3 Wonder Weeds with Medicinal and Nutritional Benefits

Estimated reading time:  4-5 minutes

Key words: Natural remedies, weeds, healthy living

What separates a weed from a useful plant which we have purposefully cultivated?

Nothing really. A weed is merely a plant growing in an inconvenient place and has become bothersome to us. In no way does this mean it has no use or value to us as humans.

Many of the most common weeds found growing in the average garden or even sidewalk, have powerful medicinal properties that most societies have forgotten about or have ignored in recent years. Many of these were used by humans for thousands of years as natural medicine for common ailments. Nowadays, most of these have been replaced by modern medicine (pharmaceuticals).

But these plants are still as potent as they were once before, and are still as widely available as ever; still there for us to make use of. Below we will be looking at some species you may want to try the next time you are feeling under the weather.

How does one safely use weeds as medicine?

These herbs are often potent and should be used with caution. Just like a common kitchen stove is dangerous if used incorrectly, so can natural remedies be.

Many assume that natural medicine is automatically “safe” or not as potent as medicine available from your local drug store, and this is not necessarily true. These plants often contain considerable amounts of the compounds found within modern medicines today. As with any medicine, it is advised to practice caution and make sure that the dosage being taken is correct.

Is the environment the plant in safe?

Public parks and sidewalks are often exposed to pesticides and herbicides, which obviously may be harmful if ingested. Ensure that any plants you may be consuming haven’t been exposed to any toxins and additionally haven’t been in contact with dog feces and the like.  Busy roads are often also expose plants to high levels of pollution from vehicles, and thus you may want to avoid these.

Is it what you think it is?

Sometimes plants can be confused with one another, so be careful not to end up consuming something you shouldn’t. Always check thoroughly that the plant you’re harvesting is the correct one. Taking a friend with who has experience with gardening and weeds is always a great idea. If you have purposefully grown your own plants and are sure of their identity, it will save considerable time and effort later. That being said, it is quite rewarding to take a close look at what occurs naturally and identifying uses for them.

Dandelion (Taraxacum spp)

Dandelion is probably most famous for its seed heads which can be blown to “make a wish”, much to the delight of children and those adults still whimsical enough to give them a blow.  These low growing annual weeds are notorious for growing in inhospitable areas, and are easily recognizable for their uniquely shaped leaves and bright yellow flowers.


All parts of the dandelion can be used and are highly nutritious. The plant is especially high in vitamin A, C, K, calcium and iron, while containing good amounts of several other vitamins and minerals. As a result, it has been used as a general tonic by traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicines for hundreds of years.

Ongoing research suggests that Dandelion may aid in the protection of the brain against Alzheimer’s. Dandelion also provides a huge amount of vitamin K, one cup (55g) contains 535% of the RDA, which gives it the potential to be used to strengthen bones. In some studies, dandelion has even been found to help reduce the chances of cancer and has the potential to help protect the eyes against UV damage. This is due to the relatively high levels of the antioxidant zeaxanthin found within it.

How to use it

The plant can be used as a tea, steeping the flowers in some boiled water. Young leaves can be used fresh in salads, while mature leaves can be eaten after being sautéed to reduce their bitter flavor. The roots of the plant can be roasted and then used in a range of ways, from teas to even a dandelion butter.

Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica)

Stinging nettle is a common weed found in several countries. It is well known for its stinging leaves which can burn the skin if touched and is commonly found in cooler regions around the world. As unpleasant as the sting from this plant is, it is an incredibly valuable herb in the natural medicine world.


This herb has been used for thousands of years to treat inflammation by Europeans and was even used by the Egyptians and Romans. Several studies suggest that stinging nettle helps reduce inflammation, so it seems that its use by these ancient cultures isn’t unfounded. As a largely inflammatory disease, evidence has been found for the use of stinging nettle in treating arthritis.  

Hay fever, a common ailment that stinging nettle may help to relieve, is largely caused by inflammation through an allergic reaction to pollen or dust. Stinging nettle has been shown in some studies to help reduce allergic reactions. If, like so many others, hay fever is an annual nuisance, consider giving stinging nettle a try. 

How to use it

The sting of the nettle’s leaves is neutralized once the plant has been cooked, steeped, dried or processed into a supplement. A simple and easy way to consume nettle is as a tea once the leaves have been dried and then steeped in some boiling water. Alternatively, it can be eaten as leafy greens once cooked. Just make sure to wear gloves when handling the plant before it has been processed!

Plantain (Plantago sp)

Plantain is a common weed found almost all over the world and encompasses over 250 species. These plants are common lawn weeds and chances are, if you take a close look at your lawn, there will be a plantain growing in there somewhere. This weed is as useful as it is common, and has had a long history of use by humans and was even known as one of “nine sacred herbs” by the ancient Saxons.


The Plantain was historically used topically to treat wounds as a poultice, and may have been effective due to its high levels of allantoin and antibacterial properties. In ancient times, the plant was also used internally to treat urinary and respiratory infections, as well as a mild diuretic and expectorant.

Modern medicine has found certain compounds in plantain such as psyllium to be effective in treating constipation and irritable bowel syndrome when used regularly. Some studies have also suggested its use as an effective treatment in glycemic control for type 2 diabetes patients. Additionally, the plant is highly nutritious and is high in vitamins C, K, iron and calcium.

How to use it

Young plantain can be used fresh in salads and can be also made into a tea. The seeds can also be ground up to use as a laxative and are edible, but should be used sparingly if they are not being used medicinally. More mature leaves can be rather stringy and tough, and are more easily ingested once boiled or cooked in a stew.

I hope this article helps you see nature, health and of course weeds in a whole new way.

*Nothing in this article is to serve as medical advice, we recommend that you always seek guidance from a health care professional when dealing with illness.

Warm Regards,

Stephen du Preez


Article Word Count: 1263
Author: Stephen du Preez
Date: May 29th, 2020

Let Food be Thy Medicine

Estimated reading time:  9-12 minutes

Key Topics: Medicine, food, healthy living


The intended purpose of this article is to clarify some key concepts concerning lifestyle and diet as they relate to health and function. There will be some reiteration of key ideas across different contexts to help paint a multidimensional understanding of the principles. Firm understanding of core concepts and principles gives us functional perspective and adaptable tools which aids the progression of our lives.

“Let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food” – Hippocrates

This is a statement of wisdom made over 2000 years ago! Simply put and in many ways, ‘you are what you eat.’ What you consume every day undoubtedly holds powerful sway over your health. Your body is a very intricate ‘ecosystem’ and ‘environment’ which exists within the larger environment of the world around you. Your body requires the external environment to balance itself and its needs across time. If the body gets too far out of dynamic balance (homeostasis), you get sick or die. Everything you consume is meant to serve some kind of functional purpose. Much of the modern problem is that we consume in great excess to what we actually need. We tend to eat, not based on what our body needs, but based on what we want to taste. The average person is more concerned with hedonistic pleasure than governing the vital life-altering process of regulating consumption to personal, situational requirements. Yes, life’s complexities will twist up our priorities if we aren’t mindful about keeping them straight. It takes a good captain to get a ship across the ocean, just as it takes a mindful individual to navigate and lead a good life.

There are many reasons why people follow bad diets, these include:

  1. Ignorance.
  2. Wilful blindness.
  3. Misplaced emotional comfort-seeking i.e. chasing dopamine release
  4. Placing a low priority on it which in most cases is once again base on ignorance. Diet is invariably more important than most of the things that get prioritised above it.
  5. Laziness if junk food is readily available.
  6. There could be a host of other reasons why people overeat or eat the ‘wrong’ things, but the point is to be mindful about what truly matters, because then you’re likely to act better. Most people’s health problems come down to poor personal lifestyle governance, unbalanced priority relegation and failing to meet fundamental needs.

Every time you put something in your mouth, it helps or harms you. Be a little more mindful about it; it is literally one of the most important base functions/actions you do as a living creature. EAT TO LIVE! NOT LIVE TO EAT!

By all means, make what you need as enjoyable as possible. Food can still be delicious and something to look forward to, but function should come first. The purpose of eating is to take what you NEED from the outside environment (nature) and make it part of your internal ‘environment’ (body). Regulating your consumption requires matching your behaviour to the present situation and circumstance, whilst also considering likely relevant future factors. e.g. fattening up for winter IF food was going to be scarce; eating high energy meals leading up to a marathon or in preparation for a hard day’s physical labour. These are examples of consuming more than you need now in preparation for what you will need later. Keep your consumption relevant to what you are doing and what you are going to be doing.

“We cannot live in a world that is not our own, in a world that is interpreted for us by others. An interpreted world is not a home. Part of the terror is to take back our own listening, to use our own voice, to see our own light.”– Hildegard of Bingen

The ‘environment’ of your body has an inseparable, transactional connection to the environment you are in. Every breath you take, every movement you make, everything you consume or produce (including the heat you give off or absorb)… EVERYTHING about you is an ebb and flow of energy in some shape or form between your body’s ‘environment’ and the greater environment you are in.  Personal governance is the most important process to keep those transactions in a range which are likely to produce positive results. Simply put, everything you do matters and has some kind of influence on your life and environment.

Key Ideas and concepts to better understand medicine, food and healthy living

  1. You are a complex set of interconnected systems which exists inside an even larger, even more complicated set of interconnected systems.
  2. What is ‘medicine’ and what is its purpose?
  3. What is the best medicine to treat and prevent disease?
  4. ‘Let Food be thy medicine’ – what does this mean?

You are a complex set of interconnected systems which exist inside an even larger, even more complicated set of interconnected systems

The complex systems that make up the totality of YOU, exist as part of the ever-changing greater environment. Your body exists as an adaptable, everchanging personal ‘environment’, which is continuously attempting to harmonise and balance itself with the greater environment. We are fundamentally adapted to our planet. Nature provides that which we need, because we are in fact part of nature. Our needs directly correlate with what is available in nature. If this was not the case our species would have died out long ago! We are organisms inseparably linked to our environment and the fundamental nature of reality. The air we breathe, the food we eat, the water we drink are all part of the circle of life we’ve adapted to throughout our entire developmental history.

“The earth which sustains humanity must not be injured. It must not be destroyed!” – Hildegard of Bingen

Here are some contextual examples:

  • If the environment gets too cold relative to your ability to adapt to it, your body will slowly shut down and die i.e. too much of your body heat flows from the relatively high potential of your body to the situationally low potential of the environment. This results in hypothermia and eventual death.
  • If your energy reserves get too low, your body will slowly shut down until you die.
  • If you breathe gets too far out of balance/homeostasis, you will get sick, pass out or die.
  • If you spring a ‘leak’ and lose too much blood, you will die.
  • If you consume anything in excess of what your body needs, you begin to damage the balance between the interconnected systems. This damages your health. If you do enough damage, you get sick and or die. Some substances are immediately toxic to the body. Others might be necessary for function, but become toxic when consumed in excess of what the body needs.

Anything we consume in excess to what we need, becomes toxic.  Too much of a good thing becomes a bad thing.

What is ‘medicine’ and what is its purpose?

Medicine is often defined as a ‘drug’ or ‘preparation’ used in the treatment or prevention of disease. This definition gives us auseful word for describing the things we make which serve the purpose of treating and preventing disease. BUT, at the same time, it is a hugely inadequate explanation for what medicine truly is from a broader functional perspective.

To better understand how to treat and prevent disease, you need to understand that the most important things which serve this purpose, are not ‘medicine’ as defined above. It is conceptually more helpful to our understanding and action, to think of ‘MEDICINE’ as anything which serves the purpose of improving or maintaining health. Thinking of medicine in this way creates a stronger understanding of the causal connections between what we do and the outcomes we get. This is crucial to constructing and maintaining a healthy lifestyle which creates the by-product of health and longevity.  All the pills in the world won’t save you if you can’t see how your daily actions affect your health.

The embodiment of virtue tends to help us live well. i.e. embodying the ‘spirit’ of courage, wisdom, temperance and justice (for example) will help you better govern yourself not only for your own benefit, but for the benefit of those around you as well. We will touch on the concept of virtue and its relationship with health in a separate article.

Key point takeaway:Start thinking of ‘medicine’ as anything which serves the purpose of improving or maintaining health. This is where lifestyle comes in. A personally responsible lifestyle, generated from an engaged and embodied individual, is far more potent in terms of maintaining and improving health than any pill or drug will ever be.   *There will be times when certain medicines will be the exact treatment you need to get better. Antibiotics and other lifesaving medicines can potentially work ‘miracles’ under the right circumstances, but they shouldn’t be abused. Most pharmaceutical medicines quickly become more harmful than beneficial outside of when they are needed.

What is the best medicine to treat and prevent disease?

This is a question which has been a topic of heated debate since ancient times. And it’s one which many modern scientists have foolishly attempted to apply an objective, fixed answer to. I say ‘foolishly attempted’, because it is impossible to apply a fixed objective truth to a subjective question. That is to say, you can’t apply a fixed answer to a question that is relative to the subject, situation and circumstance. The best answer you can give without context is simply, ‘it depends’. Situation and circumstance dictate what the best medicine is, given the contextual narrative. Giving a bottle of water to someone dying of dehydration is massively different to giving that same bottle of water to someone who is drowning at the bottom of a pool; context matters!

Below are a few examples of how the ‘best’ medicine for us is often not what we commonly think of as medicine at all. Often the ‘best’ medicine comes in the form of addressing a component of our everyday lives. Depending on your situation and circumstance, one of the following may be the ‘best’ medicine:

  1. Water
  2. Sleep
  3. Having a discussion with someone about how you feel (negotiating and navigating for peace of mind)
  4. Salt or minerals
  5. Sunshine
  6. Clarifying your value hierarchy and prioritising
  7. Stabilising or securing your financial situation
  8. A simple hug and some emotional reassurance at the right time could be better than the ‘best’ drugs on the market.
  9. And of course, the key focus of today’s article, a personally appropriate diet.

All of the above can make the difference between sickness and health in the relevant situation and circumstance. What the ‘best medicine’ is for you is constantly changing. What you need most is always in a state of flux in relation to your environment (internal and external).

What you need is relative to the nuance components of your unique lifestyle. Your needs are changing all the time. Only you can regulate your consumption (and production) to correlate with your own dynamic shifting needs across time.


What the body needs in order to function optimally is constantly changing. Maintaining a dynamic balance with situational and circumstantial requirements is the key to nurturing function and thus create the by-product of health. This is an ongoing process of dynamic shifting until the day we die.  Such is the nature of life. The only people without problems and obstacles to contend with, are dead people. Life is about staying connected and ‘harmonised’ with the ever-changing situation and circumstance. The most successful people are the ones who are best able to sync with the needs of the moment. They navigate the complex series of their personal interactions in such a way that guides their situation and circumstance (story) forwards towards desirable outcomes. The clearer your value hierarchy and the greater your adaptive competence, the more likely you are to produce a favourable result moment to moment.

“It is more important to know what sort of person has a disease than to know what sort of disease a person has.” – Hippocrates (This quote is worth rereading!)

Key points takeaway:Regulating your own personal needs across time, is the ‘best’ medicine (looking after yourself given the context of situation and circumstance in the present moment and in the predicted future).Health is a derivative of function.Function is powerfully linked to all aspects of our being. i.e. Physically, mentally and emotionally. (Balance your efforts to keep your various needs meet.)Simple put, look after yourself like you are actually someone you care about! This will help keep you in touch with what’s important and what you need to ‘do’ and ‘be’ in order to be ‘healthy’.

“Let Food be thy medicine” – What does this mean?

Together as a species we exist within nature

This is a fundamental truth that often seems overlooked. For the entirety of human history on this planet, we have existed as part of the ecosystem. Even now in our man-made urban environments we still require the bounties of nature. We are fundamentally adapted to our planet. Nature provides that which we need because we are in fact part of nature.

“Let food be thy medicine” is a statement of personally responsibility

It is the responsibility of every individual to regulate their own consumption relative to their individual needs! Your needs are relative to your current condition, situation and circumstances (at ‘this’ moment in time). What you need to eat to be healthy is always changing. There is no fixed solution to produce health across all human possibilities. Health is more like a personal energy field which each of us needs to regulate and nurture. Health thrives or deteriorates in context with the ebb and flow of transactions within our environment/reality.

A good diet meets the NEEDS of our body for function, without excess

Consuming more than you need or things that you don’t need is foolish. Health is a state of balance. Excess beyond contextual relevance is poison. Today, many people eat as though they are going into a never-ending winter, which never comes.

Dietary requirements just like most (possibly all) individual requirements, are subjective. That is to say, they are relative to the individual’s needs, given their situation and circumstance at the time. Not only will the needs of one individual be different to the needs of everyone else’s, but their own needs will vary across time. Life is not static and our needs are relative to the changing environment both within us and outside of us. Trying to impose fixed requirements/needs on something like diet, is foolish. There are guidelines which create parameters relative to our needs, which we can use to regulate our lifestyles. We will explore these in a future article.

In conclusion

Our needs are directly linked to what’s available in nature. We are adapted that way. Whenever possible, harmonise your needs with nature. It is this which leads to health and longevity. So, let food be thy medicine.

“The earth is at the same time mother, She is mother of all that is natural, mother of all that is human. She is mother of all, for contained in her are the seeds of all. The earth of human kind contains all moistness, all verdancy, all germinating power. It is in so many ways fruitful. All creation comes from it.” – Hildegard of Bingen



Article Word Count: 2587
Author: Stephen du Preez
Date: May 28th, 2020

Daily Wisdom: The most important decision you make each day, is choosing what to focus on.

Estimated reading time:  2-3 minutes

Many people lead haphazard, unfulfilled lives because they are careless with their focus. 

Navigating Life is comparable to a ship navigating its way across the ocean. First you need to have a purposeful destination to get you going in the right direction (vision for your life), and then you need mindful engagement to keep you on course and to 

overcome the inevitable obstacles that will arise.

There will be storms, delays and all manner of unexpected complications, but that is life. The only people that don’t face these challenges, are those whose lives are completely spent. If this wasn’t clear for you, let me rephrase. The only people who don’t have problems, are dead people. 

Life isn’t about smooth sailing. It’s about navigating the ocean and all that it entails. Some days will be hell and other will be bliss. Most will shift back and forth on the spectrum, relative to how well they have lived the previous and current day. What matters most, is to keep focus on the needs of the day in order to progress towards your vision. We often expect the journey to be a simple straight course, but this is seldom the case.

 Have your spirit ready for the inevitable storm and you will adapt and overcome the chaos. At times you will falter and you will fail, but if you push on, you will ultimately succeed (or learn some valuable lessons to prepare you for the next storm!) 

Each day brings with it new challenges. Keep your mind, body and spirit clear in purpose, unwavering in the face of adversity, and fluid in action. Your adaptive competence will then lead you to sunshine and safe shores. The prize will be won, and a new course can be set. 

Warm Regards
Stephen du Preez


Article Word Count: 315
Author: Stephen du Preez
Date: May 16th, 2020

The Importance of Having Aims in Life

Estimated reading time:  4-5 minutes

You don’t reach something you don’t aim for.

I’m going to start with a few wise quotes that echo aspects of this same truth.

  1. “Seek and you will find.”
  2. “Sow so that you may reap.”
  3. “Knock and the door will open.”
  4. “If you don’t ask, the answer will always be no.”
  5. “Fortune favours the bold.”
  6. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness; and all these things will be added unto you.”

People often keep their goals and aims fuzzy. The problem with specifying your goals is when you do, you specify your conditions for failure. Guess what? You’re going to fail frequently, that’s one of the biggest ways you learn and move forward! DONT FEAR FAILURE… FEAR INACTION.

We fear failure and we fear making the “wrong” choice, often so much so that we freeze and make no choice… But making no choice is in itself a choice! There is no escaping consequence, mistakes, tragedy and inevitable death, HOWEVER this is not bad news! It’s freedom! Its freedom to pick your poison, pick your sacrifices, pick your responsibilities and priorities. It’s freedom to manifest your being forthrightly as a soulful part of the fabric of reality. Forge forward to your heart’s desire, for what we do in life echoes for an eternity.

Being afraid to fail is the same as being afraid of life. Embrace failures as stepping stones to success, for that, is what they are if you are correctly engaged and learning!

If you don’t fail regularly, you can’t be doing much of anything meaningful in your life.  Stretching to expand your being towards your greater potential requires the continuous process of numerous failures to reach momentary success… Then repeat. The evolution of your being and the realisation of your potential takes place in the field of failure.

If your goals are really fuzzy, your failures will be hidden in the haze.  This way you can fool yourself into a false sense of security, or so-called ‘blissful ignorance’.  This is willful blindness and failure to adopt responsibility.

It’s a most heinous crime.  It is a theft of your dreams and your potential. You’re stealing your life’s own meaning when you do this! 

When you fail to clarify what is of value to you, you are unable to be of value to it!

  1. Everyone wants to be valued! 
  2. To be valued you need to be valuable! 
  3. That means you need to add value in some meaningful way!
  4. To be of value, is to be of service to the betterment of something.
  5. When you engage with the task of bettering the “condition” of that which you love, you find meaning in life.

Being blind to what is of value to you, is a sin*. You are quite literally missing the point/mark. (*Sin was originally an archery term used to describe missing the mark/bullseye. Thinking of sin in this way, is conceptually more helpful than most vague notions).

How can you expect to lead a meaningful life if you are not clear on your beliefs and value hierarchy? How can you serve that which you love if you’re not clear what that is? How can you make the world a better place when you’re not even clear on what that means to you! 

Meaningful action and movement towards desired outcomes, requires orientation. Effort without purpose is fruitless toiling.

You should frequently consider what your core values are. We need to grow, refine and when necessary, restructure our concepts and beliefs.  When we can orientate ourselves functionally in the world, we can then move towards our desired outcomes.

Your brain is literally designed to reorganise its perception of reality around your aims.

We only process a small part of the reality around us to derive meaning from which to act.  Make sure your aims are straight so that that which you perceive, and the meaning you derive from it, serves your value structure. (Our brains cannot handle all of the sensory information around us in any given movement, so we filter our perceptions through our value hierarchy and through expectations and desires. Make sure you tend to the garden of those filters, as your life literally depends on it.)

You have to specify your aim in order to be able to track and move towards your desired outcomes. 

You need a value hierarchy and, what you put at the top of that hierarchy, REALLY MATTERS! 

Every level and relationship in the hierarchy matters, as it will dictate the meaning you derive in life.

Work towards the highest possible good that you can conceive and articulate. Let it be the star in the sky that guides you forth. Let your own personal, evolving ideal inspire you; your vision of this ideal will grow and develop as you do. It will always contain the qualities you admire most. 

Do the best you can with what you have, and what you know. When you know better, do better.

These are words of wisdom that have greatly impacted my life. It is my pleasure to share them with you and I truly hope they make an equal or greater impact on yours.

Warm regards

Stephen du Preez


I draw on many sources to fuel my writing yet I would feel amiss if I did not offer acknowledgement to Dr Jordan Peterson, his work has influenced me profoundly, I strongly recommend looking up his talks, lectures and books.

Article Word Count: 930
Author: Stephen du Preez
Date: April 25th, 2020

Continuing our exploration of the concept of health:

Continuing our exploration of the concept of health:

Chronically poor posture: A first world (Global Pandemic)

Estimated reading time:  10-12 minutes

In this article you will learn why most “unexplained” Chronic pain conditions aren’t the least bit surprising, we will explore some of the major contributing factors and seek to better understand our bodies, the state of HEALTH and how to achieve it.  

In order to gain a practical understanding that can guide us to positive change, we will need to explore a few important concepts and principles, so prepare for a journey of knowledge exploration and discovery (containing a few necessary segues), leading us to functional wisdom. 

These ideas if understood and integrated, will make a meaningful difference to how you see the world, aiding you in making effective decisions.

Primary questions and topics we will address:

  1. What is posture?
  2. Why is posture important? How does it affect me?
  3. What makes posture good or bad?
  4. Is posture genetic?
  5. What are some things I can do to improve my posture and health?

Important related concepts:

  1. What is the S.A.I.D. Principle? Why is it important?
  2. Adaptive cycles: what they are and how they are crucial in life.
  3. Adaptive competence: What it is and how to improve it over time.
  4. The ‘fight or flight’ and ‘rest and recovery’ mechanisms of the body.

*Fair warning, I will be reiterating a few key ideas in an attempt to strengthen conceptual understanding.

Ok, so now that we’ve outlined these key points, let’s delve right in!

Posture is so much more than, “Do I look confident”

It is crucial to understand that having a healthy body is largely dependent on having good posture. We will explore some of why that is in this article.

So, what is Posture?

Simply put, posture is how you hold your body and it is your approach/attitude when using your body. It is the physical manifestation of your being, moment to moment. 

It is the poise with which you conduct yourself… and you should be aware that it has powerful, inseparable, influential relationships with all other systems of the body.  Simply put, if your posture is bad, it will mess you up… In many different ways! 

It helps to think of posture as a process, rather than a fixed state. Posture is meant to be adaptable and fluid in order to reorganise the body to give optimal function to the moment. A person with grace and poise tends to have a good balance between controlled movement and functional spontaneity i.e. flowing with the moment. Their adaptive competence is fluid and high functioning. Most people however, lead very sedentary or inactive lifestyles This causes a host of problems, as their bodies adapt to, and “lock” into these limited activities. Basically, sedentary people get really good at sitting i.e. remaining in poorly aligned, tight, locked up positions for hours on end. This excessive adaptation to sitting comes at the expense of functionality in other activities. (Being a specialist at sitting with poor posture is a terrible idea, but your body is just making lemonade out of lemons, and doing the best it can, given the situation and circumstance we put the body in.)

Introduction to the S.A.I.D. Principle:

It is important to note that the body is always trying to adapt to the stress we place upon it. This very useful concept is summed up in the Acronym, S.A.I.D(Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands) – This is a fundamental Principle!

Adaptation to stress can take many different forms.  In this article, we are discussing mostly physical adaptations.  However, through neuroplasticity, we start to see how physical adaptations are also mental and emotional adaptations i.e. they are all connected and part of the same thing.  We have conceptually separated and labelled them – a very interesting topic that we can go into another time.)

I will do my best to simplify a few very helpful ideas regarding the S.A.I.D. Principle below. 

Having at least a basic understanding of this concept, will give you a significantly better understanding of human development, health maintenance and performance improvement. 

Let’s start by clarifying the S.A.I.D Principle a little further- Specific Adaptation to Imposed demands: 

  • Your body adapts to its environment and the stresses placed upon it. An easy to understand example of this is muscle growth and increased bone density in response to the demand of heavy lifting. Your body is trying to help you by adapting. By restructuring, it is better able to perform and meet demands placed upon it.
  • Examples of other Adaptations are endurance, coordination, speed, concentration, temperature regulation, memory, etc (notice the variability of attributes and skills that develop based on this principle).

Key idea 1: Adaptive cycles 

Without getting into excessive detail, it is important to know that there is a continuous, adaptive cycle taking place when engaging with life. Stress in various forms is constant. The human body is designed to continuously adapt and change; to flow with these shifting challenges and obstacles.

Key idea 2: Do your best to keep challenges well-calibrated.

In order for the body to optimally adapt to “life”, you should strive to keep your daily challenges well-calibrated i.e. take on the’ right’ amount of challenge each day in various forms.  This will trigger adaptive responses, making you better at handling those types of stresses. Variety and variation are good to keep things from becoming stagnant.  

Key idea 3: Avoid being overwhelmed

The greater the stress, the greater the damage. This means more recovery time and resources needed to fully recover and facilitate the adaptive improvement.  Too great a stress will be beyond the individual’s ability to cope, and will cause ‘damage’ i.e. physical, mental or emotional harm. Mindful and prudent engagement helps keep you away from unnecessary, harmful extremes.

Degrees of stress relative to a subject’s capability, simply put:

  Degree/amount Simplified description Simplified result Simplified scenario
3  Extreme stress  usually leads to death or significant damage (possibly permanent) Destruction or damage Usually sudden “external” stress. e.g. a severe car accident
2  Excessive stress  makes recovery difficult and adaptation unlikely Strain, no improvement Working to complete exhaustion
1  Optimal stress allows for quick recovery and adaptation  Improvement Working to fatigue but within good function
2  Too little stress doesn’t trigger an adaptive response  Maintenance Some engagement but no fatigue or lack of challenge
3  No stress generally leads to accelerated deterioration of an unused system   Deterioration No engagement

 * Long term adaptations can clearly be seen in an athlete’s changes in muscle mass, body shape, performance etc. (abstract adaptations seem to come about in a very similar fashion to stress e.g. social skills from social engagement, emotional resilience from overcoming obstacles linked to hope and adaptive competence).

Understanding and embracing this amazing phenomenon is one of the most powerful keys you will ever have to lead a healthy life whilst gaining the power to create extraordinary changes within your body. 

Key idea 4: Adaptive competence

Your collective adaptive competence is an evolving collection of ability which you use to navigate everyday life. The greater an individual’s adaptive competence, the more likely he or she will find a way to integrate successfully with life challenges day by day. Consistently dealing well with challenges is a good mode of being that moves us towards self-designated desirable outcomes

*Operating beyond your realm of adaptive competence will result in excessive disharmony or failure which could lead to anxiety, depression or various other “negative” emotions. (The phenomena of emotion and its utility will be a topic for another article).

Fight or Flight and Rest and Recover: two modes of being, which you need to be aware of

This topic will be addressed in more detail in a later article, but below is a quick summary to introduce you to the concepts. 

The body’s nervous system has two extremely different circuits which it uses to operate under different situations and circumstances. i.e. Fight or Flight circuit/mode and Rest and Recover circuit/mode.

Flight or fight, which you’ve likely heard of, is when your body “flips the switch” to operate in the “major action now” mode.

You can think of this as a red alert, all hands to battle stations.

  • High output
  • Fast response
  • Strenuous on the body (physically, mentally, emotionally)
  • Uses a lot of resources
  • Creates a lot of waste / toxins
  • Dysregulates normal harmony and reallocates resources and activity within the body

Priority Maximize immediate survival systems (digestion, organ function and hormone relegation are put on the back burner… Balance is thrown out the window). The body’s state calibrates for maximum action NOW. 

Flight or fight is a crucial functional system and mode of being when needed, but it is terrible for health to stay in longer than necessary.

Rest and Recovery – few people have heard of this mode, but you can think of this as the “holiday / spring cleaning” mode of the body.

  • Moderate output
  • Moderate response
  • Easy on the body
  • Low resource use (efficient)

Priority  Balance body systems and functions. Maintenance and recovery mode. The cardiovascular and nervous systems are prioritised as well as organ function, hormone regulation, blood and lymph circulation. Resource distribution in the body is better regulated, toxin and waste removal are better regulated. The body enters a more harmonic state of flow, integrating with a safe, relaxed environment. 

The human body is constantly adapting; seeking to harmonise with its environment. 

This can be seen immediately if you break into a run…  your heart rate goes up, your breathing volume and rate increases, your body undergoes countless metabolic adaptive changes in response to this imposed demand. 

If the body’s systems are inadequate for a given task, the body will do its best to compensate in various ways to meet the imposed demand. In the short term, this can be an amazing adaptive function of the body but, it increases strain significantly.  If the body is not maintained and frequently recalibrated, these compensations lead to injury, chronic pain conditions and or sickness.

Why is Posture important?

Sustaining good posture is a BIGGGG part of your health. We’ll explore why that is below, using contrast to help shape the conceptual landscape.

Poor posture leads to compression and restriction of vital structures. e.g. organ compression and restriction, connective tissue tightness, blood and lymph flow restriction, nerve impingement etc. Basically, poise and adaptive structure are necessary for health and function Without them the body lacks fluidity, becoming too rigid leading to strain and accelerated deterioration.

What is good Posture?

Good posture is relative to situation and circumstance.

Components of healthy, functioning and adaptive posture are:

  • Good proprioceptive awareness, enabling appropriate body architectural adaption to the moment (geometric suitability with kinetic linking).
  • Good spatial awareness.
  • Bones that are well aligned and supported by appropriate, adaptable tension (healthy body tension / tensegrity).
  • Pliability and adaptability to take various forms and postures, meeting the ever-changing demands of the environment.
  • Healthy functional and adaptive body tension: Fascia connective tissue plays a major role here, as all systems of the body are contained within it.  If that tissue is chronically tight and deformed, it compresses and restricts the systems within it! 
  • Balanced muscle strength and length, with synergistic coordination.

Neglect your posture, poise and grace at GREAT peril

A stiff body that is locked up in chronically “poor” posture, is under constant strain and is unable to flow and adapt to tasks outside of its accustomed norm. For most people, this means that their bodies have adapted so extensively to “chair sitting”, that they struggle to do many things or can’t do them at all. That’s a big deal! (unless you are content with a stagnant, rigid and sickly body).

Our bodies often compensate so well, that many of the negative consequences of our actions are offset and only manifest themselves in a slow creeping manner. Systems slowly become strangled, overstressed and destroyed over weeks, months or years. We overlook the importance of the aching muscles and joints. We just accept the chronic fatigue and tell ourselves that we’ll feel better later or it’s just part of getting old. We don’t embrace the pain, embrace the warnings and act upon them; PAIN is your tough love best friend looking out for you. It is a vital function of the body; it signals important information to us … YOU JUST NEED TO LISTEN AND RESPOND appropriately to get from a bad situation to a better one.

What are some of the major effects of POOR posture?

  • Excessive strain, stretch, compression and torque on vital structures (e.g. neurovascular system, skeletal system, muscular system)
  • Impaired breathing (major strain on health -sickness waiting to happen)
  • Impaired digestion (major strain on health -sickness waiting to happen)
  • Wear and tear on joints, tendons, ligaments etc.
  • Energy wastage – during both static and dynamic posture (poor or broken kinetic linking leading to weak and inefficient movement)
  • Compensative soft tissue tightness resulting in joint and movement restriction 
  • And sadly, much more…

Some areas negatively affected by poor posture: Meaning
Stability – which means more injuries and strain   TEARS, SPRAINS AND FALLS
Mobility – less functional ROM  INABILITY TO MOVE PROPERLY
Blood and lymph flow restriction i.e. sustenance and toxin management restriction  TOXIN BUILD UP AND INADEQUATE INTERNAL RESTORATION
Neurological activity restricted, endocrine regulation hindrance (hormone regulation) HORMONE DISREGULATION 

Your posture is NOT genetic!

What we see can be reversed… Posture can be changed.  

*extreme genetic abnormality would be the exception to this but generally speaking, posture is a by-product of your lifestyle.

Posture is meant to change and adapt throughout the day. 

No one has “perfect” posture all the time… That’s not what the standard is. Rather, functional adaptation to the moment is generally the goal. Remember though, a variety of challenges over time keeps the body healthy, limber, strong and fluid.

This is what it’s designed to do… It is necessary to maintain and even improve function.

So why is our posture so MESSED up?!

The answer to this could be an article unto itself, but I’ll try make a brief key point summary.  

  • We SIT in chairs for often more than half of our waking hours (for many people it is way more than half).
  • We walk very little and generally only on flat smooth surfaces whilst wearing shoes.
  • We have very little movement diversity, based on our modern lifestyle (no need to hunt, scout, forage, construct, climb. Heck, we hardly even play or dance).
  • We almost never sit on the floor (floor sitting positions are fundamental to helping maintain the function of our design).
  • The ‘artificial bubble’ environment we have created for ourselves in this modern age has removed many of the challenges we are designed to face. Challenges which bring out the best in us, ones that trigger adaptive responses creating health, competence and longevity.

It is no wonder that most peoples’ health and quality of life is so poor, surprisingly it isn’t worse! 

Considering just some of the conditions we typically find ourselves in, such as excessive chemical exposure, sedentary lifestyles, lack of personally meaningful pursuits, poor posture, technological radiation, etc., we need to ‘catch a wake up’ and give more awareness and energy to the fundamental nature and aspects of our being. 

We need to take greater responsibility for ourselves and our environment. There is no organism without the environment. There are no humans without nature to sustain them. We are inseparably part of nature and we’ve lost sight of this great, most significant of truths.

Now I’m not saying that everyone needs to regress to the stone age, but we need to see the cause and effect relationship in our lifestyles and wellbeing. We NEED to be more mindful of meaningful issues in the present that will dictate the future.

There are some simple steps we can take to counteract the negative effects of modern society. These include:

  • Don’t wear shoes when you don’t have to. This again is a topic unto itself, but trust me that shoes are really bad for your posture and your feet.
  • Spend more time sitting on the floor (the various positions of floor sitting are great for recalibrating the tension in your body, especially your hips!) They are also great for maintaining and developing functional core strength.
  • Take up a movement practice. Some fantastic common ones include martial arts, yoga, Pilates, dancing, rock climbing…just do something to actually use your body in ways that challenge you to think and grow.
    • Not moving, damages you physically, mentally and emotionally… the body cannot function correctly if you are a couch potato. (Failing to engage with the world physically is a sure-fire way to destroy your health and body function).
  • Counteract your postural torsion with periodic limbering up. Stretching, mobility and stability work throughout the day will transform your body in amazing ways.
  • Be mindful of how you feel. Be mindful and accepting of Pain. Don’t ignore it or block it out, unless you have already taken the necessary measures to correct the problem it is signalling to you.
  • Lead a balanced lifestyle.

I hope that this article has been an informative and enjoyable read. 

Knowledge has an evolving nature over time. I encourage you to always maintain a questioning mind, using your best judgement when learning and practising. 

Warm regards,
Stephen du Preez

 Article Word Count: 2877
Author: Stephen du Preez
Date: April 24th, 2020

What is HEALTH, and how do we obtain it?

Also, why is it so elusive to most people?

Estimated reading time: 4-5 minutes

This article serves the purpose of discussing a few key health-related concepts as well as to highlight a couple of common fallacies and dysfunctional beliefs which keep people sick.

I will do my best to keep the article brief but meaningful in content.

For a staggering number of people in the world, general wellbeing and overall health have been on a steady decline for quite some time. This is especially true in most Western Countries. We need to ask ourselves the serious question of why that is, given our modern advancements in societal comforts, medicine and technology.

Why is health and quality of life decreasing for so many in this day and age?
This is a rather loaded question but an important one, and in the article, I will do my best to highlight some key aspects and concepts of this problem in hopes that you will derive some meaningful wisdom on how to better act to obtain greater function, health and wellbeing.

Let us start right at the core of the issue…

Most people’s notion of what health is, is very vague and low resolution at best. This is a major issue because right off the bat, how can you act in accordance with obtaining a desired outcome when the nature of the desired outcome isn’t remotely clear to you? The answer is you can’t, you are shooting in the dark, you might not even be facing the right direction… The chances of you actually being healthy is slim to none when your internalised concept of what “health” is, is dysfunctional.

With that being said, let us quickly take a look at what health actually is. (i.e. what a more functional conceptualisation of health is.)
Now many people hold the notion that health is a noun… I.e. They believe it is something you can obtain and lose like a car or a house; the problem with this conceptualisation is that it creates a very detached, dysregulated relationship between “you” the notion holder and the concept of health. That detachment doesn’t provide meaningful feedback on how to act in order to move towards a desired outcome e.g. towards “health”, proper function and a feeling of welling.

Holding the idea that health is a fixed state will automatically put you at a major disadvantage when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle because this dysfunctional idea will blind you to the truth of what health is…

If you want to be healthy, if you want to have a sense of wellbeing and a properly functioning body, you need to conceptualise health as a VERB, not a NOUN! Health is a process; it is a dynamic adapting state across time. You need to understand that everything you do matters, affects your health and affects your state of being in the moment. Much like a gravitational field, the degree of influence of past and present actions in the moment, is relative to the context in which they exist. They are relative to situation and circumstance in the moment.

Health is a phenomenon that exists on a spectrum, it is a process which is constantly adapting and changing moment to moment. To analyse health is to conceptually freeze time and the state of the process to evaluate the overall condition in a fixed frame of reference. This is what takes place in a doctor’s office during a health check-up. (The assessment criteria which most people use is often very fragmented and incomplete, but that’s perhaps a discussion for another time). The state of your health in any given moment is a momentary, fixed reference to the totality of your being. Taking stock of your health or your ” current” condition can be a useful exercise, as it gives you context on how to act now given your condition as it is now; not as you would like it to be but as it is. Remember though, mentally frame your health as a verb, as a process, and not as a noun, as the latter removes your ability to influence the outcome moment to moment, day by day.

Life is a game of moments, everything done matters to some degree, and everything plays out incrementally until it builds momentum…

Exponential snowball effects can lift us up or knock us down. Make sure that you are aware of the incremental movements of energy each day, so that you don’t get levelled by a snowball of your own making! This speaks to the age-old adage, “take care of today, and tomorrow will take care of itself”.

You don’t have power over everything that happens to you, but you do have a degree of influence and receptiveness which alters the course of your experience. Over time, this has extremely powerful compounding effects in terms of health, wellbeing, knowledge, wisdom etc. Your world views, beliefs, values and aims purposely frame and generate meaning from your experience.

When you think of health in this manner, you are not blind to the causal relationships between your actions and your state of being in the moment. This engaged state of awareness to life allows you to derive functional meaning from your experience. To act in accordance with a healthy lifestyle, you need a degree of awareness and wisdom guiding you. That wisdom is derived and accumulated from observing the transactional relationships between the various aspects of your life.

When you view and are aware of health as a process, you are in the “GAME” so to speak.

You are actually able to begin learning and playing the “game” in a way that moves you towards the desired outcomes i.e. Health and Wellbeing. Contrarily, if you hold tight to the notion that health is a “noun”, that is, something you can be given or something you can buy, then you are definitely not in the “game”. Your awareness is completely blind to the extractible wisdom and causal relationships that could help you in your everyday life.

Your health is a process that you influence daily whether you take responsibility for it or not. Most people fail to take responsibly for their health. They shirk their personal obligations or are completely blind to them… Don’t be one of those people; refine your held concepts. Make sure that what you think and believe functionally, serve you. Grow, refine and when necessary, restructure your held notions, this keeps your awareness calibrated so that it can derive useful wisdom from your environment and experience.

There will be many more articles to come that provide more useful guidance on functional conceptualisations, common fallacies and how to act in order to lead a healthier life.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article. If you enjoyed it, please comment, like and share it with your friends and loved ones.

Warm Regards
Stephen du Preez

Stay healthy in these crazy times!

Article Word Count:1162
Author: Stephen du Preez
Date: April 4th, 2020