Introduction to Concepts of the Body
Estimated Read Time: 5 mins
Sharing knowledge is important. The more we know, the better equipped we are at responding to life. Here I will try to keep everything as jargon-free as possible, to assist ease in understanding.
To talk about one body part without talking about the entire organism it belongs to and interacts with, your body, is not doing the human body justice and as a result, causing whatever I say to not be the entire truth. However, it is sometimes important to break things down, understand the pieces and put those little pieces together to get the bigger picture. Like a jigsaw puzzle, we look at the pieces, while always referring to the big picture as well.
Here are a few concepts that have helped me - and will hopefully help you as well - understand the body better and with more ease.
The body is highly adaptable and constantly looking for the most effective and energy-saving way of doing things. It adapts to whatever input it is given. If you stop lifting things, your body takes away the muscles it thinks you have no need for. If you stop putting force through your bones, they grow porous and brittle. The direct opposite happens if you exert yourself by lifting things and putting force through your bones through walking, running, jumping around etc; your muscles grow thicker and more responsive and your bones denser and stronger.
The natural movements in daily life tend to occupy many planes of movement (if your lifestyle does requires you to move a lot throughout your day). It is only when we do specific exercises that we limit ourselves to one plane, though sometimes that is necessary to create a controlled environment for safe exploration of movements, usually during rehabilitation or pre-habilitation or when just beginning exercise again. Modern life tends to constrict us to only certain planes and certain levels of those planes, disallowing us to use our bodies fully and properly. In future posts, there will be some exploratory movement activities for you to experience the basic ranges of movements your body should have and to learn more about your body. Some might be easier to you and some might be more difficult, but they will be safe, fun and focused on exploration and education.
Injuries tend to happen from underuse, overuse or accidents or a mixture of these things.
Example a) John sprained his left ankle (accident). John then unconsciously or consciously avoids putting weight on his left ankle (underuse), giving some of the work of his left leg to his right (overuse). Over time, his left ankle heals, but his pattern of leaning to his right sticks and he still unconsciously avoids putting weight on his left. He starts feeling a dull pain in his right hip and wonders why that is happening. This is how an accident can lead to an underuse of something and an overuse of something.
Example b) Cynthia works a lot. Her job involves her sitting in front of the computer for long hours and she sits for an hour in traffic everyday to get to and from work. When she goes home, she is tired and wants to unwind from the day’s stressors. She sits on her bed, propped up comfortably with pillows and watches a show or a film and falls asleep while doing so. Cynthia does this for most of her week. 6 months later, Cynthia prepares to get out of her car and feels a sharp pain in her back. It does not go away. She learns that she has a slipped disc. Due to the lack of healthy movement in her body (underuse), certain parts of her body could not function as they were meant to and an “accident” happened.
This can also happen to people who have been inactive for awhile and jump into a physically demanding activity (sports, exercise, martial arts, dance etc.) too quickly. The body has no time to adapt to the new activity and an injury happens.
Example c) Bob is a cook. He spends long hours bent over the counter doing preparations for service (cutting, washing, packing), then spends the entire time during service bent over cooking. He is always using a utensil or holding a pot or pan in his right hand. Over time, he starts to feel pains in his elbow, wrist, shoulder and neck. He has overused his entire right arm through doing repetitive actions in a specific way.
These are just a few examples and definitely does not apply to everyone who works in an office, is a cook, a John, a Cynthia or a Bob. Every case is unique and though there tend to be many similarities between cases, working on and taking into account the differences make a massive difference.
The biggest focus during my sessions is health. The word holistic has been misconstrued and exploited so often it sometimes carries a negative connotation when used. To bring back the original neutral definition of the word,
characterized by the belief that the parts of something are intimately interconnected
and explicable only by reference to the whole.
characterized by the treatment of the whole person, taking into account mental and social factors, rather than just the symptoms of a disease.
Health is multifaceted and the different parts affect each other. If you slouch and your chest is caved in and you drag your feet, this can have certain effects on your mental health. It can also affect your ability to breathe fully, disallowing your diaphragm, ribs, lungs and accessory breathing muscles to go through their full movement. When that happens, your diaphragm might stop being the effective pump it is on your digestive organs or lymphatic system. That could lead to digestive problems, clogged arteries and falling sick easily, among other things.
If you do not supply your body with nutritious food, you could feel tired, fall sick easily, reduce physical activity due to a lack of energy, your body will not be able to repair itself effectively and that could result in back pain, chronic fatigue, neck pains, gastrointestinal problems, cardiovascular problems and many other issues. An injury might hinder you from doing simple daily movements and activities you love, and you get irritated, frustrated and maybe even depressed. You start taking these inhibitions as permanent and might think “I’ll never be able to raise my arm above my head again, my shoulder will always be bad/lousy” or “I can’t run, my knee is bad”. You start to narrow your vision and you are hesitant and unconfident in your abilities.
This is why throughout treatment, I ask clients about other parts of their life, to understand what the cycle might be and to try and break the cycle, showing the body various new functional ways of being. By affecting the physical body, we could create a positive domino effect that would help the other facets of your health. For example, by working on your diaphragm and ribs and giving you breathing exercises to restore full breathing capacity, you might get better digestion, your mood might improve and you might get back to being more active.
All of this might make for quite a negative view on the human body. While it is easy to fall into that trap of thinking the body is fragile or easy to ruin, it is important to remember how resilient it is as well. When you injure yourself, your body looks for another way to keep you going, to get you through the day. It keeps fighting to survive and keeps looking for a way to help you keep living your life. Only sometimes the way it tries to help is not necessarily the best or most efficient (using the least energy) way, just the most effective (achieving the goal no matter the method) way. The body has great potential to be efficient and incredibly useful, but it sometimes needs some guidance.
Did anything in this post bring insight to you about your body or did any questions come up?
Comment below or drop me an email!