I wrote this in 2010, but felt it was important to share it in my blog:
The “How to use Manual”
The human body is the only machine that does not come with a “How to Use” Manual. It is strange that such a complicated, well designed and priceless piece of engineering comes with no suggestions on maintenance and tips to use it better.. (Even my simple Nokia phone sends me daily tips on how to make the best use of it!!)
Most of us stumble through life learning about our bodies from other people’s experiences; or learning by ourselves as and when we need to: from friends, peers, elders, doctors, teachers, books, trainers, the internet, etc… Unfortunately, all the people we learn from are themselves clueless or half informed because you see, there are no tips from the manufacturer himself!! In fact, since the manufacturer was a designer, he has made each of us unique, and actually there is no human exactly like another.. (Proven by the fact that each of us has a fingerprint that is unique). This means that any amount of research done on the human body cannot be absolute, and cannot be precisely applied to all humans unfailingly. Why then are we so smug about our knowledge of our bodies, why do we not hesitate ever so slightly when advising others based on what worked for us, or what we studied to be correct? When in fact, the only thing we are sure of is that we cannot be sure of anything!
Our concepts of “hygiene” and “looking after the body” are largely dependent on our geographical location, culture, financial position, gender and generation. They also depend up on the personal beliefs of the people raising us: Parents, Relatives, Guardians, and such.. So for example whether to brush your teeth once a day, twice or thrice in a day, or whether to brush your teeth at all, may depend on your cultural and social background or upbringing. Some of these also depend up on professional requirements and financial constraints. E.g. an actress may spend several thousand rupees on beauty treatments per month, and a housewife may spend a few hundreds. In fact if we think about it none of these so-called “looking after your body” concepts are a part of normal human development. These are cultural and social “learnt” concepts, and though a necessary part of living in today’s world, not natural or necessary to the human body.
What is most natural to the human body, and an essential part of development (as in all animals) is “Movement”. We do not need to be taught how to “move”; a foetus starts moving in the mother’s womb at the age of seven weeks and continues to learn “motor skills” throughout infancy and early childhood. Anyone that has seen the joy on a child’s face as he takes his first step, or the exhilaration that a child feels as he runs freely in a field, cannot doubt that this is what the human body was designed for.
Social and cultural rules and norms actually rob us of our right to free movement around the time that we enter full time school at the age of six (think about the teacher insisting the child sits still in a chair for hours aiming for cerebral growth, but slowly un-learning motor skills), and by the time we are done with formal education somewhere in our twenties, we have forgotten the joys of free movement. Exercise now becomes a chore, one more thing to be “fitted” into our “to do” list for the day. Some of us may even ignore this most essential “Looking after our body” routine till health fails. We now need help to learn afresh “How to move”! This help comes from fellow humans, who have learnt these skills from other “Older, more experienced” humans and have probably been certified by institutions and academies run by “Even older and even more experienced” ….HUMANS!!
The human body is a marvel of engineering: so uniquely designed with so many components working together tirelessly through life in the best example of teamwork. It is also an ever-changing and evolving piece of art and each individual is different from one day to the next. Each of us is unique, and none other in the world is exactly the same. It is not possible to completely understand the human body in a way that we can apply our knowledge unerringly to all that we try to help; thinking that we can, in fact is grossly arrogant and audacious. All of us in the field of medicine know that one of the first things we learn in Medicine is “Differential Diagnosis”. We arrive at a diagnosis not with conviction but by elimination, and hence it is our duty to remain “slightly uncertain” in the interest of the patient. It will also help to remember that no research ever gives a 100% conclusion, and all our treatments are based on what works for a “larger” percentage of the population.
All of us in professions dealing with the human body (Doctors, Trainers, Coaches, etc.) need to tread lightly, cautiously and with humility because we do not have that “How to use” manual.