Vital Power Depends On Functional Vigor
( Originally Published 1904 )
"Body and mind are great gifts, and for the proper use and keeping of them we are held fully responsible by Nature."—H. Rippon Seymour.
To those who are not familiar with the subject, it will come as a surprise to be told that muscular exercise does not comprise all that there is to physical culture. Exercise plays a very important part in the scheme of the healthy body, but it is not by any means the sole factor in the true science of health.
Yet it must be borne in mind, as a basic truth, that without exercise, there can be no physical culture. Exercise is just as an essential portion of it as are nourishing food, pure air and water.
The systems of exercises that I shall present in this volume are adapted to both the weak and the strong. They have the unique advantage of being adapted to the strength of any pupil. There can be but little or no possibility of a strain resulting.
These lessons are equally applicable to both women and men.
I intend to illustrate and describe exercises that will build internal vital strength, and conduce to that feeling of continuous health which is so valuable a possession in this strenuous age.
The lungs must be strong, of a proper capacity, and capable of performing their important office of purifying the blood, by absorbing oxygen and eliminating the impurities that are carried to them by the circulation. The stomach, that great organ which performs such onerous offices, must also be given special attention. The assimilative and excretory systems must be developed to the highest possible state of vigor. If, subsequently, you perfect your external muscular system, you are then in possession of powers which are complete in every respect. Man-hood, or womanhood, in a perfected form has then been attained, and can be retained until an organ wears out, or some cord snaps and you pass into the misty unknown.
I want every reader to begin with this chapter, and conscientiously select from these lessons those movements recommended for their especial needs. Give careful attention to every word that I write. I shall not waste space. I do not wish my readers to wade through a vast quantity of reading matter in order to reach the essential information, and so every word will be important and should be heedfully read. Do not expect to be benefited by merely looking at the pictures, or by practicing the exercises on two or three occasions. You must follow instructions accurately. You must continue each exercise until the muscles you bring into use are thoroughly fatigued. You must persistently practice the movements day after day if you expect to note an improvement in yourself. There is no earthly reason why every one of my readers cannot be greatly benefited by this book. I care not how much experience you may have had, or how much you may have studied the subject of physical development, yet I assert that you will find a vast quantity of information and a large number of exercises in these chapters that will be of great benefit to you.
Physical culture, or physical development, or whatever you may choose to term it, means to the ordinary individual simply the strengthening or development of the external muscular system. This is really but a part of its work. The most important portion of its duties is the strengthening of all the vital organs the lungs, heart, stomach, intestines, liver, kidneys; etc. In the chapters that follow I intend, however, to treat the subject in its broadest possible sense,: and so shall include those things that tend to physical vigor.
Now, in order to determine the relative importance to The body of its various requirements, it becomes necessary for is to understand exactly what is essential to the maintenance of life and health. The most important element in the cultivation of general vigor must-be that which is most requisite to life. One can exist-for an indefinite period without exercise, but one-cannot-really and truly live without it. There is a vast difference between merely existing and living, between being a mollusc or a man, so to speak. Your mind and body may fulfill their functions, but in a very lethargic and spiritless fashion because of a vast accumulation of dead cells within your system. Nature intended that every part of your being should be active and alive and alert.
We' can live in apparent good health without food many days. There are several fasts of sixty days and more on record, where health seemingly lost for-ever has been regained. We can exist without food and water for from one to two weeks. We can do without the, recuperative influence. of sleep and rest for many days. But, as illustrating the vast importance of air to the human body, we note that we can-not live more than from two to five minutes without it. Reasoning from this standpoint, it must be clear to my readers that the relative importance of the various primary essentials of life, health and strength is about as follows:
This would indicate that the most important knowledge in this connection is that which pertains to feeding the body with its needed oxygen. This chapter will offer.. some preliminary advice on the subject, which will be treated more extensively, however, in Chapter XV. Strange as it may seem, there are but few persons .who breathe properly, which means breathing deeply and fully. The average breathing capacity among men is small, and no woman who wears a corset can possibly breathe as she should.
Now, I want my readers first of all to make every possible endeavor to acquire a proper method of breathing, and in order to still more strongly emphasize the information here illustrated in reference to this subject, I would advise my pupils to view a little child as it breathes, standing or reclining. Notice how the air is brought down to the lowest part of the lungs by the expansion of the body a little above the waist line. This shows you that a waist restricted either by a tight pair of trousers or a corset, interferes decidedly with your breathing.
Not only should one learn to breathe properly, but a custom should be formed of taking deep, full inhalations frequently during the day, more especially when walking in the open air. This habit can be cultivated just as are, the other habits of one's life. Ultimately deep, full inhalations will be taken involuntarily. Whenever the air tastes fresh and good, the inclination will-be to draw in all you can, just as you are induced to eat heartily when an appetizing meal is set before you.
My readers can thus readily see my reason for emphasizing the importance of breathing exercises. I wish every pupil to start in at once and learn how to breathe, and continue these vastly important exercises day after day. Results will be noticed in a remarkably short time in the broadening of the shoulders and chest, in the erect carriage assumed, and in the increased strength and upbuilding of the vital powers of the body in general.