Over the weekend, I tried a virtual reality program. There were goggles and headphones. I took a tour of Pluto. It was a gorgeous seven minutes in space, except I was really in a friend’s living room. Because I was in virtual reality, what I saw changed with how I moved. That is to say, when I turned my actual body, what I saw in the goggles turned as if I were really standing in space.
What was interesting was that I felt like I was turning in place from the virtual reality perspective. In real life, I ended up moving across the floor and butting up against a chair. What I was seeing affected my sense of where my body was. The fancy word for our ability to know where our bodies are and what they are doing is proprioception.
One of the reasons we exercise, whether we know it or not, is to improve our proprioception. That sense of where we are in space allows us to coordinate complex movements. Pilates is particularly good for developing proprioception because of its emphasis on form and placement. We learn how to feel where we are, to inhabit our bodies more fully, and, by extension, avoid encounters with chairs when we do spacewalks.