The human body is marvelously complex, and the greater wonder is, as complex as it is, how well it works most of the time.
Deepak Chopra once said “Intelligence is present everywhere in our body and our own inner intelligence is far superior to any we can try to substitute from the outside.” Given this, we do then have the capacity to learn and understand more about our body, and therefore, the ability to also create greater appreciation about what a rich system it is.
Each of the body’s ELEVEN SYSTEMS - distinct and highly specialized - function in relation to one another as their successful interaction is absolutely necessary for our survival.
Science has shown that a mindful and slower approach to yoga holds potential to improve the efficiency of ALL systems, including how they work together to support your overall health and wellness. The key here is attention to the finer details that can only be achieved through slower and intentional work. One’s ability to tune into their body’s internal condition is referred to as INTEROCEPTION - an important aspect to the work I teach my clients during our movement and mindfulness practices.
So... can you name and describe the 11 systems that comprise the human body?
To help you improve your body awareness and understanding - both important qualities in a therapeutic yoga practice - and for developing improved interoception, I list them below in a digestible summarization. So you don’t need to overthink anything.
The SKELETAL system refers chiefly to the bones that support and protect the body. All the muscles that push, pull and stabilize the skeleton make up the MUSCULAR system.
The CIRCULATORY (or CARDIOVASCULAR) system consists of the heart and tubes - arteries and veins - that transport blood. We breathe with our RESPIRATORY system, which supplies oxygen to the body’s tissues and removes some wastes.
The NERVOUS system, whose primary components are the brain and spinal cord, is our master control, regulating all of our internal functions and providing us with information about the environment. We process food and eliminate some wastes with the DIGESTIVE system.
The URINARY system is responsible for the elimination of most of the body’s liquid chemical wastes. The REPRODUCTIVE system consists of those organs that characterize the sexes and enables us to conceive, bear, and give birth to offspring. This is the only system with a great degree of variability pertaining to male versus female which also can be seen in the distinct skeletal structures of the male and female pelvis.
The secretion of hormones, which regulate the body’s functions chemically, is the job of the ENDOCRINE system. The LYMPHATIC (or IMMUNE) system works with the veins in draining fluid from tissues and help defend the body against infection.
The SKIN, referred to as the INTEGUMENTARY SYSTEM, the body’s largest organ, encloses and protects all the body’s systems and is your most direct interface with the outside world.
All of your 11 systems attempt to work together to try to create what is known as HOMEOSTASIS - or a state of balance within the body. When one system is not functioning efficiently, the others will attempt to correct the deficiency. This then creates imbalance across multiple systems.
The body is constantly changing, so if it’s headed in a negative direction, all we have to do is take the steering wheel and shift things toward a more positive direction. But we need to know what we are looking at - or working with - before we can attempt to make a change. Therefore, understanding more about your body will play a vital role in making progress towards the improvements you’re hoping to make to it.
Understanding that all of your major systems are working together and that nothing in the body is ever really happening in isolation - even your aches and pains - is a key concept to improving your ability to be tuned into your body’s unique needs and benefit from greater functional efficiency across all of your body’s marvelously complex systems.