This article was originally posted on The Human Body User Manual website. Minor edits have been made to bring links and sign-up forms up to date.
I’d like to introduce myself. My name is Stephanie, and, at this time, I’m the sole author, web developer, graphic designer, video producer, idea generator, researcher, and marketing specialist running this website and blog. (Someday I envision a full team working to maximize the resources available to you here, but we all start somewhere!)
Tackling the first post to start this blog has been a bit tricky. I’m eager to dive right in and start sharing and teaching what I know about the body! However, as I hope you’ll see, I like to do my best to do things right. In this case, it seems appropriate to start with some exposition about why this blog exists in the first place and what I hope it will do for you.
Let me start with a story that has some parallels with mine...
For years, you’ve been treating them by concocting pain killers out of the local medicinal herbs. Your patients are very appreciative, but you sense that this approach is only prolonging the inevitable, so you are constantly on the lookout for clues as to what might actually be a more effective way to solve the underlying disease.
And then you stumble upon it. Your research and experimentation leads you to develop the equivalent of penicillin. Finally, something that will cure the problem from its root!
There are just a couple of problems. First off, it’s going to take a lot of time and resources to get your new treatment produced in a quantity that's actually going to help people. You were already spending almost all your time just producing pain killers; now you’ve got to scale that back if you're to do the more important work.
And that, of course, makes people cranky. Especially because they don’t even believe in your new-fangled antibiotic. They don't understand germs, and they only know how things have been all their lives, so imagining that it could be different is a very foreign concept. So if you’re not giving them the only medicine they've come to know and expect, they’re not going to be happy and it’s going to be harder to keep food on your table.
But, every day you spend brewing painkillers is another day they go without the cure they really need. Ill health is going to claim the lives, and quality of life, of more people the longer you delay.
So... How long can you go, defying convention and throwing caution to the wind in order to pursue what you know people truly need? Will it be before you starve, yourself? There’s only one way to find out...
Closer to Home
It's not apparent right away that everyone is suffering from this. Most people make their way at least through adolescence and into early adulthood feeling pretty invincible; their bodies just do their jobs and no amount of slouching has a perceivable effect.
Until, slowly, as they decades progress, people begin to feel that their bodies are inexplicably “falling apart.”
This often comes as a surprise to many people. I frequently hear, “Everything was fine, and then this pain showed up.” Or, “I never had a problem with my _____ before,” as if it's just luck of the draw that some people have good backs/knees/hips/etc. while other people get bad ones.
They don't realize that the underlying imbalance was developing long before the straw that broke the camel's back. We’re not given the perspective to appreciate just how the little things we do every day, and the varying ways in which we do them, can slowly, incrementally add up over years or decades before a problem shows up.
More than Physical Pain
Part of the problem is that we never teach people the nuts and bolts of how the body develops and changes over time. Instead, we just tell them that they need to exercise and stretch more, emphasizing quantity and neglecting quality of movement habits. So, when they struggle, rather than question the approach, they often assume that either 1) they're broken (their body is just a "bad" one with no hope), or 2) they didn't do enough, through lack of dedication or willpower.
Neither of these is a healthy or helpful way to think about the problem (especially when there are other factors involved). Not only does it distract us from seeking actual solutions, but thinking of ourselves as powerless or lazy cuts into our self-image and self-esteem, calling into question how we view ourselves as worthy human beings and chipping away at our motivation to do better at everything in life.
The Human Body User Manual is my attempt change this. By empowering people to understand and take control of their bodies, I hope to not only improve their physical health, but to change (for the better) the way people fundamentally think about themselves and, by extension, all the other members of our shared human condition.
The Massage Therapist
My breakthrough has been that, through all the modes of studying in my massage practice (books and journals, individual case studies, and direct personal experience), I’ve finally put together a picture of how the body’s sensory input systems are integrated with its movement functions in a way that I can't find anyone else fully talking about. (In technical terms, I call this theory “Proximal Activation, Distal Calibration.”)
From this perspective, it’s actually very easy to see how one simple component of our modern lifestyle – the fact that we wear shoes – has had a more pervasive and insidious effect on our physical health than any other factor. And, what's more, it makes it clear just how much we can change, and it provides a reliable and consistent rehabilitative approach to reversing many of the effects of so-called “aging.”
I’m desperate to share this with the world! I hope for The Human Body User Manual to drastically improve our society’s body literacy and inform health choices for the average person as well as expanding the perspective of medical professionals.
Unfortunately, it's not going to be easy. It became clear to me last year that I had to take time away from my massage practice in order to pursue this greater goal. But, single-handedly taking on a project that 1) aims to change the entire way we think about and practice physical medicine and 2) challenges strongly-ingrained social norms (and even some common religious beliefs) is a hefty task by itself, made harder by financial strain.
So, while the book itself is well under way, it still has a huge amount of work to go. In the meantime...
So, the goal of this blog is to provide an ongoing resource to answer many of the questions and concerns I encounter on a daily basis regarding physical health. I will be collecting and curating information to help you better understand and care for your body, and sharing the ideas I’ve developed and synthesized from the best researchers, teachers, thought leaders, and self-experimenters out there.
[Edit: With the transition over from the Human Body User Manual site to this one, I will be including topics that range from nutrition to mental health to global ecosystems from an evolutionary perspective. I'm looking forward to the increased scope.]
In my opinion, when it comes to your body, knowledge is power: many successful rehabilitation methods get results when you follow their intsructions, but nothing compares to the empowerment and clarity that comes from truly understanding what is going wrong over time and knowing exactly how the things you do can change it.
Second, in response to viewer requests, I’ll be co-hosting a free webinar called "Practical Barefooting, Step One: Overcoming Fears and Social Barriers" on May 7th, 2014, in collaboration with author and fellow barefooter, Sue Kenney.
I’m slowly building additional free resources that you can access under the “Resources” tab in the navigation above, including recommended books, videos, and methods or practitioners that can help you get started.
As the book itself comes along, I will be slowly releasing portions of it to my audience. Those who have made a financial contribution in support of the book have already received a draft of chapter 3. (You can still join in here and get access, too!) Later, I may share a small portion for free, or allow purchases of individual chapters for a nominal contribution to help me continue the work.
[Edit: Chapter 3 is now available simply by signing up for my mailing list.]
You can also subscribe to my RSS feed, but not all my announcements will be available here, so be sure you're getting emails.
I’m also extremely interested in constructive feedback. I’d love to hear your thoughts, questions, concerns, suggestions, recommendations, and especially your stories!
To that end, please feel free to comment below this post, or to send me an email directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. I do my best to answer everyone; but even if I can’t respond directly, your input may help me to improve or expand the resources I have to offer.
Thanks so much for reading, and I look forward to helping you in your journey to understanding your body and learning to work with it, rather than against it, to achieve lifelong, pain-free activity and health!