In an ideal world, we would all carry knowledge about how to care for our bodies. Healthfulness would be emphasized more comprehensively during our formative years. We would learn human physiology (how the body functions) and nutrition to the same degree we do math and reading. This knowledge would be passed along to us from our tribe – our parents, grandparents, siblings, relatives, and caretakers. It would be a cultural thing. We would be brought up knowing how to listen to our bodies and revere them.
Sadly, in so many cases, the opposite is true. Most of us aren’t raised knowing why diet and digestive health affect the way we feel or why our organs rely so heavily on water intake (hydration). We don’t understand the cues our body gives us when it needs something. Communication between body and mind is often skewed, neglected, or severed.
I think, in fact, it is probably truer that we are taught how to ignore and neglect our bodies. We wait until it’s too late, when we or our loved ones are sick, to begin our research.
I was fortunate to learn about physiology in massage school and about healthy living while working in a natural food store. I wish we were all afforded the opportunity, and cared enough, to at least learn the basics of how to keep our bodies running strong. The same goes for the body of the planet. It would be to our advantage as a civilization. In an ideal world, as I said.
While I was on a week-long cleansing retreat (the beginning of my journey healing pre-cancer and leaky gut in my early 20’s), I took the time to read Brenda Watson’s first book Renew Your Life, a great layman’s explanation of why the gut is the foundation of our health. She explains the underlying causes of conditions such as heartburn, ulcers, gas/bloating, inflammation, food allergies, yeast overgrowth, parasites, fatty liver, and autoimmune disease, how conventional medicine treats those conditions, and what you can do on your own to help repair the damage.
I remember thinking when I finished that book (and all the others I devoured after discovering my interest in health) that if everyone knew this stuff, we could actually prevent and reverse so many of the diseases that ail us here in America. What could that mean for us as a culture? We are so lucky to have access to information and the remedies that we do. Yet so much would need to change and evolve in our collective mindset for things to really shift for the better.
It was then that I realized that part of my duty as a bodyworker is to help connect people to resources, to educate and encourage them to take better care of their body. I realized that I get to be a body advocate.
This is an important task because each of us only gets one body during our lifetime. Our body requires some basic know-how and upkeep (just the same as a car or appliance) if we want to enjoy the quality of life for years to come. Our lifestyle choices today will affect us 10-20 years from now. Most people don’t think too much about their future selves when making choices today.
Our bodies are INCREDIBLY resilient, capable of healing, and adjusting. AND they are very fragile at the same time. Each of our organs and systems within our body relies upon and is affected by all the other systems in order to function optimally. They are intra-dependent, working together in concert.
We are charged with the task of keeping our bodies hydrated and nourishing them. Letting them rest when they need rest. Many of us never claim this responsibility.
Even so, the brilliance of our design is that we have over-riding systems and backup functions for when we are in a medical crisis. However, these back-ups are not meant to keep supporting us long-term. The disease will set in if restoration is not eventually addressed.
Attaining and maintaining health, even in the wake of disease (especially), requires a particular mindset. A level of consciousness that leads us to pay attention, listen to our body’s cues, find the right support, and trust that we know what is best for us. We have to be forward-thinking, meanwhile being grounded in the present, in order to cultivate a lifestyle that supports healthful aging. Many of us would have to alter our relationship to instant gratification, especially when it comes to food.
Health is a work in progress. We can always be improving it. It isn’t static, it’s ever-changing.
Intervention may at times be required, but the best way to empower oneself is to have a greater understanding of how the body operates in the first place. I find that knowledge helps motivate me to make better choices. In this regard, I don’t think we can ever know too much.
Here are 8 things you can do to enhance your knowledge about physiology and nutrition:
1. Become a researcher. Take classes, read educational materials, and/or watch all the great documentaries that we have access to
2. Surround yourself with other health nuts. Find people you can geek out with about related topics. Frequent local establishments that are all about it. Find experts you trust. Join online forums that help connect you to resources.
3. Hire a practitioner such as a naturopath, functional medicine practitioner, or nutritionist who you can ask questions and who can offer more personalized support. Find out what your current state of health is and what you personally can do to help improve it.
4. Practice mind-body techniques to help you develop clear communication pathways with your body.
5. Take daily time-outs. Get still and quiet enough to listen to your body. Ask it how it’s doing and what it needs. Trust what you hear in response. Dialogue with it. Offer it gratitude. Smile at it – send thanks to all your body parts.
6. Schedule regular bodywork to enhance your awareness and to receive all the health-giving advantages that it offers.
7. Set off on a healing journey to heal emotional turmoil and mental chaos that prevents you from loving your body. Seek counsel from a body-centered therapist. Give yourself more time to explore psycho-somatic (mind-body) patterns residing in your body.
8. Remain curious. Health is something we could devote a lifetime to studying.
It really is quite simple, and yet our culture doesn’t really encourage us to understand our own nature. Not in an embodied way. I bet if you ask any wise elder who is enjoying good health, they will warn you not to wait to care for your body. Start today! Because this goes beyond wrinkles and grey hairs, it’s the long-term quality of your life on the line.
Others Ways to Love and Protect Your Body Blog Series:
#1 Massage and Bodywork
#2 Build a Holistic Team
#4 Be Your Body’s Advocate
# 5 Have Your Medicine Cabinet Prepare Before Illness Strikes