Blinking is one of 3 simple things you can do during your day to make your eyes happy by manifesting relaxation:
1. Blinking: Healthy eyes blink every 2-3 seconds. Observe yourself and count the seconds between blinks. Or better yet, ask a friend or family member to observe you, especially when working on the computer. We often don’t blink more than every 20-30 seconds when looking at a screen. Try to do that on purpose and you’ll have a hard time not blinking for so long.
Recently I was observing a friend who does a lot of online gaming. I was able to count to 40 between his blinks. When I asked him if he was aware of this, he said he had actually trained himself to blink so little since every nano second counts when you play those intense games. I advised him to reconsider since blinking is one of the best ways to avoid staring, which causes strain and blurry vision. So better “train” yourself to blink frequently, in an effortless way.
Blinking is not only necessary to lubricate our eyes, but it’s like a micro nap which interrupts any staring or straining we were doing before. Like a computer restart, it clears out the old and brings a fresh view. If you suffer from dry eyes, practice blinking several times a day by doing quick, light “butterfly” blinks for a minute each time.
2. Breathing: Our eyes are part of our brain which consumes 25% of the total required oxygen for a normal functioning of the body. The capillaries in our eyes are among the smallest in the body and since they are located above the heart, only deep relaxed breathing will get the required oxygen all the way up there. So remember to breathe, especially when concentrating.
When you are anxious or stressed, place a hand on your abdomen and take a few deep breaths into your belly, feeling it rise on the inhale. Count your inhales and exhales and practice making the exhales a little longer. If, on the other hand, you need more energy, put more emphasis on the inhales.
Tip: Place a sticker on your computer to remind yourself to blink and breathe!
3. Yawning: Whenever you feel like yawning, go for it! Let those often super tense jaw muscles—the strongest in the body—stretch and the eyes rest for a while. Yawning also lubricates the eyes. You might even notice your vision being clearer after a few rounds of yawning.
New clients often ask me if it’s not more important to do eye exercises than to palm the eyes. After all, aren’t the eyes getting enough rest when sleeping? Shouldn’t the eye muscles be trained instead of relaxed?
The answer is, of course No. The eyes are not really resting while we sleep, especially in the REM phases of dreaming. Scientists have proven that the eyes accommodate to the objects we are “looking at” in our dreams. 90% of our sensory input comes through the visual system! Moreover, palming gives our eyes not only much needed rest from computer and other eye straining work, but it is the best and easiest tool to relearn to relax the eyes.
Relaxation vs. Rest
Just to make this clear: Rest and relaxation are not the same thing. Palming is rest for the eyes, through which relaxation can be achieved most easily for most people. A feeling many cannot even remember in their muscle memory, so learning what relaxation feels like is the most important first step in improving your eyesight. Once you can achieve that state of relaxation with eyes closed, you can apply that feeling when your eyes are open for clear, relaxed, effortless vision. The more relaxed your vision gets and the less you strain while using your eyes, the less palming you’ll need.
Bates practitioners know that relaxation is the only way to have clear vision. This is not easy to learn after years of strain and tension being carried in the eyes, facial and body muscles. Palming (and sunning) offer the beginner and the advanced practitioner the opportunity to slip into the rejuvenating pool of relaxation, letting go of tension, stress, worries…. The darkness, energy and warmth of the hands covering the eyes lets muscles and the mind relax. Without a relaxed mind, we literally cannot focus, visually and mentally.
“Seeing” deep black while palming is the mind’s feedback that we are relaxed. This is the ultimate confirmation of relaxation but it cannot be achieved with force or will power — only letting go and fully immersing yourself into the experience can get you there. This means accepting that your visual field in front of your closed eyes might be gray, grainy, cloudy, wavey or shows glimpses of color today. But maybe tomorrow it will be black. Accepting something does not mean you don’t want to change it. It just means that you have learned to be patient with your progress, the only way to get you to your goal of total relaxation and clear vision.
Mindful and Meditative
Practicing the Bates Method has therefore more to do with a mindful, meditative practice than an exercise regimen. What I mean by that is the activities let our minds relax as much as the eyes, a necessary prerequisite for perfect vision. Our vision is 90% mind and only 10% eyes. Doing pure eye muscle training as in traditional vision therapy is helpful for vision problems related to muscle & fusion imbalance, but there comes a point where that alone is not enough. And the reason is that vision therapy ignores the mind and focuses on the eye muscles only. Vision therapy would benefit from including the Bates relaxation approach, and hopefully one day that will happen!
When to Palm
Palming is useful as a remedy for tired, strained, dry eyes, when your vision gets blurry after a long day, or when getting a headache. If you have recurring symptoms like the ones described, you would ideally prevent them from occurring by palming beforehand. Or as a regular routine, e.g. in the morning and evening, to start and end each day with the memory of relaxed eyes. Think of it as maintenance like stretching your muscles after exercise to stay flexible and nimble.
How to Palm
There are so many descriptions of palming online that I don’t want to reiterate them here, but instead give useful tips based on the issues I hear most often (I am happy to introduce you to palming in more detail during a session if you have questions that go beyond the information here). Palming is beneficial on it’s own, and should always be done after any other vision activity to rest the eyes and “capture” the release of tension. If you are very restless and antsy, do a movement activity like the sway or long swing before palming. Oftentimes the inner visual field is blacker when palming after stimulating the eyes with movement.
The key to successful palming is a comfortable position. Find a place in your home where you are happy to be at. This might be a comfy armchair in a light corner, a bench in the garden or your couch. There are many positions that can work, see images and descriptions below. Most important if you want to palm for more than a few minutes is elbow support. Without it, your arms will tire quickly, tensing up the shoulders and neck. There are several ways to support the elbows, depending on your position: pillows, blankets, table top, knees, back of the chair, or a palming stick, invented by James Laker and now produced by Stephen Poytner in the UK (more on how to get one later).
The position can vary throughout the day, you might palm laying in the bed in the morning with pillows propped under your upper arms, using your office table with a stack of books during the lunch break, straddling a chair with the back serving as an elbow rest at home, and sit in your favorite comfy chair in the evening, supporting your elbows with cushions or the palming stick. Relax the shoulders and neck. The head and neck should be more or less upright, you don’t want the head to tilt back or forward, the hands should not support the weight of the head, but just cover the eyes.
Keep your legs relaxed, with feet flat on the floor (except when laying down). You want to feel grounded and connected, not twisted up like a pretzel. That also helps blood circulation. So make sure you are not crossing over the legs or ankles but keep the legs parallel. Lean back in the chair if that is comfortable.
The hands should be cupped slightly, the edges of the palms resting on the bony part around the eyes. No pressure should be felt on the eyes themselves. Cross your hands over the nose and move your fingers so no light comes in anywhere, without pressing on the nose (you still want to breathe easily). Then close your eyes, relax facial muscles, especially the jaw, and let shoulders get heavy. You want to relax the body completely.
Should you have trouble positioning the hands so all the light is excluded without straining the hands, find a comfortable place in the dark area of your home, or invest in dark curtains so you can darken the room. This is preferable to using eye masks for palming, since you are losing the beneficial energy and warmth only the hands can provide.
Methods of Relaxation
If you find it hard to relax your mind while palming and feel like a million thoughts are racing through your mind, don’t fight them — they will win. Instead, use one of the following techniques. But remember not to “think” with your eyes as this will prevent deep relaxation. Since the visual cortex is at the back of the brain and the hippocampus (where we “reassemble” memories) in the center of the brain, bring up thoughts or visual memories from the back of the head versus the eyes.
Feel your eyes get heavy and sleepy, resting in their plush sockets. Think of the them tilting slightly downward
Think of a favorite moment, person, event, location, smell, object. Remember the relaxation and happiness you felt. If you are a visual thinker and feel that you are using your eyes to conjure up the memory, use another way to relax such as observing your breath or listening to music.
Find a “Foundation Object” to induce relaxation. A foundation object is something you remember so easily and perfectly that the memory of it requires no effort.
Observe your breath, feel your out breaths get longer and longer. You can also count the breath
Listen to music that relaxes you and/or makes it easier to remember favorite moments
Repeat a mantra in your mind (meditation technique)
“Write” a love letter to your eyes in your mind, describe how fresh they look, how beautiful they are and how clearly they can see. Scientists have proven that imagining something creates a 70% higher chance of it actually happening. So imagine your eyes with perfect vision!
How long to Palm
It really depends on your situation. In general older people benefit from longer palming sessions whereas children are often relaxed after a minute or two. Experiment and see what gets you the best results. In general, palming twice a day for a longer period (15-30 minutes, e.g. morning and evening) and then as needed during the day is a great way to start when you want to improve your vision. If you suffer from an eye disease, longer palming is necessary to give your eyes the much needed rest. Keep a daily log of your palming and write down how you felt afterwards. You might quickly notice a pattern, and then custom tailor your palming frequency and length to what works best for you.
The pictured palming sticks come with two different base sticks: A shorter one for children or for placement on top of legs (e.g. when wearing a skirt), and a longer one for adults.
Details: The poles are aluminum, the fittings are magnesium, the top and bottom is made from birch plywood, the stiffeners are canadian maple, the top is closed cell foam (can be wiped clean with a damp cloth). They cost £35 each, shipping varies (£11 to the US).
They can be ordered directly from Stephen Poynter in the UK:
I will conduct a vision walk in Hamburg Stellingen on Thursday October 25 at 12:30 pm. We’ll meet at 12:20 p.m. in front of the big giraffe statue at the U-Bahn Hagenbeck’s Tierpark (U2 or several bus lines). The walk will take one hour and will be held in English and/or German, depending on participants needs. Cost is €5,00. Please be ready to put your glasses or contacts away during the walk.
You will learn the basic techniques of natural vision improvement and how to incorporate healthy vision habits into your daily life. Please register by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or rsvp on our facebook page
No walk if it pours! Children are welcome to join, just let me know in advance if you bring little ones.
If you or a loved one suffers from Low Vision or Eye Disease and have possibly been told by the doctors that there is nothing that can be done to improve the vision, you should come to this conference near London.
Renowned speakers from all over the world will talk about natural methods of eyesight improvement for low vision or eye diseases. There are also several workshops that will demonstrate a variety of techniques, based on the Bates Method. It’s never too late to improve your eyesight, however poor it might be. Any leftover vision can be improved! Learn how to see better and feel better at this conference. Get inspired to change your habits and show your ophthalmologist that he was wrong when he told you you’ll be blind in a few years!
I am doing another vision walk (see previous post). This time in Hamburg Altona. We meet at 3 p.m. in front of the museum in Altona. The walk will take about 1.5 hours and will be held in English and/or German, depending on participants needs. Cost is €5,00. Please be ready to put your glasses or contacts away during the walk.
You will learn the basic techniques to natural vision improvement and how to incorporate healthy vision habits into your daily life. Please register by commenting here or sending an email to email@example.com. Or call me at 0173/8257058.
No walk if it pours! Children are welcome to join, just let me know in advance if you bring little ones.
Vom 8.-15. Oktober 2010 findet zum achten Mal die Woche des Sehens statt. „Wenn die Augen schwächer werden …“ ist das diesjährige Motto der Aufklärungskampagne, die unter der Schirmherrschaft der Fernsehjournalistin Gundula Gause steht. Seit dem Jahr 2002 machen die Partner und Veranstalter der Woche des Sehens mit vielfältigen Aktionen bundesweit auf die Bedeutung guten Sehvermögens, die Ursachen vermeidbarer Blindheit sowie die Situation blinder und sehbehinderter Menschen in Deutschland und in den Entwicklungsländern aufmerksam.
Eine beliebte Möglichkeit die Potenziale des Sehtrainings kennenzulernen sind Augenspaziergänge. Im Rahmen eines Spaziergangs in der Natur lernen Teilnehmer das gesunde Sehen kennen und wie sie ihre Sehkraft mit einfachen, natürlichen Methoden verbessern können.
Auch ich biete zu diesem Anlass einen Augenspaziergang in Hamburg an. Am Sonntag, den 10. Oktober lade ich alle, die ihr natürliches Sehen verbessern wollen, zu diesem informativen und entspannenden Ausflug ein.
Wir treffen uns vor dem Bahnhof Hamburg Ohlstedt, das ist die letzte Station der blauen U1 Linie. Start ist um 14:30 Uhr, Ende gegen 16:00 Uhr. Zum Schluss kann jeder seinen Geschmackssinn mit einem leckeren Eis vom Eisbär Eislokal belohnen. Vorausgesetzt, das Wetter spielt mit. Bei Regen wird der Spaziergang leider ausfallen, ich werde dann alle angemeldeten Teilnehmer über einen neuen Termin informieren.
Ich bitte auch um vorherige Anmeldung, damit ich genügend Unterlagen dabei habe und besser planen kann. Da wir unsere Sehkraft nur verbessern können wenn wir keine korrektiven Linsen tragen, sollten Sie ein Brillenetui oder Kontaktlinsendose dabei haben. Keine Angst, auch stark Kurzssichtige können ohne Sehhilfe teilnehmen, wir lassen uns viel Zeit in einer wunderschönen Umgebung.
The media is full of stories about how bad computer use is for our vision. But that’s not really true. Using a computer in general is not bad for the eyes. The problem that we do it wrong. Just watch a colleague or friend work on the computer and you will notice how most people stare at the screen.
As if the screen is big hole that sucks us in. Eye movement and blinking are very reduced in an effort to see the whole screen equally clear at once. Which is tiresome not just for the eyes but the mind as well. Headaches, dry eyes, blurry vision, fatigue are the common responses of the body. To avoid this, move your attention across the screen while blinking effortlessly every few seconds. Remember that you can only see one tiny spot perfectly clear at any given time, so move your peepers around.
The second bad habit most people have that they stare at the screen for hours a time without a break. The eyes are locked into a fixed accommodative state, meaning they are fixed onto a specific point in a specific distance. That’s the equivalent of sitting cross-legged for hours at a time. Of course your legs will be numb and need a while to walk again properly. Yet we expect our eyes to do this in split seconds, and get frustrated when we look up after a long time and everything’s blurry. So, it’s important to look up from the screen every 10-15 minutes, let your gaze wander around the room or look outside the window for a minute or so.
But that’s not everything. Equally important to keep your vision in perfect shape is the peripheral vision, which is basically shut down when we concentrate too hard on the screen in front of us.
Our visual field has a radius of about 180º horizontally and 90º vertically with both eyes together. With one eye the horizontal field of vision is about 140º, the overlap of both eyes about 120º. Why does it matter when working on a computer? Isn’t peripheral vision only important when outside to see dangers looming around us?
Simply put, no. Peripheral vision is our “rod” vision, the receptor cells that detect motion and provide us with black and white night vision. In contrast, our central “cone” vision is not larger than 2-4º and created by the cone cells that provide us with detail and color in daylight.
When focusing on the central vision alone we create an artificial tunnel vision which is rigid with a lot of strain. This tunnel vision promotes the unhealthy staring habit and suppresses the natural frequent blinking, necessary to lubricate the eyes and keep the attention soft. Peripheral vision encourages eye movement since our attention can freely move to the next thing we ‘catch’. It’s a continuous, soft flow of moving attention.
How can we stimulate our peripheral vision when working? We need to put something interesting into our peripheral field, and it needs to move. Streamers that gently swing in the breeze or bouncy objects such as mobiles or chimes are perfect to keep our attention soft and avoid tiring tunnel vision. The children’s party head piece is probably not proper office attire, but can be used for peripheral stimulation as needed, especially if mobiles and other fixed installations are not possible at the office.
Remember to switch sides of the desk to stimulate the other side of your visual field. Or install the mobile in a flexible way, so it can be moved to the other side. Best is to have stimulators on both sides of course, even if it’s just a dangling toy hanging from the desk lamp. Be creative!
Some pretty choices available for purchase (click image for store link):
Every fall I am in awe of all the colors leaves turn into. The closer to death the more beautiful they become. We on the other hand often feel getting old means getting ugly and full of wrinkles, or worse, sick and helpless. Maybe we should think of aging in the context of green leaves slowly turning into an intense glowing red.
I encourage my students to pick a color of the day and keep looking out for that color during the day, in a gentle, relaxed and interested way (ideally without glasses or contacts). Looking for that color keeps us in the here and now, instead of being carried away by our thoughts, worrying about this or that, composing a to-do list in our minds…
Instead of focusing on what we don’t see we can relax into noticing what we do see: our color! It’s suddenly everywhere! How strange… well, it’s not really that strange. We just asked our mind to notice and not to think or judge. That makes a big difference, we might be caught by surprise about how much detail suddenly appears. It’s this positive attitude to seeing that we need to “heal” our vision. My color today was the intense wine red of the right leaf. What is yours?