands, mouth, lips, and eyes, all valuable to finding and consuming food.  

What is interesting is to note the parts of our body that have a less dense representation, and what we ask those parts to do (especially in yoga) in many forms of exercise. 

Let's take for example, our hips.  If we go back to survival being the driver for density of sensory and motor supply, what we required from our hips in terms of sensory and motor was pretty low level, run, jump, squat, crawl, climb. All relatively large movements, explored related to function, not repeated in a class or gym setting over and over.  

Compare this to a yoga flow class. Where potentially we are repeatedly moving through lunges, twists, or one leg postures, and pushing our bodies to extreme ranges of motion.  That low density of proprioception and finely differentiated motor signals start to come into play.  We have a really difficult time knowing where are hips are in space.  Its challenging to make adjustments in hip and pelvic alignment without external stimuli. 

However, our brain is plastic. And, by using a combination of external feedback, focused attention, repetition, and joy, we can change the density of those representations.  Just think of the brains of professional dancers? 

So try this, try to use your hands, straps, blocks, focused attention to really hone in on your hip/pelvis position in your movement practice. Try to change your brain!