HOW TO ADD TEN YEARS TO YOUR LIFE AND TO DOUBLE ITS SATISFACTIONS
S. S. CURRY, Ph.D., Litt.D.
Can you wake as wake the birds? In their joy and singing share? Stretch your limbs as do the herds, And drink as deep the morning air? Quick as larks on upward wing, Can you shun the demon's wiles, Promptly as the robins sing, Can you change all frowns to smiles? Can you spurn fear's coward whine, Meet each day with joyous song? Then will angels guard your shrine, Joys be deep and life be long.
Boston School of Expression Book Department Pierce Bldg., Copley Square
Copyright by S. S. Curry 1915
To Those Who Loyally Responded to The Dream And to Those Who By Thought, Word or Act Will Aid The School of Expression To Perform Its Important Function In Education.
QUI TRANSTULIT SUSTINET
As ancient exile at the close of day, Paused on his country's farthest hills to view Those valleys sinking in the distant blue Where all the joys and hopes of childhood lay; So now across the years our thoughts will stray To those whose hearts were ever brave and true, Who gave the hope and faith from which we drew The strength to climb thus far upon our way. As he amid the rocks and twilight gray, Saw rocks and steeps transform to stairs, and knew He wandered not alone; so may we too See this, our tentless crag where wild winds play A Bethel rise, and we here wake to know That down and upward angels come and go.
Why and Wherefore 7
I. Significance of Morning 11
II. Supposed Secrets of Health and Long Life 24
III. What is an Exercise? 43
IV. Program of Exercises 54
V. How to Practice the Exercises 84
VI. Actions of Every Day Life 102
VII. Work and Play 109
VIII. Significance of Night and Sleep 122
WHY AND WHEREFORE
When over eighty years of age, the poet Bryant said that he had added more than ten years to his life by taking a simple exercise while dressing in the morning. Those who knew Bryant and the facts of his life never doubted the truth of this statement.
I have made inquiries lately among men who are eighty years of age, as to their method of waking up. Almost without exception, I find that they have been in the habit of taking simple exercise upon rising and also before retiring.
While studying voice in Paris, over thirty years ago, my teacher was so busy that he had to take me before breakfast at an hour which, to a Parisian, was a very early one.
"Vocal exercises may be more difficult at this time," he said, "but it is the best time. If we can start the day with the right exercise of the voice, the use of it all through the day will be additional right practice."
Later, when I studied with the elder Lamperti in Italy, I requested and secured an early hour in the morning for my lessons.
In teaching I have always urged students to take their exercises the first thing in the morning. Those who have taken my advice have later been grateful for the suggestion.
If my own morning exercises are neglected, I feel as if I had missed a meal or had lost much sleep. I was never what is called physically strong; in fact, physicians have continually prophesied my downfall, yet all my life I have performed about three men's work, and by the use of a few exercises have probably doubled the length of my life.
The subject of human development has always been of great interest to me. I have tried to investigate the various systems of gymnastics in all countries; and, teaching, as I have, about ten thousand the use of the voice and body in expression, I have studied training from a different point of view from that of most men.
I have discovered that the voice cannot be adequately trained without also improving the body; that the improvement of the voice can be doubly accelerated if the body is considered a factor.
I have also found, what is more important, that true exercises are all mental and emotional and not physical, and that both body and voice can never be truly improved except by right thinking and feeling.
I, therefore, long ago came to certain conclusions which are not in accordance with common views. My convictions, however, have been the result, not only of experience, but of wide study and investigation.
This book embodies a few points about health; without going deeply into the principles involved, a short programme is given, the practice of which has already accomplished marvelous results. The book embodies my own experiences, and obeys the scientific principles involved in training.
It is meant to be a guide for home study and practice. The principles are applicable to everyone. It requires at first, patience, perseverance, and resolution at that moment in the day when we are most liable to be indifferent and negative, if not irresolute and discouraged. Whoever resolutely undertakes to obey the suggestions will never regret doing so. In fact, it is not too much to claim that he will not only lengthen his life but double its satisfactions.
Every reader of the book is requested to become a member of the Morning League, and whosoever does so and makes a report or writes to me fully about special weaknesses, habits, "besetting sins," or conditions will receive a letter of suggestions.
This book and its companion, "The Smile," are published as a part of the great work undertaken by the friends of the School of Expression; the net receipts from the sale will go to the Endowment Fund of the institution.
HOW TO ADD TEN YEARS TO YOUR LIFE
SIGNIFICANCE OF MORNING
"The year's at the spring And day's at the morn; Morning's at seven; The hill-side's dew-pearled; The lark's on the wing; The snail's on the thorn; God's in his heaven— All's right with the world!"
Song from "Pippa Passes" Robert Browning
Browning's "Pippa Passes" is a parable or allegory of human life.
Though called a drama by its author, it embodies, like all plays of the highest type, other than dramatic elements. In exalted poetry the allegoric, lyric, epic and dramatic seem to be blended. An effort to separate them often seems academic and mechanical.
Pippa, a poor little silk-winding girl, who has never known father or mother, opens the poem. It is the early morning and she wakes with joyous anticipation of her holiday, her only one. She goes forth, and we hear her singing and we see her influencing, from her humble position in the background, "Asolo's four happiest ones," who are brought by the action of the drama into the foreground.
Her character and that of the other persons of the play are well-defined; but the real theme of the poem is the unconscious influence that she exerts upon others. The primary element of dramatic art is the meeting of people and the influence they exert upon each other. There is no direct influence seemingly exerted upon Pippa herself save at one point and even that is scarcely a conscious one.
We feel that she is a type of the human soul. Specific scenes, though intensely dramatic, are entirely separated from one another.
Accordingly if it is a drama, it is a drama of an unusual type. It regards the events of only one day; still that day is not literal; it is a symbol of the life of everyone. It is New Year's Day, but every day is the beginning of a new year. It is a holiday, yet all life, when normally lived, is dominated by love and sympathetic service, and is full of happiness.
Pippa sings as everyone should sing with the spirit of thanksgiving and love. She welcomes the day with joy as everyone should welcome life and its opportunities. She lies down to sleep at night, as we all do; her sun drops into a "black cloud" and she knows nothing of what she has really accomplished or of the revelation that is coming on the morrow.
Moreover, observe that the link of unity in the play is found in the songs of Pippa. One might easily conceive her beautiful character as embodying the very soul of lyric poetry. Hence, in reading the poem, we are impressed from the first with allegoric, lyric and epic, as well as dramatic elements.
Observe more closely her awakening. Note the beautiful description, the gradually lengthening lines, indicative of the coming morning. [See page 16.]
She expresses joy as she meditates over her New Year's hymn. Into this devotional lyric Browning has breathed the spirit of all true life and service.
"Now wait!—even I already seem to share In God's love: what does New-year's hymn declare? What other meaning do these verses bear?
All service ranks the same with God: If now, as formerly he trod Paradise, his presence fills Our earth, each only as God wills Can work—God's puppets, best and worst, Are we; there is no last nor first.
Say not "a small event!" Why "small"? Costs it more pain that this, ye call A "great event," should come to pass, Than that? Untwine me from the mass Of deeds which make up life, one deed Power shall fall short in, or exceed!
And more of it, and more of it! oh, yes— I will pass each, and see their happiness, And envy none—being just as great, no doubt, Useful to men, and dear to God, as they! A pretty thing to care about So mightily, this single holiday!
But let the sun shine! Wherefore repine? —With thee to lead me, O Day of mine, Down the grass path grey with dew, Under the pine-wood, blind with boughs, Where the swallow never flew Nor yet cicala dared carouse— No, dared carouse!"
From "Pippa Passes" Robert Browning
As Pippa leaves her room in the full spirit of this hymn, full of joy, hope and love, she passes into the street. We hardly catch a glimpse of her until the close of the day, when she comes back and lies down to sleep: but we hear her songs and see the influence which she unconsciously exerts. This is the real theme of the poem.
Browning's poetic play reveals to us in four scenes the other side of life, the happier people to whom Pippa referred in her soliloquy. We look first into the interior of the old house of which Pippa has spoken with a kind of awe, and see the proud Ottima who owns the mills where Pippa is but a poor worker. In the dark gloom of one of the rooms Ottima has become the sharer in a murder, and, under the influence of Pippa's song, which is heard outside, she and her companion realize their guilt and are overcome with remorse.
At noon we are introduced to a young artist, Jules, who is just bringing home his bride, Phene, whom he has married thinking her a princess, but who is really a poor, ignorant child. She has been employed unconsciously, to herself, and innocently used by some degraded artists as a means of rebuking the idealist, Jules. By this cruel trick they mean to crush him and reduce him to their own sensual level. Even letters which Jules has received from the supposed princess have been written by these perversions of human beings—who call themselves artists.
In her lovely innocence Phene is thrilled by Jules' tenderness. Her intuition tells her that something is wrong as she falters in rendering the lines the cruel painters have given her to read to Jules.
We see the blow fall upon the young dreamer as he makes the fearful discovery. In the agony of his disappointment he is about to renounce Phene forever as the artists, waiting outside to sneer at him, expect. The poor, innocent being, in whom his kindness and tenderness have stirred to life for the first time her womanly nature, is about to be cast out to a life of degradation and misery, when Pippa passes, singing. Her song awakens Jules to a higher feeling, to a more human and heroic determination; and the painters, waiting outside, are disappointed.
In the evening Pippa passes Luigi, an Italian patriot. He is meditating over the afflictions of his country and upon a plan to help it, while his mother is trying to dissuade him from the daring undertaking. The police and spies are waiting outside. If he goes he will not be arrested; if he stays they have orders to arrest him at once. At the moment of his wavering, when he is almost ready to obey his mother, Pippa's song arouses anew his patriotic being, and he resolutely goes forth to do a true heroic deed for his country. Thus Pippa saves him from imprisonment and death.
Night brings the last scene in the dramatic events of the world influenced by Pippa's songs. A room of the "palace by the Dome," of which Pippa seems to stand in so much awe, opens before us. Here we look into the face of the Monsignor, for whom she expressed reverence in the morning, and we find that the Monsignor and the dead brother whose home he comes to bless, are in reality Pippa's own uncles. The poor little girl, with only a nickname, is a child of an older brother and the real heir to the Palace, though of this she has never had the remotest dream. We see an insinuating villain tempting the Monsignor to allow him to do away with Pippa in a most horrible manner, and thus leave the Monsignor in sole possession of his brother's property.
During an intense moment Pippa passes and her singing outside causes her uncle to throttle the villain and call for help.
Then we see, at the close of the day, the little girl, unconscious of her share in the life of others, come back to her room and fall asleep murmuring her New Year's hymn which, in spite of appearances, she still trusts. We are left with the hope that she will awaken next day to realize who she is and come into her own.
Thus journey we all through life often forgetting that there is nothing small, that "there is no last nor first." We are conscious of noble aims, but oblivious of the real work we are doing and of our own identity.
What, do you ask, has such a poetic drama to do with such a commonplace subject as health or the prolonging of life?
The question implies a misconception. Human development is not a material thing but is poetic and exalted. It has to do not merely with physical conditions but primarily with spiritual ideals. Let us observe more closely how Browning wakes Pippa up. When she comes to consciousness she utters a cry of joy and thanksgiving;
"Day! Faster and more fast, O'er night's brim, day boils at last."
The joyous thanksgiving of this first moment is the key to Pippa's life and to her influence through the whole day. Such was the right beginning to her day and such is the right beginning for us all to every day of our lives. Her faith and her hymn revealed the true ideals of this strange journey we call life.
There is an old proverb: "Guard beginnings." If a stream is poisoned at its head it will carry the deadly taint through its whole course.
The most significant moment of life is the moment of awakening.
The importance of morning has been more or less realized in the instinct of the human heart in every age.
Many of the myths of the early Greeks refer to the miracle of the morning. Aurora mirrors to us in a mystic way the significance of this hour to the Greeks. Athene was born by the stroke of the hammer of Hephaestus on the forehead of Zeus, and thus the stroke of fire upon the sky became the symbol or myth of all civilization. Even Daphne, pursued by Apollo, and turned into a tree, is doubtless the darkness fleeing before dawn until the trees stand out clearly defined in the morning light.
The dawn of day has always been considered a prophecy of the time when all ignorance will vanish before the light of truth.
When we remember that men of the early ages had no other light but that of the sun, we can see how naturally the coming of morning impressed primitive peoples, and it is not much wonder that they adored and worshiped the dawn and the rising sun.
We still speak of the dawn of a new civilization. Morning is still the most universal figure of progress, the type of a new life. More than all other natural occurrences it is used as a symbol of something higher.
May we not, accordingly, discover that from a psychological as well as a physiological point of view, for reasons of health and development, morning is the most significant and important time of the day!
No human being at the first moment of awakening is gloomy or angry. Everyone awakes in peace with all the world. It is a time of freedom. A moment later memory may bring to the mind some scene or picture that leads to good or bad thought, followed by emotion. This first moment of consciousness is the critical and golden moment of human life. How often has it been said to a child: "You must have gotten out of the wrong side of bed this morning."
Even animals and birds feel the significance of morning. Who has not, at early dawn, heard a robin or some other bird begin to sing—"at first alone," as Thomas Hardy says, "as if sure that morning has come, while all the others keep still a moment as if equally sure that he is mistaken." Soon, however, voice after voice takes up the song until the whole woodland is ringing with joyous tones. Who, in such an hour, has not been deeply moved with the spirit and beauty of all life and the harmony and deep significance of all of nature's processes?
If we observe the awaking of birds and animals more carefully, however, we find something besides songs.
All the higher animals go through certain exercises on first waking. There seems a universal instinct which teaches that certain stretches, expansions and deep breathings are necessary at this time. In fact, these actions are so deeply implanted in the instinct of animals that they seem a kind of sacred acceptance of life, a species of thanksgiving for all that life brings.
If we accept "Pippa Passes" as a parable of human life and Pippa as a typical human being, may we not in her awakening find an example of this universal instinct? May we not find her first thoughts and feelings worthy of study and her example one to be followed? Do we not, in fact, find here a beautiful illustration of the proper mode of meeting the sacredness of dawn?
As a matter of fact, how do we actually greet the morning? Do we awake as Pippa did, with a joyous song of praise? Do we pour out our hearts in gratitude that it brings a new day, a new life? Do we give thanks for the new opportunities given us, the new possibilities of enjoyment, the new share in the life of the world?
Usually we have no thought about these things. Most of us entirely forget the significance of the way or "the side we get out of bed."
Attention is rarely paid to the spirit in which we awaken children. It is often by means of an angry demand or an indulgent whine. They rise with the impression that it is a sin to awaken them and they begin the day with the feeling that the world is cruel.
If we could spend the first few moments of every morning as Pippa spent her first moments, the character of the whole life would be determined. It is the most important time of every day. Is it not also the time when we are most apt to be tempted?
Has not man seemingly lost the significance of this sacred hour? Why do so many, on waking up, begin to worry over the difficulties of the day? How many look back with regret to the preceding day and forward with a frown to the one newly born! Why not smile as Pippa smiled and meet our blessings with thanksgiving?
There are certain physiological reasons why people feel so sluggish on first awaking:—the position in bed is cramped, the limbs are contracted, the circulation is impeded and the breathing is greatly hindered. When lying down, all the functions of the vital organs are lessened.
Many people are entirely too careless regarding the air of the room. It needs to be even purer and fresher during one's hours of repose than in those of waking.
Certain simple movements are taken by practically every animal on awaking under normal conditions. Among these are yawning, deep breathing, expansion and stretching. These exercises form a part of the process of awaking. It is the change from the position of lying down to that of standing up. But we find that man rarely takes these exercises. Between the moment of awakening and standing erect man possibly takes more time, whines more and does less than any other animal.
Of all the provisions of nature to meet this crucial moment in animal life the stretch seems to be most important. Why men neglect the stretch is curious. Man seems to lack something of the vigor of the animal instinct on awakening. He lives a more rational life, and it is necessary for him at this time to make certain decisions and exert firmness and resolution.
Science has carefully explained the stretch, but men seem to refuse to take the lesson. The stretch extends the body so that the veins, where congestion is most liable to take place and where pressure of blood is weakest, are so elongated that the blood flows more easily from the arteries, where the pressure is strongest, through the veins back to the heart and circulation is equalized and stimulated.
The beneficial effects of the stretch can be felt by anyone who will take the pains on waking up in the morning to stretch easily, for a few minutes, then rest a few moments and note the effect. He will feel a great exhilaration all through the body. He will feel a sense of harmony. Thanksgiving seems to arise from every cell at the fresh blood and life.
The yawn is similar to the stretch. The yawn is a stretch of the lungs as the stretch is a yawn of the muscles. Both of these exercises express a hunger for oxygen. Whenever anyone is sitting in a cramped position or even in one position for a long time, the stretch or yawn is instinctive. The extension of the muscles of the body as illustrated in the stretch is one of the most necessary steps in normal adjustment. To speak of only one point: when a man sits his knees are bent, and the muscles in front of the leg are elongated and the muscles back of the knee are shortened. A stretch means simply the extension of these shortened muscles.
All over the body we find a tendency to elongate certain muscles too much. This is true in the chest; true also of the face, at the corners of the mouth. The active use of the too elongated muscles will produce extension in those that are too much shortened. By doing this we bring about certain normal conditions and relations of parts.
Again we find that the stretch is activity of the extensor muscles. It is the action of the extensor muscles upon which health especially depends. At any rate, the extensor muscles are much more important to bring about the right relation of all parts and the right balance of sensitive muscles and the equalization of circulation than the activity of the flexor muscles. Normal emotions, as we shall find later, are expressed through activity of the extensor muscles. Abnormal emotions, such as anger, affect the flexor muscles of the body more.
Since nature has provided the stretch seemingly as the antidote for abnormal position, and especially abnormal position during sleep, in the programme of exercises it would seem most necessary to centre around some careful and scientific use of stretches.
Have you ever noticed a dog or cat wake up? Observe their instinctive movements: the gradual but vigorous stretch in every direction, the deep breathing, the sympathetic extension and staying of the limbs at the climax, then the gradual giving up of the activity and the moment of restful satisfaction.
Stretching in this way is one of the primitive instincts in all animals. He who will observe the animals will feel that the time for practicing the exercises is on awakening, and the primary exercise to be taken is the stretch.
How can we best occupy a part at least of the half hour or more that is usually wasted in worrying and fretting or in sluggish indifference, between the time when we first awake and the time we begin to dress? With all the knowledge of the human organism which has been revealed to us by modern science, with our truer understanding of the nature of men, of the effect of the mind upon the body, with our observation of the instinctive actions of the animals at such an hour, why can we not so occupy a few of these most precious moments of the day as to add to our vitality and enjoyment?
At this moment of awakening, when your mind is free, you can so direct your attention as to receive joy instead of gloom, love instead of hate. You can exclude the thought of evil or you can yield and allow the tempter to desecrate your shrine. Whichever choice you make, these first moments of your day's living will color the whole course of the coming hours. The feeling first accepted and welcomed will more or less continue and form a background to all your ideas and determine your point of view toward human events.
The chief aim of this book is to present a simple programme giving, not only some exercises for this hour, but certain explanations which will inspire a sense of the importance of this hour and these movements.
Most people have no conception of the possibilities of human nature, of the fact that progress is the highest characteristic of a human being. No matter how old we are, we can always begin to climb upward; the main thing is our willingness to climb. Do we understand how to use the least actions and the most neglected movements for the development of character and the satisfactions of life?
The principles and exercises advocated in this book are not extravagant. Again and again their benefits have been proven and many thereby have doubled life's satisfactions and its length.
SUPPOSED SECRETS OF HEALTH AND LONG LIFE
Before laying down a simple programme which will give one a common sense method of keeping well, living long, and making the very most of life, it may be well to study some of the innumerable theories regarding long life.
If all the discussions upon health and long life, from the earliest time to the present, could be adequately chronicled they would form an interesting, if not an amusing history. In many of these, however, we should find the same serious thoughts which we may well consider and find by comparison a few points in which all agree as to what is necessary to health, happiness and length of days. Note the theories that have been seriously advocated and which have had vogue among certain classes for a time,—such as the use of cold water every day as a remedy for all diseases. The cold water cure advocated wet sheet packs for fevers, and water, in some form, for all ailments. To live long some physicians have advised sleeping on the right side, others have advocated the use of raw food or food that has been cooked very slightly. Some have contended that scientific food is the complete food found in Nature, such as nuts; still others have advocated whole wheat bread!
In our own time a method has been emphasized which has been called "Fletcherizing." This, of course, is taken from the name of the gentleman, who has made it so illustrious by his books and his discussions of the subject. Mr. Fletcher's principle consists in holding or masticating the food until it is in a fluid form; even a liquid must be held in the mouth until it is of the same temperature as that of the body.
Many consider that the chief advantage of Fletcherizing is that it makes a person eat less. This may be a part of the advantage.
I once had the honor of sitting at dinner by the side of Mr. Fletcher and observed his methods. He did not eat more than one-third of the amount, for example, of ice-cream that the rest ate, but he stopped when the others did, and said, with a smile:—"I have had enough; what I have eaten will give me more nourishment than a larger amount would and it will not give me any trouble."
There is great truth in some of these theories. We should eat less meat and more grain. We should not bolt the best food elements out of wheat; we should not bleach rice and take out its nutritious element. Certainly, our lives are very unscientific. Most men live merely by accident. The shortness of life is not surprising to one who understands how irrationally most of us live.
Others say, breathe deeply, naturally and constantly.
Still others have urged active life out of doors or an active participation in business. It is a well-known fact that many men have not lived long after retiring from their occupations.
Andrew Carnegie said recently that he attributed his long life, health and strength to his activity. The story is told that he walked the floor of his room with deep anxiety and consternation the night after his offer was accepted to sell the Carnegie Steel Works. He had not thought it possible that his price would be accepted, and he kept speaking to his old friend about the amount of money paid and the greatness of the responsibility. Fortunately he did not retire, as most men do, but took an interest in every phase of modern life. He has used his money, as a sacred trust, according to his own best judgment, building libraries and giving organs, pensioning teachers who have given their lives for truth rather than for making money, and has furthered many other causes.
One of the most common opinions is that long life depends upon "our constitution,"—upon what we receive from our ancestors. That is, long life is a gift, not an attainment. And we are in the habit of blaming our ancestors, near and remote, for our lack of strength and vitality.
Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes once made the remark that if one wished to live a long life he should be afflicted with some incurable disease. This was thought to be merely a joke, but it has foundation in fact. Many men with poor constitutions live to a very advanced age. They study themselves and live simply. They realize that they are not strong and they do not indulge themselves, but reach out for health and strength in all ways.
Among all the practices which men have adopted through different ages for prolonging life we find many which are universally believed, though possibly not practiced. Some discussion of these may give us courage and enable us to realize how unscientifically, how carelessly, most men live, and how indifferent we really are to our well-being.
And yet we find wide-spread doubt as to the advisability of being too fastidious. Some of the extravagant ideas have naturally given rise to such scepticism.
On hardly any subject have men had such extreme views as they have regarding health or the prolongation of their own lives.
I know one lady who ate a raw carrot every morning because it was yellow, and, as yellow is a spiritual color, this practice, it was advocated, would free one from materiality and, consequently, from all disease.
I have known others who condemned all attention to proper food, exercise, and even to expression, because such attention would lead to faith in material means.
Webster said, "Truth is always congruous, and agrees with itself; every truth in the universe agrees with every other truth in the universe; whereas falsehoods not only disagree with truth but usually quarrel among themselves."
In accordance with this principle as a rule the untruthfulness of any view is seen in its failure to recognize anything else as true.
No one will advocate any extreme and irrational habit. Too much attention to food, too much attention to the care of the body and exercise will degrade even character. The morning exercises which are here recommended should be taken even as one washes his hands, as a matter of course. Man is spiritual, and character is developed spiritually, and mere attention to the body does not secure health and strength.
There is a great and easily demonstrated truth in the fact that people who believe in a spiritual life have endured untold hardships and have faced all kinds of conditions without injury. The power of mind over body, of spirit over matter, is too well attested to be doubted.
However, man is slow and progress must be made gradually. The first step must be taken before the last can be taken. Extravagant and wrong views prevent a great many people from doing anything.
If we examine all the rules for securing health and the leading secrets of long life, we find that one of the earliest is temperance.
A noted instance is Socrates. During the great plague, when at least one-third of the population of Athens died, Socrates went about with impunity. This was no doubt due to the cheerfulness and temperance of his life. We know of his cheerfulness from accounts by Zenophon and Plato.
Possibly the most illustrious example, which has been recounted of the preservation of health and the prolonging of life through temperance, is Luigi Cornaro, who was born in Venice in 1464. After having, according to Gamba, wasted his youth, his health was so broken and his habits so fixed that "upon passing the age of thirty-five he had nothing left to hope for but that he might end in death the suffering of a worn-out life."
This man, by resolution and temperance, battled with his perverted habits and became strong and vigorous and happy, and lived to be over one hundred years of age. "The good old man," said Graziani, "feeling that he drew near the end, did not look upon the great transit with fear, but as though he were about to pass from one house into another. He was seated in his little bed—he used a small and very narrow one—and, at its side, was his wife, Veronica, almost his equal in years. In a clear and sonorous voice he told me why he would be able to leave this life with a valiant soul.... Feeling a little later the failure of vital force, he exclaimed, 'Glad and full of hope will I go with you, my good God!' He then composed himself; and having closed his eyes, as though about to sleep, with a slight sigh, he left us forever."
A new edition of Cornaro's discourses on the temperate life, by William F. Butler of Milwaukee, has recently been issued under the title of "The Art of Living Long." The first of these discourses was written at the age of eighty-three, the second at eighty-six, the third at ninety-one, and the fourth at ninety-five. His treatises have been popular for all these centuries.
He held that the older a man grows the wiser he becomes and the more he knows; and if he will, by temperance and regularity of life and exercise, preserve his strength, his powers of enjoyment will grow, as his own did, every year until the end.
"Men are, as a rule," says Cornaro, "very sensual and intemperate, and wish to gratify their appetites and give themselves up to the commission of innumerable disorders. When, seeing that they cannot escape suffering the unavoidable consequences of such intemperance as often as they are guilty of it, they say—by way of excuse—that it is preferable to live ten years less and to enjoy life. They do not pause to consider what immense importance ten years more of life, and especially of healthy life, possess when we have reached mature age, the time, indeed, at which men appear to the best advantage in learning and virtue—two things which can never reach their perfection except with time. To mention nothing else at present, I shall only say that, in literature and in the sciences, the majority of the best and most celebrated works we possess were written when their authors had attained ripe age, and during these same ten latter years for which some men, in order that they may gratify their appetites, say they do not care."
We see not only in this passage but in many other places evidence of the fact that Cornaro lived a cheerful, contented life. The reform was evidently not merely in his eating and drinking but fully as much in the inner thought of his life. This is shown in many passages from his discourses.
He says: "Although reason should convince them that this is the case, yet these men refuse to admit it, and pursue their usual life of disorder as heretofore. Were they to act differently, abandoning their irregular habits and adopting orderly and temperate ones, they would live to old age—as I have—in good condition. Being, by the grace of God, of so robust and perfect a constitution, they would live until they reached the age of a hundred and twenty, as history points out to us that others—born, of course, with perfect constitutions—have done, who led the temperate life.
"I am certain I, too, should live to that age had it been my good fortune to receive a similar blessing at my birth; but, because I was born with a poor constitution, I fear I shall not live much beyond a hundred years."
According to the census of the United States not one man in twenty thousand attains the age of one hundred years. If we figure out carefully from these statistics, we find the average is only about one-third of this period of life.
One of the social customs is that we must eat an extraordinary meal,—far more than we need, as if life's enjoyment depended on the low sense of taste,—as if every contract or matter of important business must have this as an introduction. Theoretically speaking, many people believe in low living and high thinking, but it is very rare that we find one who practices it.
The two simple rules of Cornaro deserve our attention: to eat only what he wanted, that is, what he actually needed for the sustenance of his body, and to eat only those things which really agreed with him, that is, those which were really helpful to the sustenance of his life. If we should consider eating merely as a means and not an end, Cornaro's idea that the normal age of a human being was one hundred and twenty years would not be such a wild dream.
Another almost universally recognized requisite is exercise in the open air, or regular, systematic, simple and vigorous activity of some kind.
The necessity of thoroughly pure air must be emphasized from first to last. Some think that the dullness felt by many people in the early morning is due to the impure air of cities, and to the failure to open windows. A lady once said to me, "When I am in the country I always sleep out of doors. Then I have not the slightest disinclination to get up. I do it as naturally and as gladly as the animals."
It is to be hoped that the rapid transit and the automobile will enable people to live farther out in the country, farther from air poisoned by smoke and gases. Even in cities, however, one may have open windows and greater circulation of air than is common.
Some have gone so far as to place exercise over against temperance in eating, saying that if you take enough exercise you may eat and drink what you please. While there is some truth in this there is really no antagonism between them; in fact, they are usually found together.
Another view almost universally advocated, is to avoid drugs. The importance of this and its union with right exercise have been demonstrated in the impressive language of fable.
"There is a story in the 'Arabian Nights' Tales'," says Addison, "of a king who had long languished under an ill habit of body, and had taken abundance of remedies to no purpose. At length, says the fable, a physician cured him by the following method: he took a hollow ball of wood, and filled it with several drugs; after which he closed it up so carefully that nothing appeared. He likewise took a mallet, and, after having hollowed the handle and that part which strikes the ball, he inclosed in them several drugs after the same manner as in the ball itself. He then ordered the sultan, who was his patient, to exercise himself early in the morning with these rightly prepared instruments, till such time as he should sweat; when, as the story goes, the virtue of the medicaments perspiring through the wood, had so good an influence on the sultan's constitution, that they cured him of an indisposition which all the compositions he had taken inwardly had not been able to remove.
"This Eastern allegory is finely contrived to show us how beneficial bodily labor is to health, and that exercise is the most effectual physic."
Another illustration is furnished us by Sir William Temple:—
"I know not," he says, "whether some desperate degrees of abstinence would not have the same effect upon other men, as they had upon Atticus; who, weary of his life as well as his physicians by long and cruel pains of a dropsical gout, and despairing of any cure, resolved by degrees to starve himself to death; and went so far, that the physicians found he had ended his disease instead of his life."
Of all the methods advocated, possibly one of the most universally recognized is joyousness,—a hopeful attitude toward life, a cheerful, kindly relationship with one's kind.
According to Galen, AEsculapius wrote comic songs to promote circulation in his patients.
"A physician," says Hippocrates, "should have a certain ready wit, for sadness hinders both the well and the sick."
We know, too, that Apollo was not only the god of music and poetry but also of medicine. The poet, John Armstrong, has explained this:
"Music exalts each joy, allays each grief, Expels disease, softens every pain; And hence the wise of Ancient days adored One power of physic, melody and song."
Sir Charles Clark, one of the greatest physicians of modern times, exercised a most exhilarating influence over his patients by his cheerfulness and jollity. It was probably one of the chief means of his wonderful success.
"Cheerfulness," says Sir John Byles, "is eminently conducive to health both in body and mind."
A recent writer says of Professor Charles Eliot Norton that he was "not of a rugged constitution, yet he did an enormous amount of work and lived to a beautiful old age." This is attributed to the fact that he was never "blue." The cheerful kindliness of his face, his genial smile and kind words were sources of great inspiration to me when a teacher at Harvard, and to all who met him.
The more we investigate the theories of long life the more do we become impressed with a universal longing for a length of days. We find a deep, underlying instinct "that men do not live out half their days." Everywhere, too, we find a certain expectation of "finding the fountain of youth," a hope in some way to conquer sickness and death.
This desire is normal and natural. It may, sometime in future history, be realized.
As we examine these theories we find, however wild they may seem at first, certain common sense views at the heart of all of them. No one need make a hobby of any one of them. Temperance, regularity, repose, patience, and above all, cheerfulness, do not exclude each other, they rather imply one another. In many instances one can hardly be practiced without some of the others. The practice of one would unconsciously bring up the others.
If we study carefully these theories, and especially if we study the lives of those who have not only professed theories but have faithfully practiced their principles and attained great health and age, we always find a combination of various methods.
There is no doubt, for example, that Cornaro completely reformed his life.
The character of Socrates was the secret of his good health. Temperance to the Greek did not mean total abstinence. It meant lack of extravagance; it meant what we mean by patience, by an unruffled temper,—it meant the right use of all the faculties and powers.
What new hobby, you may ask, is the theme of this book? Nothing that will interfere with the fundamental elements of the best ideas of all ages. First of all it is advocated that we go down deeper into all theories. Temperance should not be applied merely to food and drink but must cover self-control, repose of life, purity and depth of thought, and a harmonious development of human nature. The book tries to draw attention to many important things which are usually overlooked or not considered necessary to health and life.
The study of expression, to choose only one example, reveals to us, the necessity of a right poise of the body. One of the leading teachers of science in this country, after fighting tuberculosis for three years, changing climates and using all the help that science has provided, determined at last to go back to his work and to do his best even though he lost his life.
Making a constant and careful study of himself he again began his life as a teacher. He met with one with great knowledge of the human body, one who had studied it from many points of view. He was surprised when that expert said to him:—"Your dieting will not do you much good, that is not your trouble. You do not sit right nor stand right, your chest is too low, it not only cramps your breathing but what is still more important, it cramps your stomach and all the other vital organs." The scientist eagerly asked what he could do to recover his strength, and he received a few valuable suggestions, which he followed, and in six months he was stronger than ever.
As a student and teacher of human expression for nearly forty years, I have found most important connections between man's mind, body and voice. The right use of the voice is next to impossible unless a man stands properly. There are certain inter-relations between the simple conditions and actions of the body, and the conditions and the true use of the voice are determined by the way a man thinks and feels.
A man must not only have right feeling but must express it. He cannot get right expression without right thinking. Health, itself, is one of man's mental and emotional conditions.
This book is an endeavor to study human unfoldment from an all-sided observation of the whole nature of man. Man is a unity, and an endeavor to establish health from a mere material point of view has always failed. Expression is a study from a higher point of view. The organism is studied from the point of view of its mental function. Expression implies the subordination of the body to the actions of the mind. This gives a truer point of view for an all-sided human development.
It also implies a study of the especial significance and use of certain primary acts of our lives:—such as the way we wake up in the morning and certain movements which are taken at that time by animals and normal beings. The stretches, yawnings and breathings, peculiar to that moment, are never lost by animals, but human beings, with their higher possibilities but greater power of perversion, lose the significance and helpfulness of this primarily instinctive movement.
The study of expression also reveals to us that certain emotions are normal or positive and develop health and strength, while certain other emotions are negative and destructive of vitality as well as of manhood. We also find that the emotions we choose to express become our own and, therefore, we should choose normal conditions of mind and emotions, and express these consciously and deliberately, especially at the most negative time in the morning, when we first wake up.
Expression is one of the necessary elements of human development. We control emotions and control their expression. We welcome noble thoughts or noble feelings, and that which we welcome we become.
This book shows the smile, laughter, the taking of breath and the simple stretch as most important exercises which are to be regularly taken. It also implies a deeper study into human co-ordinations; it tries to show a universal necessity of rhythm and is an endeavor to establish the higher principles of training in a way that makes them applicable to the most simple of human actions.
The student is requested to study himself, to make a demonstration of every claim and of more than is claimed. The exercises are so simple that anyone can try and prove them, only let the trial be one continued long enough to be a real test.
The moment you awake center attention upon a pleasant thought or take an attitude of joy, thanksgiving and love for all the world. Have courage and confidence that all evils will vanish; express some normal feelings at once by the expansion of the chest, a deep full breath, an inward laugh or chuckle and an increased harmonious stretch of the whole body.
Everyone will be tempted to say that he cannot control his thoughts. He may say he does not wish to be a hypocrite and try to excuse himself for brooding over gloomy thoughts or the fear that he will not get through the day. Such lack of courage, lack of faith, lack of thanks for the beauties of life are sins which cannot be too strongly condemned.
We can and must at once put ourselves in a positive attitude of mind. We must begin our day with a song, with a smile. We must look upward, not downward. We must reject every discordant thought and accept accordant ones regarding the coming day. It is a new day which brings new life, new joys, new duties, it may be new trials, but these, instead of being accepted as obstacles, may be turned into opportunities.
The indulgence of negative thoughts in the morning may become a habit. A great battle may have to be fought at first, but perseverance and promptness can correct such evil tendencies. It is at this time that the demon of regret and of disappointment is apt to lay hold of us; the blackest thought in our lives likely to meet us.
Observe that this was so of Pippa. Though she awoke with joy, and is held up as an ideal, as she goes on thinking the darkest shadow of her life comes to her.
"If I only knew What was my mother's face—my father, too!"
This thought, however, she puts out of her mind by resolution, by turning, as we always should turn at such an hour, to the Source.
"Nay, if you come to that, best love of all Is God's; then why not have God's love befall Myself as, in the palace by the Dome, Monsignor?—who to-night will bless the home Of his dead brother."
Here must begin the heroic endeavor to live. Effort will be required for a time till the habit is formed.
Instantly control the attention and express it by action. Give a positive welcome to the day and the light; express positive thanksgiving for the thought that you have strength and that you have the joy of work to do.
It is in the morning that we should begin to live a new life, a simple life; it is then that we should eliminate all whines and abnormal desires and open our hearts to receive the strength of a new day.
Life, growth and development respond to joy. Every flower seems to smile to meet the sun, and the little bird sings in the midst of its duties.
Some scientists are hoping to discover the germ of old age, and by destroying this to prolong life. The real germ, however, of old age is found in the doubt and worry which we allow to enter the holy of holies of the heart at the holiest hour of the day. If we guard the sacred shrine of thought and consciousness from impure, unkind and discouraging ideas at the moment of awaking it may be truly said that the enjoyments of life as well as its length will be doubled.
The primary acts that express this joy are: first, expansion; second, taking a deep breath; third, stretching of the body; fourth, a smile or inward laugh.
Sometimes these take place so rapidly as to seem to be simultaneous, but close examination will reveal a sequence, though rapid.
As in life we have to live a truth to know or understand it, so an act of expression embodies the emotion.
True enjoyment is also always expansive. Anger and negative emotions cause constrictions, while joy and love increase expansion.
"As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he." It is the mind that makes the man. When we reject a negative thought and accept a positive one we begin the real battle of life. Negative emotion, every moment it is expressed becomes stronger, and gradually takes complete possession of us.
Prof. James says that everyone should do something disagreeable every day, but there is great danger in accepting anything as disagreeable. We must not only do something disagreeable, but we must accept and do it as if it were an agreeable thing. This is most important. The attitude toward life makes all the difference.
Another great teacher has said, "When a wrong thought comes in, say, Out of my house, you don't belong here!"
Remember that the field of consciousness is a sacred shrine. From it banish everything that is not full of joy and praise and comfort, that does not give you strength and courage. Do as Pippa did. Do not let the devil take possession, as he is always ready to do at this time.
This battle must be fought at once. There must be no delay. Idea will link itself to idea by the law of association of ideas, and we shall soon form a habit of negative thoughts in the morning.
The great point to note is that we should live rational lives, that we should give our attention and apply our own scientific knowledge and reason to the every-day duties of life, and not disregard the duty we owe to ourselves.
Men are continually doing something which they know to be wrong. They indulge in thoughts which they know will poison their minds and characters. They eat food which they know is not good for them. They pour into their stomachs stimulants which they know will dull their higher faculties and powers.
Some tell us that life is a continuous battle. It may be looked at in that way, but if we look at it from a more rational point of view it is a continual reaching up for higher enjoyment. Every day and every hour we must be on our guard; our theories must be a rule of life to be really obeyed and lived. Therefore, to apply our own knowledge to the restoration or maintenance of life demands that we avoid that which is injurious, and that we joyously, gladly accept that which is helpful.
Life is a sacred gift, a privilege, and an opportunity to be enjoyed, it is to be lifted up, and filled with high experiences.
To accomplish all these ends, we should study those moments when we are in greatest danger,—those moments which are most important and when we are best able to control our attention and to command our feelings.
The one supreme hour is the hour of awakening. If we can occupy a few minutes of this time in right thoughts, and right movements scientifically directed and as simple as those of the animals, the effect will be astonishing.
To come down to a few specific things that everyone should practice in order to be stronger, to be more efficient, to enjoy more and to live longer, let us summarize a few general points.
(1) Express joy first with laughter. If you cannot laugh aloud, laugh with an inner chuckle. It is not enough to have joy, it must be actively expressed to have an effect upon the organism.
(2) Maintaining the joy and laughter, express, therefore, all harmonious extensions of the body, that is, all simple stretches. Maintaining the laughter and the extension of the body, expand the chest and torso as much as possible.
(3) On waking up, take a thought of joy, of courage, of love toward all mankind, toward the day and its work.
(4) Maintaining all previous conditions, take a full, deep breath.
(5) Set free with the simplest movements every part of the body.
(6) Co-ordinate the parts of the body concerned in every-day work, and sustain them with primary and normal activities.
(7) Bring all the parts of the body into normal rhythm by alternative activity of the parts and in other ways.
To have good health we must rejoice, laugh, extend, expand, breathe, co-ordinate the primary parts of the body, act rhythmically, set free all the parts of the body and all the primary activities of function.
In short, this book tries to move everyone to study the simplest things, the simplest actions, the most normal duties of a human being, and to assert these and to exercise them the very first thing in the morning.
WHAT IS AN EXERCISE?
On account of the many misconceptions of the nature of human development, will it not be well, before beginning our program to consider seriously—What is training? What are some of its principles? What can we do with ourselves by obeying nature's laws? Or, if these questions are too serious, too difficult for a short answer, should we not, at least, try to realize what is an exercise?
To many persons, any kind of movement, any jerk or chaotic action, is an exercise. They think that the more effort put forth, the better. Thus some teachers of voice contend that, to be an exercise, there must be muscular effort in producing tone. On the contrary, many movements are injurious; unnecessary effort will defeat some of the most important exercises.
The exercise must obey the laws of nature. It must fulfill nature's intentions, stimulate nature's processes, awaken normal, though slumbering activity.
An exercise is of fundamental importance to all human beings. Man comes into the world the feeblest of all animals. He has the least power to do anything for himself, but he comes with possibilities of higher love and union with his fellow-men. He comes into the world with a greater possibility of unfolding than any other created being.
Accordingly an exercise is a means of progress, a simple action which a man must use for his own unfoldment.
An exercise is a conscious step toward an ideal.
Man is given the prophetic power to realize his own possibilities. We can hardly imagine an exercise independent of the conscious sense of the highest and best attainments, of thereby making ourselves stronger and in some way better.
This ideal is instinctive, even on the part of animals, in fact, the animal instinctively regards its own preservation, its own unfoldment and the reaching of its ideal type.
A tree will cover up its wound and reach out its branches freely, spontaneously in the direction of the light and toward the attainment of its own type.
With man the ideal is a matter of higher realization. We have the lower instincts in common with the animals but we have also something higher. There is inborn in us a conception that man transcends all present conditions.
An exercise is a step towards the attainment of a chosen end.
Accordingly we have high exercises and low exercises; exercises on a mental and on a physical plane; exercises that may train men down to an abnormal type; exercises also that are intellectual, imaginative and spiritual.
Everywhere in nature there is a low and a high. In animals of a high order of unfoldment there is specific functioning of every part but in those of a low order the functions are confused. The organs are not so well differentiated.
Even in human beings, in the process of degeneracy a man loses a greater variety of his powers, and his very voice and body lose some of those characteristics which belong to the ideal member of the race.
A true exercise always brings sound and specific parts into action. Part is differentiated from part. All parts are made more flexible and more capable of discharging a function distinct from all other parts of the body. A true action of the hand cannot be performed by the foot nor can a foot become a hand except by a process of degeneracy.
An exercise implies a struggle upward over against a drift downwards.
An exercise is an aspiration.
An exercise is a demonstration, it reveals a man's best to himself. It is a process of translating his dreams into reality. It is the only proof of himself, his intuitive language.
An exercise is not physical but mental.
Never regard your exercises as merely physical. The expression "physical training" is a misnomer. All training is the action of mind. It may manifest itself in a physical direction, but training itself,—the putting forth,—is mental. It is the emotion we feel more than the movement that accomplishes results.
No matter who laughs, consider your morning exercises sacred to you. Make them a part of your very life and habits, and put into them your thought and the attitude of your mind toward your fellow-beings.
You will be tempted to regard such movements as merely mechanical and artificial. You will be tempted to think they are just the ideas of some crank. Put all this aside. Begin your exercises joyously and happily, for the very pleasure of the action.
Remember that you are not a body in which you have a soul; you are a soul and have a body. The cause of everything, even of health, is in our minds. Our awakening is not a physical matter.
There is no power in the material body to move a finger. An exercise is bringing a mental action into manifestation. However physical an action may appear, its only significance is as an act of mind.
An exercise is an expression.
It is an act of being, not of body; it is activity of being in action of body. There is no such thing as physical expression.
Expression is not merely a reflex action. It is the emanation of activity. It is the union of thinking, feeling and willing.
An exercise implies that we can choose what we are to express. It implies also that we can consciously regulate, guide or accentuate our mental, imaginative and emotional activities.
Here we find the importance also of expression as an educational view. Repression and suppression may be injurious to health. Expression is necessary even for the proper functioning of the vital organs. Impression implies the conscious use of an impulse. It implies the ability to share our ideas, feelings or experiences with others.
An exercise is a means of turning an impulse in a higher direction. It implies also the curbing of abnormal impulses.
Exercise implies stimulation of normal functioning. It is an endeavor, but one in accordance with principle.
Thus, an exercise is an expression of an aspiration. Exercise implies many things. It implies that a man may be low down but that he can rise; it implies that if he begin early and work patiently enough he can control, soon or late, his nature. He can control the expression of his being and every manifestation of life if he will only come close enough to the fountain-head of thinking and feeling. He must be willing to demonstrate on an humble plane, and, while striving for the highest ideal, take the simplest exercise as the first step of the ladder.
An exercise localizes function. Every part of the body, even every muscle has certain functions to discharge. Awkward men use the wrong part to perform a certain action; part interferes with part. A true exercise will train each part to discharge its own function and bring it into harmonious co-ordination with other parts. It will stimulate both growth and development but make growth precede development.
While aspiration is universal it becomes conscious in a human being. We have definite ideals and not only instincts for their attainment, but we can adopt rational methods for their realization. We have not only an instinctive consciousness of what is normal but a deep intuition that we can improve every power of our being, every agent of our body and every tone of the voice.
A simple, a most commonplace action, when done with aspiration becomes an exercise. In fact, everything that man does is part of the training. A true list of exercises must reflect the spirit of all life.
A normal man can distinguish between a wrong and a right exercise, between that which will lift him upward and that which will cause degeneracy. When men give up to their lower appetites they strengthen the downward impulses, but the mind can be awakened and every little step will become a demonstration of higher possibilities. An exercise is a demonstration to a man of his possibilities.
Sometime the science of sciences will be that of training and education.
All over the organic world we find tendencies toward degeneracy or downward; and we find everywhere aspirations or activities upward.
Every bird, every rose, every blade of grass is trying to reach an ideal. This universal upward tendency or process we call by some big words which confuse our minds and obscure the facts.
An exercise is not only mental but emotional, not only expressive of thought but of normal emotion.
The wise doctor looks at his patient. He does this not only to recognize the patient's condition but to see how much courage he has, how much joy, how gladly he accepts life.
An exercise demands accentuation of extension.
Muscles should have a certain normal length and the power of relaxation to take a certain length. On account of abnormal positions, such as obtain during sleep, certain muscles become unduly elongated and others too short. To restore the balance of proper proportions those shortened need extension and the elongated need shortening. Accordingly the so-called extensor muscles of the body need frequent action.
The effect of these stretches is to harmonize the vital forces. When a man lies upon his bed, as has been said, he breathes less, the circulation is more or less impeded; hence, the dull feeling and unwillingness to rise.
The stretch also equalizes the circulation. It affects the veins where the pressure of blood is weakest, where there is a more immediate indication of congestion, so that the bad blood flows away, and the good blood from the arteries where the pressure of blood is strong, flows in, and the processes of life go on with more decision.
There is still another explanation why the stretch is so important. It is primarily activity of the extensor muscles and is vitally connected with all true expansion. The flexor muscles on account of the position in sitting and because of a lack of expansive activity, often become too short. They can be extended only by activity of the extensor muscles. The stretch is the special and instinctive action of the extensor muscles in response to a distinctive demand for freedom of the organs, or harmony of the whole myological mechanism. It is also, as has been said, closely connected with the circulation, and the activity of the vital organs.
There is no more important exercise than stretching. Its neglect is one of the strange things in training. One who wishes to be stronger, to have the normal possession of all his faculties, powers and organs, can be initiated and secure the result most rapidly, by the use of this simple and elemental exercise.
An exercise is an act of expansion.
The action of man's body consists of expansion, contraction and modulation, the latter being the union of the other two.
True energy expresses itself primarily by expansion. Life expands and any increase of new life and all positive emotions cause an increase of expansive activity in the body.
The study of expansion reveals to us the fact that expansion and contraction furnish the many elements of all human action, but that expansion is first, that expansion expresses joy, exhilaration, animation in life, and that contraction, aside from its co-ordination with expansion in causing control in intensity, expresses antagonism, hate, anger, pain. Accordingly this book assigns certain fundamental expansions, which everyone should practice and does practice if he obey his own deep instincts.
Negative emotions, such as fear, despondency, or antagonism, cause contraction and tend to constrict the vital organs.
It can, of course, be seen at once that expansion is due to the activity of the extensor muscles. The stretch is, in the main, an expansion. At any rate, it is always associated, co-ordinated, when properly performed, with expansion.
Moreover, if we observe the action of animals and all true spontaneous actions in a human being, we observe that the activity of expansion begins in the centre of the body. It is at this point that we should initiate our expression. The actions in the middle of the body are more conditional than those in the feet, hands, or limbs, but the awakening of conditions should precede modulation. A certain activity of expansion and diffusion is the very basis of all conditions.
All exercises should naturally begin with expansion. A true exercise means an increase of activity. Moreover, not only does life expand, but all positive emotions, such as joy, love, courage, cause activity of the extensor muscles. These emotions, as is universally known, improve health.
If we observe the structure of the torso, we find that the chest has no prop from below; that the ribs are placed at an angle with the spine, sloping downwards as low as forty-five degrees, while at times they may be lifted seventy-five or eighty degrees or more. The expansion of the chest lifts the ribs.
If we study a skeleton, we see that it must be suspended, that it cannot be propped up.
Man, accordingly, stands and walks primarily on account of the active expansion of his whole chest. He is the one animal that has levitation, as will be shown later.
We find that under the ribs in the torso are all the vital organs. The lungs, the heart, the stomach, all these depend for their normal position, their normal action upon the expansion of the chest.
When a man stands, the tendency for the chest is to sag. There are no bones to elevate it. Man has levitation as well as gravitation, and the expansion and elevation of the chest lie at the basis of all good position in standing, sitting and also walking.
There are certain co-ordinate curves, beautiful, spiral, rhythmic, in a normal and healthy human being. These curves depend upon this expansion of the chest.
All the best gymnastic exercises centre in the development of activity in the muscles concerned in keeping the chest elevated and harmoniously expanded.
When we study the expression of this part, we find that it reveals energy and courage and all the noble, positive emotions of a human being.
A passive chest expresses indifference, inactivity, fear, discouragement, a sense of weakness, unwillingness to awake and rise up to meet emergencies. A sunken chest, accordingly, is an indication of a tendency to disease, simply because it expresses a negative mental state or one favorable to the reception of abnormal conditions.
The expansion of the chest, on the contrary, reveals that happy acceptance of life, that active, energetic determination to control abnormal conditions which will ward off all disease and eliminate all failure.
This expansion of the chest, as we can see, is one of the most elemental actions of expansion of the human being. We shall observe later that this activity is directly concerned with erect posture. All actions in a normal condition co-operate or co-ordinate. This expansion frees the respiratory muscles and all the vital organs, gives man command of the elemental action of his body as a whole; that is, his erectness expresses higher emotions and experiences.
An exercise implies co-ordination.
An organism exists only by virtue of certain co-ordination of parts. Training improves and extends this co-ordination.
Co-ordination is the simultaneous union of many different elements or actions in different parts of the body.
An exercise is rhythmic.
When exercises are performed in obedience to the law of rhythm, better results will follow. Rhythm is a law of man's being. Action and reaction imply a human being doing his little part and then accepting the greater work out of the heart of the universe. Action and reaction, activity and passivity, the giving and the receiving, everything natural is rhythmic. Absence of rhythm is death.
An exercise is simple.
The best exercise is the simplest in its movements. It is not the spectacular actions of an exercise that make it the best. As every exercise is a struggle upward it must necessarily be an emphasis of something elemental and normal.
Any movement is normal when it is part of the discharge of an elemental or distinctive action of any agent or part.
The difference between accidental and elemental needs more discussion. Working upon accidentals secures weak results, perverts and interferes with free function. Working upon elementals brings freedom, power.
PROGRAM OF EXERCISES
As all training is a reaching upward towards an ideal so an exercise is a single step and the first exercise should be the most primary action. The primary condition of all growth is a certain joyous awakening, an expansive enjoyment of life.
Take a joyous thought and express it in active laughter.
No matter how dull or weary you feel when you first awake, joyously accept the new day. Use the following exercises and actions as you would a cold wet towel on your face or hands. Look on the sunny side at once and laugh. We can possess a feeling only by expressing it; we enter into possession of the day only by using it.
It is easy to look at the light, easy to breathe, easy to stretch, to expand, easy to remember something joyous, easy to smile and easy to laugh.
If your body feels weak and sluggish, and you have great indifference to movement there is all the more reason for promptness. If you will joyously extend your arms, expand, breathe deeply and laugh, you welcome life and joy and give them a chance to take possession of your being and body and you will soon feel courageous instead of gloomy, strong instead of weak, rested instead of weary.
None of these exercises require a great expenditure of vitality. Performed, as many of them are, lying down, however energetically you may do them they will bring little or no weariness. Though the exercises do not require much vitality they should be practiced vigorously to accomplish the best results.
1. PRIMARY EXPANSION AND EXTENSION
On waking, take a courageous, joyous attitude of mind. Chuckling deeply, actively expand the whole body, take a deep breath and co-ordinate harmoniously as many parts as can be brought into sympathetic activity. Stretch the arms upward and the feet downward as far as possible, and repeat at least twenty times.
An old writer gave dilatation as one of the primary characteristics of life. A certain distention of all parts of the body is the beginning of the renewal of energy and a primary manifestation of life. We must give room to the life forces, feel the diffusion of energy into every part. The sense of constriction, due to lying in a cramped position, can be easily removed by this primary exercise.
The chief elements in this primary distention of the body are found in the stretch and expansion of the torso, in deeper, fuller breathing, in the sense of diffusion of life, in greater satisfaction and in laughter. These elements should be practiced on waking up.
The stretch should be in the nature of an indulgence, an instinctive longing on first awaking, a longing in common with all animals. It ought to be enjoyable and a help to sustain the laughter.
Count one for the active movement, or stretch, two for the staying of the active conditions, three for the gradual release of activity, and four for complete relaxation.
The exercise, as most of the others, should be repeated twenty to twenty-five times, counting four for each of the preceding movements. This will require eighty to one hundred counts. Each of the four actions of the muscles should be carefully distinguished and accentuated.
Counting four in this way for an exercise and for each of the first steps obeys the law of rhythm, accentuates all the elemental actions of the muscles and establishes primary conditions of healthful activity in all the vital organs.
The simultaneous elements or actions in this first exercise are of such importance that it is well to practice each one separately, either before or after the general exercise.
This distinct practice prevents the slighting of any of these elemental conditions, restores harmony and stimulates normal functioning of all organs. In fact, all these actions are really necessary conditions and should be present as elements of all exercises.
The following exercises (2-5) are important, individual accentuations of the essential actions of this general exercise, and the conditions of all exercises.
The student should carefully study his tendencies to omit or slight any one of these elements and accentuate carefully not only every step separately, but observe with especial care the one most needed.
2. INITIATORY EXHILARATION
Sustaining the extension and full breath, laugh heartily, with little or no noise, chuckle to yourself persistently for several minutes. Centre the laughter in the breathing and the torso.
Joy and laughter must be considered the first condition of all exercise. The reasons have been explained. If you are still sceptical, observe and experiment. Everything that is truly scientific can be proved or in some way demonstrated. As this is one of the basic principles of this book and its companion volume, "The Smile," and as joy and laughter are met as the first exercise of our program, it may be well to summarize some of the arguments:
Exercise in laughter sets free the vital organs and brings all parts into harmonious, normal activity, stimulates the circulation, quickens the metabolism of the cells and causes elimination. Each of these topics might receive many pages of discussion.
You will be tempted to omit the practice of the chuckle, but it should be especially emphasized.
It expresses and accentuates the permanent possession of the joyous thought. No other exercise can so stimulate a right attitude toward life, as well as restore the normal condition of the vital organs.
It has also, as have all of these exercises, a beneficial effect upon the voice. In fact, all good exercises tend to improve the voice. This is one of the most important tests of an exercise,—does it affect easily, naturally and normally the vocal organs?
3. HARMONIC EXPANSION
Sustaining laughter and extension, sympathetically and joyously elevate and expand the chest as far as possible.
Feel the breast bone separate farther from the spine, easily and naturally as in the expression of joyous courage.
Expand slowly, sustain the expansion, gradually release, then rest, that is to say, perform the exercise in the same quadruple rhythm of the harmonic extension.
In this exercise you should feel a deepening of the chest chamber.
It is well at first, until you get the exercises correctly, to place one hand at the back, the other on the chest, and in expanding to feel the two hands separate.
This expansion should be sustained for several seconds. The release should follow gradually. There should be a repetition of the expansion; you should feel a sympathetic activity all through the chest and torso.
Sudden collapses should at all times be avoided, and they should especially be avoided in exercises of the chest and of the central organs.
The free, expansive facility of the whole chest is the measure of the health, strength, grace and normal actions of a human being. It is of primary importance.
4. RESPIRATORY ACCENTUATION
Keeping the body extended, the chest well expanded, take a deep, full breath, hold it a moment and gradually release it, then wait a second without greatly lessening the expansion of the chest
In this exercise be sure to accentuate the four elemental parts of an exercise. Taking breath, the active stay of the breath, the gradual release and then the complete surrender of the direct respiratory muscles: that is, accentuate the four steps or elements as in most exercises and avoid the temptation to jerk and to exaggerate minor parts or actions. Constrictions, inharmonious and unrhythmic jerks are always out of place in any exercise. The best results can be obtained only by observance of principles.
Do not force the breath out. Allow it to pass out easily and normally. Increase the inspiration rather than the expiration. The air will tend to pass out too quickly, reserve it and allow it to pass out steadily and regularly.
We find that the taking of breath is associated with the result of expansion and vitally connected with the conception of impressions and expression, and so is a necessary part.
The expanding of the chest causes greater room in the thoracic chamber and breath flows in naturally. This exercise, however, implies that we should consciously and deliberately accentuate expansion and the taking of breath. It aids in the realization of life and the diffusion of activity.
Man breathes over twenty-five thousand times in twenty-four hours. He can get along very well on two or three meals of food and six or eight glasses of water, but with as low as fourteen thousand breaths a day, he is flat on his back and has hardly enough power to move hand or foot.
We live on air. This is one reason why the expansion of the chest is so important. It gives room for breath. In fact, in breathing we do not suck breath into the lungs. Air presses fifteen pounds to the square inch to get into the lungs. Expansion is, therefore, the primary element in breathing. We should, however, at times not only expand fully but consciously draw in breath. We can expand the chest while sustaining it and drink breath into the very depths of our lungs.
Thus the exercise requires us to take as much breath as possible, to retain it a moment, then slowly give it up and at last to relax completely the diaphragm, all the time sustaining the chest expansion. Preserve still the quadruple rhythm. Of course the exercise can be done with dual rhythm, and it will be helpful, but the accentuation of all four of the primary actions will accomplish more than double the beneficial results not only for health but for the voice. It develops the retental action of the breath. A true use of the voice demands a full chest. This exercise strengthens the muscles that reserve the breath and support the tone.
The process of respiration is most directly necessary to all the actions of the human organs. It is an essential part of circulation. The breath we take meets the blood. The blood is carried from the heart through the lungs and back to the heart, then out through every organ of the body and back again to the heart. The whole circulation is a mighty process by which the blood receives sustenance, bears this to every organ of the body and carries back the refuse which is oxidized and given out by the lungs. The blood, according to the earliest tradition, is the life.
All ancient writers on long life "regard the control of the breath as a fundamental sign." A person with little control of his breathing is doomed to a short life.
Nature has so constituted us that at the moment of some excitement, or the reception of some impression, or the instant we try to do something unusual, we take a greater amount of breath. In any exercise, always allow the breathing to act freely. Observe that breathing is the initiatory act or condition of all human effort. It is a sign of the reception of an impression and is thus one of the conditional acts of expression. Breathe deeply and freely at all times. A deliberative breathing exercise, such as the preceding, strengthens all the respiratory muscles and corrects abnormal tendencies.
5. PRIMARY CO-ORDINATION IN LEVITATION
Simultaneously lift and expand the summit of the chest as you actively extend the balls of the feet downwards.
The opposition between the lifting of the chest and extending the balls of the feet takes place in all good positions in standing and walking. This exercise initiates or accentuates the co-ordination of the muscles used in standing. It tends also to harmonize and bring into unity all the conditions so far attained, and gives practical application to those parts of the body which are active all day, in standing, walking and in sitting.
All exercises must be performed rhythmically. There are many elements in rhythm, one is activity and passivity, and another is the alternation of parts:—one limb is active and this helps alternation or rhythm.
6. HARMONIC AND RHYTHMIC EXTENSION
Lift the chest and extend the right foot downward, then lift the chest with the downward extension of the left foot, rhythmically alternating from one to the other. This is the first step in the development of rhythm.