Until I met Leonid Blyum, my rehabilitation consultant, ‘intrinsic capacity’ was not a term I was familiar with. Twelve years later it forms the basis of my understanding of health. I grew up like most people believing that strength was about muscles and volume about fat. This is the perceived wisdom of our health establishment, but I believe there is a higher understanding of health that continues to elude them. The current view of our health professionals is based upon the knowledge gained from the dissection of dead bodies by our Victorian ancestors. First they cut through the layers of skeletal muscles and discovered individual muscles connected via tendons to the various bones and responsible for specific movements with the joints being regarded as pivots. Below these were the bones themselves connected together to form a framework, within which were the cavities of the trunk housing the internal organs. Enormous knowledge was gained from this process, which to begin with was carried out illegally by obtaining bodies from grave robbers, but there is a fundamental problem in viewing the body in this way and that is that the body is already dead. With the bodies being examined no longer possessing a life force, our bodies came to be seen as inert structures. This led to the perceptions that still form the basis of our approach to health today. It is considered that we grow up with the formation of our bodies being driven by a genetic blueprint, that this process then plateaus as we enter adulthood and eventually we wear out and decline in old age. Our internal organs are said to be housed within the skeleton for their protection, performing chemical functions, and are carried around by us playing no part in movement. Our bodies are viewed in the same light as a car. It is assumed that we burn fuel in the form of calories to drive our movements and that when a part of us wears out, we can cut it out and weld a new part in. This has led to what I consider to be a perverse approach to health, which is getting worse rather than better and leading to a generally weak and unhealthy state of mankind.
Scientists lead us to believe that we actually absorb our food and take carbohydrates, proteins and fats into our bodies. This is impossible; it would be pathological and would kill us. We can only ever absorb the mineral element into our bodies and vegetable and animal matter must remain in the alimentary canal, passing through the body but never into it. Rudolf Steiner taught me that what we gain from food is the forces released through the process of digestion and not the matter itself. He also said that it is through the senses that we absorb the minerals into our bodies, much of which we take from the air through the skin, including the inner surface of the lungs, but also through the eyes, the ears and from our food through taste and smell, which is why it is important to savour our food and appreciate its taste. Calories play no part in human function; the muscles are fuelled by the oxygen we breathe and not through the destruction of calories. Nature may be destructive, but life is always formative and does not employ the forces of destruction. Scientists may believe they have proved how digestion and metabolism works within the body, but it is actually impossible to examine the living nature of these processes and all the scientists can do is arrive at a theory based upon samples from the living and the bodies of the dead, devoid of any life force. Their theories may well not match with the true reality.
When people go to their doctor having problems with hips, knees or shoulders, they are told they have ‘worn out their joints’ as though the bones are rubbing together grinding away. This is impossible as the bones never touch each other. Dr. Van der Wal describes what we call joints as not being joints at all but organs that separate the bones. When people have trouble with their hips it is actually the organ that has become diseased, but instead of addressing the diseased organ to bring it back into balance, people are all too often sent to a surgeon to have the organ removed and replaced with a metal ball and socket, as though what is needed is a mechanical repair. Quite incredibly this butchery seems to work reasonably well, until of course the artificial parts literally do wear out from rubbing against each other.
It is this modern scientific view of the body regarding it as an inert structure that leads doctors and scientists to believe that the internal organs play no part in the bio-mechanical function of the body when in fact the organs themselves, and the volume they make up, form the foundation of our strength and ability to move. This is the core of our body. Following a spinal injury that left me in a condition known as paraplegia, this internal volume was utterly depleted. It was possible to feel my spine from the front of my body and to feel my shoulder blade from delving in just above the collarbone. In any healthy body, the density, volume and pressure of our internals, made up almost entirely of the organs themselves, would prevent this, but in my body the lapse in quality was so great that the tissue had so little volume, density and pressure as to allow you to feel the bones on the opposite side of the cavity through the organs themselves. My ‘intrinsic capacity’ had fallen to an all time low. Specifically in terms of the internal volume we maybe should refer to this as ‘pneumatic capacity’ and consider that intrinsic capacity could also include an hydraulic element of the skeletal joints, but it is sufficient here to take intrinsic and pneumatic capacity to be one of the same.
This lack of intrinsic capacity was providing so little foundation upon which to base the use of my body that it was impossible to regain any use of legs, which were directly affected by nerve damage. What is more, the lack of foundation also had a very serious affect on the use of my arms. Every push of a wheelchair caused the chest to collapse, which over a short period of time physically deformed the shape of my ribcage. Strength could not flow into the arms without cheating in the use of my body and buckling at the shoulders. This was in the upper region of my body that was considered by many to be unaffected by the spinal injury.
Through ABR Therapy we have been slowly but surely rebuilding my damaged body over the last twelve years. We have always concentrated on the core of my body and although there are improvements in the arms and legs and in muscle definition and skeletal form, the underlying factor has always been the improvement of internal volume, density and pressure. The skeletal form is dependent upon this internal volume and the muscle definition dependent upon skeletal form. This core of the body is made up of five cavities, the head, neck, chest, abdomen and pelvis (cranial, cervical, thoracic, lumbar and sacral) and it is the alternating convex and concave shape of these sections that give our bodies their curvaceous form. This entire structure is responsible for breathing and it is the rhythmical expansion and contraction of this structure during breathing that helps to maintain its quality and our overall health. The more we improve the quality of this core structure to my body, the more I tune in to it and can feel for that inner essence that is the foundation of our bio-mechanics, despite the fact that it is driven by our subconscious with our consciousness confined to the use of skeletal muscles.
In a healthy person this core structure of our bodies is maintained both subconsciously through the rhythmical nature of breathing and consciously through physical activity. Physical activity creates reaction forces with the ground that provide the necessary kinetic input into the system to maintain the quality of our bodies. In a seriously disabled person, intrinsic capacity will have depleted to such low quality that neither the subconscious nor conscious processes work well enough to rebuild that quality and return to health. With such low quality breathing is laboured and fails to function in the rhythmical manner and the lack of foundation of strength results in an inability to use the limbs effectively, so denying the ability to input into the system through physical activity. ABR Therapy addresses this problem by using techniques to deliver an external mechanical input into the system, while the recipient remains passive, and in so doing works directly into the inner core, rebuilding intrinsic capacity and improving the structure and function of the body.
I believe the health profession has much to learn from the work we are doing and that there is an opportunity here to gain a higher understanding of health. Problems with limbs, joints and back troubles all tend to be rooted in weakness in intrinsic capacity. Many internal problems can be addressed by improving intrinsic capacity and the obesity crisis could be much better understood. Instead of this obsession with calorie counting we would do well to see the body as having a volume, density and pressure and that through poor diet and a lack of exercise, the density lapses and the pressure causes an expansion in volume of poor quality and consolidation of that volume is required.
All in all ‘intrinsic capacity’ is at the heart of our health and strength is dependent upon, not just volume, but the quality of that volume.