This is an age of short cuts. Any devious routes to the accomplishment of an object should be avoided. If you want vitality, and the vivacity, energy and enthusiasm with which it is associated, you naturally search for a method which will bring certain and quick improvements. The reasonableness and general prevalence of this demand was in my mind when I began experimentation with a view to discovering a method for stimulating what I term the source of vital power.
Scientific men, while delving into the marvelous secrets of physiology, have learned that the thyroid gland in some peculiar manner possesses an extraordinary influence upon vital stamina and virility. This mysterious gland is located in front of the neck, about half way between the so-called "Adam's apple" and the top of the sternum or breast-bone, where it adheres to each side of the front of the trachea, or windpipe, in a flattened form, something like the wings of a butterfly, with a connecting "isthmus." It is a "ductless" gland, its secretions apparently being taken up by absorption into the lymph, and from that into the blood.
While the functions of this little organ are not yet very clearly understood, there is nothing more definitely known than its tremendous importance in the bodily economy. Without it there can be no such thing as healthy development. Thyroid deficiency in children gives rise to a form of idiocy, bodily malformation and degeneracy known as cretinism, while in adult life it is associated with a similar disorder known as myxedema. Goiter is the most common disorder of the thyroid gland; though not very serious in minor cases, it is capable of becoming very dangerous, assuming such malignant forms as exophthalmic goiter, which is marked by palpitation of the heart, nervous symptoms and protrusion of the eyes.
It is thought by some authorities that the thyroid gland has to do with the control of the excretion of the waste products from nitrogenous foods, for it has been found that a meat diet or a high-proteid diet is extremely harmful in disorders of this organ. It has been found that dogs fed on meat after the thyroid gland has been removed invariably die in a few days, but that they can be kept alive for a long time if fed on a diet very low in proteids. It is found as a rule that those suffering from thyroid troubles do very well on a milk diet.
Some students of the subject conclude that the function of the thyroid gland is to destroy poisonous products formed by the decomposition of proteid food substances. It is believed by others that it also has a defensive action against other poisons in the body, including alcohol and poisonous drugs. In other words, it is thought to have an "antitoxic" action. It has also been held that this organ has much to do with the supply of iodine in the system, being particularly affected by the lack of iodine in the food. Again, it is said that when the thyroid gland has degenerated there ensues a condition of auto- intoxication, followed by a degeneration of other organs which destroy and eliminate poisons in the blood. It is claimed that in many cases of thyroid deficiency, as in cretinism, good results have been obtained by the use of thyroid extract, thus supplying the body with the secretion which normally should have been obtained from this gland.
But, whatever may be the function of this remarkable little organ, the fact remains that it is of tremendous importance to health, being undeniably endowed with extraordinary influence on virility, physical strength and mental vigor.
Now these facts were in mind when I commenced the experiments which, as I have said, led to the discovery of a method of stimulating the vital forces of the body. The problem seemed simple in some respects. If the thyroid gland has such a definite effect upon bodily health, the query as to how it can be strengthened and stimulated to perform its work more satisfactorily, assumed unusual importance and I was strongly moved to discover the answer. The problem, however, was not by any means an easy one. A long time elapsed before a satisfactory solution presented itself. The first thought that naturally occurs to one when endeavoring to stimulate the activities of any part of the body is to find some means of increasing the circulation to that part. Ordinary massage will usually accomplish this purpose to a limited degree, though massage to my mind is a superficial agent in many cases. It will increase local circulation, but it does not facilitate tissue changes to the same extent as exercise which directly affects the structures concerned, or the mechanical movements of the parts themselves that are brought about through active use of them in some way. I have known of cases in which pressure and massage applied to the region of the thyroid gland have been followed by harmful effects, such as fainting, and certainly no one with a weak heart should attempt to stimulate this organ in this manner. Therefore, in endeavoring to find a satisfactory means of stimulating this important gland, I did not give massage serious thought. And I might as well say that I finally "stumbled" upon the important truth which is the basis of the method that I am presenting.
For many years I have been a student of vocal culture, having taken up the study of this art chiefly as a recreation, with no thought of ever publicly using any ability I might acquire, though I might mention that the additional vocal strength obtained as a result of this training assisted me greatly in public speaking. While giving my attention to this particular study, I was greatly impressed by the extreme importance of maintaining an erect spine, holding the chin down, inward and backward, and keeping the shoulders back and the chest expanded. I found, however, like many others who become "slack" in bodily posture, that a considerable effort was required to maintain a proper position at all times. I therefore began a series of special exercises intended really to force myself to assume a properly erect position. While experimenting with these exercises for the purpose mentioned, I noted a marked effect upon my general vital vigor. Not only was this made apparent by an increase in physical strength and stamina, but it was marked in an equal degree by additional mental energy and capacity. My mind was clearer, and I could surmount difficulties presented in business enterprises in which I was interested with far more ease than before. I could make decisions more easily and quickly. In addition, a decided gain in weight was noted-not by any
means in the form of mere fatty tissue, but of firm, substantial flesh. These very pleasing results induced me to go more carefully into the causes underlying this remarkable improvement. I carried on an elaborate series of careful experiments with a view to proving the conclusions to which I had come in the course of these exercises. It was quite apparent that a full development of the back part of the upper spine was necessary in order to maintain the strength essential to extreme vigor and vitality. And it became quite plain to me that this development could not be achieved without stimulating to an unusual degree the thyroid gland. Reasoning along this line, I called to mind the appearance of various animals noted for their great strength and there I found my conclusions verified with remarkable emphasis. The arched neck of the stallion, the huge development of the back of the neck of the domestic bull, the same character in even more pronounced form in the case of the bull buffalo and the musk-ox, and in varying degrees in other animals conspicuous for their vitality and energy-all this seemed to indicate that I was on the verge of a remarkable discovery. When you think of a fiery steed, in every instance you bring to mind the arched appearance of the neck. The tight reins that are sometimes used to give a horse a pleasing appearance, are based upon the same ideal, showing a more or less subconscious recognition of the idea that this particular development is associated with tremendous animal vigor.
After giving consideration to various methods that could be used for the purpose of stimulating this little organ, the thyroid gland, I finally concluded as the result of prolonged experimentation that the exercises illustrated in this chapter can most thoroughly be depended upon for producing results. All movements here described have proved effective in imparting to the neck a full, arched, well developed appearance, but I have given especial attention to the active use of the muscles on the back of the neck. Nearly every movement which to a certain extent develops these muscles is inclined to stimulate the thyroid gland. The more special movements for this purpose are indicated in the various illustrations accompanying this chapter. This development of the back of the neck always indicates great vitality, because definite proof is thereby given that the spine is unusually strong and is maintained in a position favorable to the functioning of all the organs of the body. Many of the movements illustrated are but slight in character, but they are the more adaptable because of this. No matter where you may be, whether walking along the street, conversing with a friend, or sitting at a desk, they can be practiced quietly without attracting attention. Furthermore, it is absolutely essential that an erect position of the
spine be kept in mind continually. You should begin every morning to hold the spine straight and erect, and each day should represent an increment of success in the struggle finally to maintain involuntarily this position of the body. On arising in the morning, practice some of the exercises illustrated in this chapter for stimulating the thyroid gland, being careful to perform them just as instructed in each illustration. Whenever you are unoccupied during the day, it is a good plan to practice these movements occasionally, as they will assist you materially in maintaining the spine in that erect position which I found so important at the beginning of my vocal studies. The most important movement is to bring the chin downward, inward, and backward as far as possible, endeavoring to arch as much as you can the back of the neck. You may have to practice a long while before you notice an outline that will in any way resemble an arch in the back of your neck, but all this work you can be assured will be of decided benefit to you. And, whether or not you attain the desired arch, you can be assured of benefits that will be worth all your efforts. When you make these movements properly, there is no necessity for trying to bring the chest out or the shoulders far back. The simple movements of the neck alone as described, if properly performed, will fulfill all requirements. For these movements tend mechanically to raise and arch the chest and to throw the shoulders far backward. Remember also the necessity, when taking these movements, of keeping the abdominal region expanded as fully as possible. Do not draw in the waist line. The importance of this admonition cannot be too strongly emphasized. If you maintain a full abdomen, thyroid-stimulating movements seem to tone up, increase in size, and strengthen all the vital organs lying in the gastric region.
In further proof of the value of the exercises described in this work as a means of building unusual vital vigor, note the remarkable stamina and virility of men possessing an unusual development of the neck. Where the neck is broad and well filled out at the back, you can depend absolutely upon the possession of great vital vigor. It is quite plain, therefore, that by merely adopting some method of developing this part of the spine you will have accomplished a great deal towards obtaining a high degree of vital stamina. Some of the strongest men in the world can be found among professional wrestlers. Many of those following this profession retain their athletic ability a great many years beyond the athletic life of men in other branches of sport. In fact, champion wrestlers sometimes retain their championship honors for a score of years beyond the age at which champion boxers and runners retire. It is a well known fact that wrestling requires extraordinary strength of the
upper spine. Some of the most strenuous wrestling holds use the muscles of the upper back and neck in a very vigorous and violent manner. Consequently wrestlers are noted for what are often termed bull necks, thus plainly indicating the exceptional degree of vital vigor which they possess.
Accordingly it is well to remember in connection with these exercises that many movements which assist in the development of the neck muscles also serve to stimulate the activities of the thyroid gland. You cannot go through the process of training for a wrestling match without stimulating this organ to an exceptional degree. Therefore, in following the suggestions which are given in this chapter, you are securing the full benefit of a vitality-stimulating process that ordinarily can be obtained only by going through a prolonged course of wrestling. There is no necessity for you to develop a "bull neck," but you should make the most strenuous efforts to acquire a sufficient development of the back of the neck to give it an arched appearance. The more nearly you can approximate a development of this character, the more vital will you become. And along with this superior power will come a similar improvement in every other capacity, mental as well as physical.
That there may be no mistake, let me reiterate: That the spine must be held erect at all times when sitting or standing. That frequently during the day when sitting or standing the chin should be brought down and in with a backward movement, the head being turned at times far either to the right or left side, with a vigorous twist of the strongly tensed muscles.
That on every occasion when this movement is made, the abdomen must be fully expanded-not held in or drawn upward.
That great emphasis must be given to the importance of bringing the chin slowly but vigorously downward against the chest before the inward and backward movement is begun. This insures a proper stimulation of the thyroid gland.
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