Study of Physiology
Since the mind and the soul find expression through the body, both
mental and spiritual vigor are in great degree dependent upon physical
strength and activity; whatever promotes physical health, promotes the
development of a strong mind and a well-balanced character. Without
health no one can as distinctly understand or as completely fulfill his
obligations to himself, to his fellow beings, or to his Creator.
Therefore the health should be as faithfully guarded as the character. A
knowledge of physiology and hygiene should be the basis of all
Though the facts of physiology are now so generally understood, there
is an alarming indifference in regard to the principles of health. Even
of those who have a knowledge of these principles, there are few who put
them in practice. Inclination or impulse is followed as blindly as if
life were controlled by mere chance rather than by definite and
The youth, in the freshness and vigor of life, little realize the
value of their abounding energy. A treasure more precious than gold,
more essential to advancement than learning or rank or riches--how
lightly it is held! how rashly squandered! How many a man, sacrificing
health in the struggle for riches or power, has almost reached the
object of his desire, only to fall helpless, while another, possessing
superior physical endurance, grasped the longed-for prize! Through
morbid conditions, the result of neglecting the laws of health, how many
have been led into evil practices, to the sacrifice of every hope for
this world and the next!
In the study of physiology, pupils should be led to see the value of
physical energy and how it can be so preserved and developed as to
contribute in the highest degree to success in life's great struggle.
Children should be early taught, in simple, easy lessons, the
rudiments of physiology and hygiene. The work should be begun by the
mother in the home and should be faithfully carried forward in the
school. As the pupils advance in years, instruction in this line should
be continued until they are qualified to care for the house they live
in. They should understand the importance of guarding against disease by
preserving the vigor of every organ and should also be taught how to
deal with common diseases and accidents. Every school should give
instruction in both physiology and hygiene, and, so far as possible,
should be provided with facilities for illustrating the structure, use,
and care of the body.
There are matters not usually included in the study of physiology
that should be considered--matters of far greater value to the student
than are many of the technicalities commonly taught under this head. As
the foundation principle of all education in these lines, the youth
should be taught that the laws of nature are the laws of God--as truly
divine as are the precepts of the Decalogue. The laws that govern our
physical organism, God has written upon every nerve, muscle, and fiber
of the body. Every careless or willful violation of these laws is a sin
against our Creator.
How necessary, then, that a thorough knowledge of these laws should
be imparted! The principles of hygiene as applied to diet, exercise, the
care of children, the treatment of the sick, and many like matters,
should be given much more attention than they ordinarily receive.
The influence of the mind on the body, as well as of the body on the
mind, should be emphasized. The electric power of the brain, promoted by
mental activity, vitalizes the whole system, and is thus an invaluable
aid in resisting disease. This should be made plain. The power of the
will and the importance of self-control, both in the preservation and in
the recovery of health, the depressing and even ruinous effect of anger,
discontent, selfishness, or impurity, and, on the other hand, the marvelous
life-giving power to be found in cheerfulness, unselfishness, gratitude,
should also be shown.
There is a physiological truth--truth that we need to consider--in
the scripture, "A merry [rejoicing] heart doeth good like a
medicine." Proverbs 17:22.
"Let thine heart keep My commandments," God says; "for
length of days, and years of life, and peace, shall they add to
thee." "They are life unto those that find them, and health to
all their flesh." "Pleasant words" the Scriptures declare
to be not only "sweet to the soul," but "health to the
bones." Proverbs 3:1, 2, margin; 4:22; 16:24.
The youth need to understand the deep truth underlying the Bible
statement that with God "is the fountain of life." Psalm 36:9.
Not only is He the originator of all, but He is the life of everything
that lives. It is His life that we receive in the sunshine, in the pure,
sweet air, in 198 the food which builds up our bodies and sustains our
strength. It is by His life that we exist, hour by hour, moment by
moment. Except as perverted by sin, all His gifts tend to life, to
health and joy.
"He hath made everything beautiful in its time"
(Ecclesiastes 3:11, R.V.); and true beauty will be secured, not in
marring God's work, but in coming into harmony with the laws of Him who
created all things, and who finds pleasure in their beauty and
As the mechanism of the body is studied, attention should be directed
to its wonderful adaptation of means to ends, the harmonious action and
dependence of the various organs. As the interest of the student is thus
awakened, and he is led to see the importance of physical culture, much
can be done by the teacher to secure proper development and right
Among the first things to be aimed at should be a correct position,
both in sitting and in standing. God made man upright, and He desires
him to possess not only the physical but the mental and moral benefit,
the grace and dignity and self-possession, the courage and
self-reliance, which an erect bearing so greatly tends to promote. Let
the teacher give instruction on this point by example and by precept.
Show what a correct position is, and insist that it shall be maintained.
Next in importance to right position are respiration and vocal
culture. The one who sits and stands erect is more likely than others to
breathe properly. But the teacher should impress upon his pupils the
importance of deep breathing. Show how the healthy action of the
respiratory organs, assisting the circulation of the blood, invigorates
the whole system, excites the appetite, promotes digestion, and induces
sound, sweet sleep, thus not only refreshing the body, but soothing and tranquillizing
the mind. And while the importance of deep breathing is shown, the
practice should be insisted upon. Let exercises be given which will
promote this, and see that the habit becomes established.
The training of the voice has an important place in physical culture,
since it tends to expand and strengthen the lungs, and thus to ward off
disease. To ensure correct delivery in reading and speaking, see that
the abdominal muscles have full play in breathing and that the
respiratory organs are unrestricted. Let the strain come on the muscles
of the abdomen rather than on those of the throat. Great weariness and
serious disease of the throat and lungs may thus be prevented. Careful
attention should be given to securing distinct articulation, smooth,
well-modulated tones, and a not-too-rapid delivery. This will not only
promote health, but will add greatly to the agreeableness and efficiency
of the student's work.
In teaching these things a golden opportunity is afforded for showing
the folly and wickedness of tight lacing and every other practice that
restricts vital action. An almost endless train of disease results from
unhealthful modes of dress, and careful instruction on this point should
be given. Impress upon the pupils the danger of allowing the clothing to
weigh on the hips or to compress any organ of the body. The dress should
be so arranged that a full respiration can be taken and the arms be
raised above the head without difficulty. The cramping of the lungs not
only prevents their development, but hinders the processes of digestion
and circulation, and thus weakens the whole body. All such practices
lessen both physical and mental power, thus hindering the student's
advancement and often preventing his success.
In the study of hygiene the earnest teacher will improve every
opportunity to show the necessity of perfect cleanliness both in
personal habits and in all one's surroundings. The value of the daily
bath in promoting health and in stimulating mental action, should be emphasized.
Attention should be given also to sunlight and ventilation, the hygiene
of the sleeping room and the kitchen. Teach the pupils that a healthful
sleeping room, a thoroughly clean kitchen, and a tastefully arranged,
wholesomely supplied table, will go further toward securing the
happiness of the family and the regard of every sensible visitor than
any amount of expensive furnishing in the drawing room. That "the
life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment" (Luke
12:23), is a lesson no less needed now than when given by the divine
Teacher eighteen hundred years ago.
The student of physiology should be taught that the object of his
study is not merely to gain a knowledge of facts and principles. This
alone will prove of little benefit. He may understand the importance of
ventilation, his room may be supplied with pure air; but unless he fills
his lungs properly he will suffer the results of imperfect respiration.
So the necessity of cleanliness may be understood, and needful
facilities may be supplied; but all will be without avail unless put to
use. The great requisite in teaching these principles is to impress the
pupil with their importance so that he will conscientiously put them in
By a most beautiful and impressive figure, God's word shows the
regard He places upon our physical organism and the responsibility
resting on us to preserve it in the best condition: "Know ye not
that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which ye
have from God? and ye are not your own." "If any man defile
the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy,
which temple ye are." I Corinthians 6:19, R.V., margin; 3:17.
Let pupils be impressed with the thought that the body is a temple in
which God desires to dwell, that it must be kept pure, the abiding place
of high and noble thoughts. As in the study of physiology they see that
they are indeed "fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psalm
139:14), they will be inspired with reverence. Instead of marring God's
handiwork, they will have an ambition to make all that is possible of
themselves, in order to fulfil the Creator's glorious plan. Thus they
will come to regard obedience to the laws of health, not as a matter of
sacrifice or self-denial, but as it really is, an inestimable privilege
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