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.
Just as significant for our ongoing wellbeing as a very social mammal is that our eyes are a key aspect of the way we communicate our internal state of being to each other. Thanks to Dr Stephen Porges now well-established Polyvagal Theory we know our expressive 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’.
Moshe’s eye lessons are quite distinctive; designed to enable you to improve your vision without the need for props, which means you can practise these manoeuvres anywhere. This flexibility is particularly important if you are aiming for long-term improvements in your vision. I am confident that simple techniques combining movement and imagery regularly performed can bring both immediate and lasting benefits to our eyesight, our posture, and our inner calm.
This last effect is because our eyes occupy a considerable area of our neurological body-map, and thus 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.
That sense of inner calm was my first experience of the beneficial effect of these lessons – whenever we did them during our training I would drift off to sleep! I had been a practitioner for quite a few years before a request from a student led me to explore Moshe’s eye lessons more deeply, and to rediscover the intensely soothing effect of relaxing our eyes. It was only when I went on to teach these lessons in a day workshop that I discovered that I could also reverse the effect that getting older seemed to be having on my ability to read easily in the gloom of the evening.
Eyes in the back of our heads…
Have you ever experienced the sensation that someone is looking at you and then turned to see that they are? We really can have eyes in the back of our heads, metaphorically speaking. This is the amazing sixth sense we can still access – even though the pressures to survive are very different in our modern environment, we still have the sensory-motor nervous system of both the hunter and the hunted.
In the far past, when we lived surrounded by predators with only our reaction speed to keep us alive, our upright stance may not have made us the fastest runners in the animal kingdom but it did mean we were beautifully evolved to turn 180 degrees and run away fast as we could if we came face to face with an attacker. The freedom of our neck and eyes directly influences the mobility and coordination of our spine and the speed of our reactions.
Our magnificent human eyes have a visual field of about 180 degrees on the horizontal plane – 120 degrees of 3D vision using both eyes, and an extra 30 degrees of peripheral vision to either side. This is pretty good, but it becomes a full 360 degrees once the neck and spine are able to move freely and fully to both sides. Unfortunately if we engage only the neck and not the rest of the spine – a common habit of self-use – we can lose this valuable extra range of motion.
Take a moment and turn slowly to look around to the right – from sitting is fine, no need to stand up unless you want to – and notice how far behind you can see, and how much your spine is twisting, then untwist and face forward again. Pause for a moment and then try out the same experiment to the left. Unless you are quite unusual you will find you can look a little further around in one direction. We tend to favour an eye just as we do a hand. Now close one eye as if you are peering into an imaginary telescope – perhaps you turn more easily to the same side with the eye that you have closed?
These preferences influence everything we do, and although our habits are useful sometimes, the way they influence us to restrict our mobility can lead to chronic pain issues, and limit our daily activities more and more as we get older. Enabling people to unravel these these rigid habits from their everyday behaviour is how Feldenkrais reverses this unnecessary aspect of the ageing process. For more on this theme have a look at my blog post on the subject.
On the other hand, if it is vision improvement that you are most curious about, I have written more on that subject here – with plenty of suggestions about improving eye health and function.
*Contact me directly if you are interested in this workshop, or join my mailing list for regular updates…
Photo by Bacila Vlad on Unsplash