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Fascia - The 6th Sense and 'Organ' of Kinaesthesia

Posted by: Emma on: 21/03/2017



By Karin Gurtner

art of motion training in movement (www.art-of-motion.com)


How do you maintain an upright posture? Where does coordination come from? Or seemingly elusive sensations like spaciousness, weightiness or buoyancy? And why can some movements make you feel elated and others irritated? Because of your 6th sense: kinaesthesia. If that sounds a bit mystical, it is not – at least not in the way it sounds.

Besides the five senses - sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch – you have kinaesthesia, which I call the 6th sense. As the eyes are the organ of sight and the skin the organ of touch perception, fascia is the ‘organ’ of kinaesthesia.



Kinaesthesia or kinaesthetic sense means movement sense. Not only do movement efficiency and quality rely on our kinaesthetic skills, the mere ability to stand and move depends on it.



If the fascial system could be unravelled, its surface area would significantly exceed that of the skin (the largest organ). Fascia is not only vast regarding spatial occupation, it is also in a league of its own as a sensory system.

Fascia is densely populated with sensory receptors. Compared with the quantity of muscle spindles, there are six to ten times more mechanoreceptors in fascia than in muscle tissue1. When including the tiny interstitial receptors in the equation, proportionally the number of sensory receptors may be equal or even superior to that of the retina of the eye1. While the eyes are often considered the most dominant and richest sensory organ, it is the high receptor density and its bodywide extent that makes fascia the most influential perceptual system.

Unconsciously and consciously, fascia enables us to perceive body alignment, coordinate movement, modulate rhythm and feel the effects of it all.



Kinaesthesia can be differentiated into proprioception and interoception. Generally, proprioception is directly associated with kinaesthesia, while interoception had commonly been linked to viscera. In the last few years the meaning of interoception has changed from the restrictive view that our interoceptive sense solely stems from our internal organs, to the more inclusive view of using interoception as an umbrella term for the phenomenological experiences of our body’s state.



Proprioception is the unconscious or conscious ability to perceive body alignment and move in a well-timed, coordinated manner.



Interoception is the unconscious or conscious ability to modulate and sense the quality of movement as well as feel its effects on the body and emotions.

Interoceptive sensations are often related to the homeostatic needs and have a strong affective, motivational aspect; meaning they motivate to adapt behaviour (unconsciously or consciously) to regain equilibrium.


Interoceptive sensations include2:

¬   Warmth and coldness, heaviness and lightness, muscular activity and relaxation, hunger and thirst, heartbeat and so on.


More broadly, interoception is linked to3:

¬   Emotional states, decision making, perception of time, perception of somatic spaciousness and peripersonal space4 (the space around your body that belongs to you), sense of wholeness, and more.

When you feel interoceptive sensations such spaciousness, weightiness, buoyancy, length, etc. they are as ‘real’ as putting one foot in front of the other.




The distinction between proprioception and interoception is not in their importance or value for movement, the difference is in the fascial system where different sensory receptors feed different kinaesthetic information to different areas of the brain2.



While proprioception is about ‘matter-of-fact’ sensing body alignment and movement timing, interoception is about modulation and how we feel about our proprioceptive abilities.



At this point it is useful to consider that ‘feeling’ involves both sensation and emotion.

Sensation:  A sensation is the feeling of something.

Emotion:    An emotion is how you feel about it.



In body-minded movement the distinctions between proprioception and interoception, as well as sensation and emotion are relevant. For example, when doing a standing Roll Down, ideally the lumbar spine is evenly flexed (proprioceptive ability) and there is a three-dimensional stretch sensation in the lower back, which is the feeling of something. While some people ‘interpret’ it (interoceptive sensation) as a ‘heavenly opening’, others might feel ‘terribly stuck’ and some people simply refuse ‘to go there’ – all of which indicates how they feel about the stretch sensation.

There are countless factors that influence our emotional responses to physical sensations – and that includes pain perception; where there is little direct correlation between what is actually happening on a tissue level and the way the brain interprets the signals5. In body-minded training we aim to respond mindfully, therefore contemplative ‘pauses’ before habitually reacting are a worthwhile exercise to observe arising emotions and what they motivate us to do. Is it the motivation to pursue? Back off because of fear? Frustration, therefore resignation? Frustration, therefore push harder?

When ‘listening’ attentively to the kinaesthetic sense we can make more informed choices on how to respond to physical sensations to reinforce positive and break negative feedback loops.

The next time you are on the mat, pay extra attention to your 6th sense and distinguish between what you (proprioceptively) sense and how you (interoceptively) feel about it.

Enjoy your practise!


Till soon,


For more information, please visit The Art of Motion website


1.       Book - Robert Schleip 2012. Fascia: Fascia as an organ of communication.

2.       Book - Robert Schleip, Heike Jäger 2012. Fascia: Interoception, A new correlate for intricate connections between fascial receptors, emotion, and self-recognition.

3.       Article – Erik Ceunen, Johan W. S. Vlaeyen and Ilse Van Diest 2016. Frontiers in Psychology: On the Origin of Interoception.

4.       Book - Sandra Blakeslee & Matthew Blakeslee 2007. The Body Has a Mind of Its Own.

5.       Book – David Butler and Lorimer Moseley 2003. Explain Pain.




¬   Developer Contemporary Pilates method

¬   Developer Slings Myofascial Training®

¬   Developer Anatomy Trains in Motion®

¬   Certified Anatomy Trains® lecturer

¬   Certified Kinesis Myofascial Integration® Practitioner

¬   Author of teaching materials and accredited Pilates educations for movement professionals and therapists

¬   Developer of Certificate IV and Diploma in Contemporary Pilates (vocational training)

¬   International presenter

¬   Certifed Pilates teacher for matwork, reformer and studio Pilates

¬   PMA (Pilates Method Alliance) Certified Pilates teacher

¬   Qualification in Workplace Training and Assessment

¬   Certified Yoga teacher

¬   Certified Gyrokinesis teacher

¬   Various certificates in massage

¬   Various certificates in fitness, wellness and personal training

¬   Various anatomy and dissection courses with Thomas W. Myers, Andry Vleeming, Gil Hedley, Jaap van der Wal and others



Karin is the founder and principal educator of art of motion training in movement®, a renowned training organization for Contemporary Pilates & Slings Myofascial Training based in Switzerland and Australia.

Karin developed the Certificate IV and Diploma in Contemporary Pilates, as well as a series of functional anatomy workshops.

On a sunny day in Western Australia, Karin read the first pages of Anatomy Trains. Reading the book opened a whole new world of possibilities. After certifying in Kinesis Myofascial Integration and becoming an Anatomy Trains teacher, Karin developed Anatomy Trains in Motion; a joint venture between Tom Myers and Karin Gurtner.

Inspired by the open-minded wholeness of Anatomy Trains and the depth of positive change that can be achieved through structural integration, Karin has also been creating a holistic movement concept called Slings Myofascial Training. Slings aims for structural balance, resilience and self-awareness through movement. It’s a concept that has been successfully implemented for a good number of years; and a comprehensive curriculum that has been wholeheartedly embraced by movement professionals and bodyworkers with a flair for movement alike.


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