Self-Maintenance for Your Eyes

From my very first Feldenkrais workshop for the eyes it was clear that they do benefit from regular attention and specifically designed Awareness Through Movement lessons. With each workshop I teach I develop more confidence in the use of Moshe’s Awareness Through Movement lessons for improving eyesight and reversing the effects of ageing on vision, as well as their more readily recognised value for improving postural fitness and the carriage of our head and neck. Both of these functions are important for ongoing health, and both are addressed in my regular day workshops for the eyes (the next of which is coming up on July 14th 2019 – details at the end of this post).

The self-maintenance ideas below are focussed on vision improvement and eye comfort, and are drawn from many sources. They have been field tested, but not always by me. These suggestions are the ones I have found to be the most obviously helpful and achievable so far, but I am aware in my own case that more regular attention would reap greater rewards – which is of course true of pretty much everything. I will update this article whenever new suggestions come along, in order to to provide an ongoing resource. They are not numbered, because they are not in a particular order.

All the experts in this area recommend regular practices for relaxation and stress relief, so I am beginning with…

Palming The Eyes

Lie on your back with your legs long. Place your right hand with the fingers on the left side of your forehead and your palm over your right eye socket, so that the heel of your hand is on your cheek and your palm covers and encloses your right eye, without touching it*.  Place your left hand over your left eye the same way, allowing your fingers to cover the fingers of the right hand where they overlap on your forehead.  Find a comfortable position for both hands that allows you to prevent any light whatsoever from reaching your eyes. This will be referred to as “palming” from now on.

Pay attention to what you are seeing – how black is your visual field now? The consensus is that the closer you are to seeing an uninterrupted field of deep velvety blackness when your eyes are receiving no outside light, the quieter and calmer the state of your parasympathetic nervous system. Enjoy what you do see, and notice that, as you relax into this soft process of allowing, the darkness you are experiencing becomes deeper and more consistent.

As the sensory excitement and stimulation of ‘seeing’ recedes, the darkness becomes a soft, warm black with a texture like “wet velvet”. Not everybody can find this calm darkness easily – you may find you have to rest your eyes for a while before you stop getting flashes of light and colour.

Are your eyes able to be quiet and still, or do they continue to make small movements?

Find the darkest point in your field and gently focus on expanding it.  As you focus internally and quieten yourself, pay attention to the level of ease in the whole of your nervous system, particularly your shoulders, hands, neck and jaw.  Develop a slow, easy, continuous breathing rhythm. Notice that this “fade to black” cannot be forced; it develops as you release tension throughout your whole self.

*This differs from some yogic forms of palming where the significant element is the warmth of your hands.

Doing Without Your Glasses Whenever Possible

The first book about improving vision that many of us come across is the pioneering Bates Eye Method original Better Eyesight Without Glasses. I did not make it to the end of the book because I was so upset to discover how bad wearing your glasses all the time is for your eyesight. I discovered that my vision was deteriorating when I was only about eight years old. I was an avid reader and a very dutiful student, and I never went without my glasses from then onwards. 

All the many, many teachers of natural vision improvement say the same thing, that it is unwise to wear your glasses or contact lenses continuously if you want to improve your eyes, and I have found that simply walking around without my glasses instantly produces changes in the way my eyes focus, however I don’t always remember to take them off when the opportunity presents itself. Katrina Patterson, a Feldenkrais colleague who is also an expert in the field suggested that I do without my glasses during breakfast, and I found the idea that making such a simple change would be enough to make a quantifiable difference to my poor vision very encouraging. Here is a link to one of her articles with lots of further reading for the keen.

Changing Your Habits

Peripheral vision – use it or you might lose it!  Pay attention to the whole of your visual field, not just the central area. Relaxing your eyes by ‘defocusing’ and paying attention to the outer edges of your vision is a great de-stressor – very useful when you are stuck in front of a computer for long periods of time.

Shift your gaze often, look up from your work, away from your computer screen, out of a window, or into a mirror (which will double the focal distance to the wall behind you).

Blink lots – the eyes benefit from the brief rest and the extra moisture this simple action provides.  Martin Sussman recommends a process he calls “Flutter Blinking” – blinking 10–20 times in quick succession and then closing the eyes to rest for a while, and then repeating the process two or three times, allowing your face to remain soft as you do so.

Avoid daydreaming with your eyes open (sometimes called the “1,000 yard stare”) – it is better for your eyes to be actually looking at the images you are seeing, so close them, and give your daydreams the proper attention they deserve.

Enjoy looking at the world – reconnect with the visual wonder that came naturally to you as a child; no matter where you live there is beauty everywhere. It is also true that there is a lot of emotional benefit to be had from seeking out visual pleasures; a picture of someone or something you love so much you feel intensely joyful no matter how often you see the image is good for the heart and the nervous system.

Palming is the perfect way to rest your eyes – do it often.

Sunning comes in various forms, some of which are more challenging than others.  The one I like the best is to let the sun fall on my closed eyelids for short, comfortable periods of time.  It is also good to alternate this sort of sunning with palming.  Sussman recommends a minimum of 15 minutes of outside light per day for eye fitness.

For more details on the benefits of sunning for the eyes click on this link.

Under-correct your vision – it seems likely that you don’t need to be able to read the bottom line of the eye chart if you want to become less dependant on your glasses using natural methods, however I am certain that many opticians would disagree, so if you want to make this argument successfully with yours then I recommend doing your own research. Even those who specialise in training people in natural vision improvement cannot offer me any recommendations of supportive professionals, so if you do get a positive response from your own optometrist I would love to know about it.

Pin Hole Glasses

I think it would certainly be worth experimenting with these.  I know at least one person who has had clear improvements in her vision from using them. There is plenty of commentary on the net, not all of it positive, but I would not let that put you off some gentle experimentation.  Here is Peter Grunwald’s website, and if you are seriously interested it will probably benefit you to read his book Eyebody.  Here is a link to a discussion about pinhole glasses on the Bates website.

Loosening Your Eyeballs In Their Sockets

This is a very gentle fingertip massage that I use if my eyes feel tense or stressed in any way, so headaches of all kinds, sinusitis, strain, and tiredness are all candidates.  I simply close my eyes and move my fingertips softly around the lids on the periphery of each eye as if easing the eyeball a tiny amount away from the edge of the socket.  If I have blocked sinuses I also press inwards on both eyes with a warm flannel draped over eyes and nose for several minutes at a time (re-dipping the flannel in the warm water often) – I can often get some relief from the pressure and a clearing of mucus from this.

If you do suffer from blocked sinuses on a regular basis you might like to experiment with humming in order to gently stimulate your facial “mask” from the inside out – I have found that it can get things moving again.

There are many great websites to look at and techniques to investigate if you are ready to seriously address the condition of your vision.  I particularly like the warm, easy writing style of David Brinkley – www.perfect-eyes.com – and his comprehensive manual seems to be on permanent special offer.

Feldenkrais For Your Eyes:

Better Vision, Better Balance, Better Poise = Deeper Ease

Sunflower Centre, Hilly Fields, Tressillian Road, BN4

Sunday 14th July, 2-6pm, £60 – or £50 for anyone on a low income.

Alert, mobile, responsive eyes are vital for every aspect of our relationship with our environment…

how we move with ease over any terrain…

how we carry our heads and adjust our sense of equilibrium to maintain our upright posture…

…and how we process all the visual information that we are bombarded with every day. 

Even more important than all this is the way our eyes communicate our internal state of being to each other. Thanks to Dr Stephen Porges well-established Poly-Vagal Theory we know our eyes are central to the way we form and maintain our interpersonal relationships from birth onwards. We now have scientific proof that the eyes are indeed the windows to the soul. Learning to let go of the deeper tension in an around our eyes is an ideal tool for release and relaxation.

Moshe’s eye lessons are quite distinctive, being aimed at improving vision without the need for props, which means you can practise them anywhere, which is particularly useful if you are aiming for long-term improvements in your vision. 

Simple techniques combining movement and imagery, regularly performed, can bring both immediate and lasting benefits to our eyesight, our posture, our inner calm and our social ease. This is because our eyes occupy a considerable area of our neuro-body-map, so soothing our eyes calms our whole nervous system, shifting us into a deep state of parasympathetic “rest and recuperation”– the state in which our immune system boots up our natural self-healing process.

Originally posted, 17.9.12; updated 12.7.19

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