On the last day of 2016, I had the pleasure to interview Sal Meraz. Despite his advanced age, he doesn’t suffer from presbyopia (commonly called “old age sight”) and has never worn glasses, ever. We first met at a restaurant, where I witnessed his ease at reading the menu which was printed on blue paper, a rather low contrast.
In fact, he even renewed his drivers license last year! The only reason he is currently not driving is a bad fall that broke his leg in three areas. He cannot wait to get rid of his walker, which he currently uses to walk four miles daily. In addition to that, he rides his stationary bike every day while watching the news on TV.
He also reads the newspaper and two magazines daily, and stays in touch with family and friends by texting on his iPhone which he got a couple of years ago. And just in case you are wondering: He has not enlarged the type on his phone.
So what are his secrets to great health and perfect eyesight? Listen in and find out!
Are you suffering from frequent tension headaches, maybe accompanied by blurred vision? Or just a sense of tension around your eyes? Good news: There is a simple way to get relief for your tension headaches that you can do in just a few minutes by taming your occipitofrontalis.
The occipitofrontalis muscle runs across the head. It is constructed of three components, the frontalis muscle, the occipitalis muscle, and the galea aponeurotica. The latter is a large tendon that connects the occipitalis in the back of your skull with the frontalis, running from the top of the head and inserting in the superficial fascia of the fascial muscles and the area above our eyebrows.
It’s basically the muscle that raises your eyebrows and wrinkles up your forehead and creates fascial expressions in the upper part of the head. And it is often very tense, contributing to tension headaches, migraines and blurred vision.
Follow the mini massage in the video below to release any muscle tension around your eyes. If you don’t have massage balls, you can simply use your fingers.
Close your eyes, and breathe into your belly to activate the relaxation response. Make sure your elbows are supported so you can relax your shoulders while you massage the frontalis muscle.
Massage along the ridge of eyebrows either with your middle finger, index finger or with several fingers together by making small circles, applying gentle pressure. If you have massage balls, place one ball at the inner edge of your eyebrow and then wind it up a bit in a spinning motion. This will gather up your myofascial tissues, creating a deep massage action and increasing blood flow to your eyes.
Move from the inner eyebrow toward the temples, by picking a new spot to massage.
When you reach the temples, spin the ball or press your finger into your temporalis muscle with a circular motion. You can open and close the jaw to create a deeper massage action.
Then spin the ball the other way, or circle your fingers in the other direction and move backwards along the ridge of the eyebrows.
We paradoxically often have a hard time relaxing. Not just when sitting or lying down to palm our eyes, but in daily life as well. We get wound up about about another driver cutting us off in traffic and stress about the small and big stuff that gets thrown at us every day. This is were belly breath can help you to get to deep relaxation instantly.
Without going too much into anatomy, here some basics to help you understand why we get so easily stressed out and how to avoid that trap.
Our autonomous nervous system had two main components, the sympathetic system also known as “fight or flight” and the parasympathetic system often referred to as “rest and digest”, aka relaxation.
Flight or flight is important when we face real danger. It stops the digestive tract, widens the pupils, increases the heart rate and blood pressure, flows oxygen into the muscles and tenses them up to get ready to run or fight off an offender. We automatically start to breathe more into the chest.
Unfortunately we tend to get stuck in that sympathetic nervous system response even when danger is over or when there was no danger in the first place, just daily stressful situations. This causes digestive problems, blurry vision, tension in neck, shoulders and head, increased blood pressure, shallow chest breathing and so on.
So how can we keep calm and carry on? The key is to activate the parasympathetic nervous system. The main nerve responsible for this activation is the vagus nerve, which has been getting more attention from the scientific community in recent years. It communicates with the thyroid, adrenal glands, intestines, pancreas, gall bladder, heart, and brain. It’s a very long nerve, connecting the base of the brain stem with the viscera, our “gut”. In fact, some scientists refer to the gut as the “second brain” because of this connection. We say “gut feeling” for a reason! My younger daughter rightfully proclaimed as a five-year-old that her secret power source is in her belly.
The vagus nerve gets stimulated in a number of ways, one of which is the movement of the diaphragm down into the abdominal cavity on a deep abdominal inhale. When you do this deep belly breath, it will automatically expand outwards and contracts back on the exhale, when the diaphragm moves back up into the ribcage. You can imagine the diaphragm like a dome tent where there is no breath after the exhale. It’s attached to the lower six ribs. On a deep inhale, the diaphragm tent flips upside down, creating a bowl shape. And therefore creating a big space for the lungs to expand into the flexible rib cage.
If your stomach and belly are tight from holding stress and tension, or maybe from overexercising the abs, having them always sucked in (as we were taught as kids, especially girls), your diaphragm has no space to go and you will automatically breathe more shallowly into the chest. And with that activating the fight or flight sympathetic nervous system. It’s a devils circle.
The following Yoga Tune Up® ball sequence will massage your belly, the internal organs, activate the vagus nerve and teach you belly breath. It will also remove any tension you might carry in your abdomen. You will need either a Yoga Tune Up® Coregeous ball, or a soft and grippy exercise ball that is not inflated too much.
1. Lie down on your mat or floor. Place the ball underneath your navel and gently lower yourself down. Check how the pressure of the ball feels. If it hurts or feels very uncomfortable, do this sequence at the wall. If on the floor, either support yourself on your forearms in a sphinx like yoga position, or come all the way down and let your forehead rest on the floor.
2. After a few initial breaths, do five contract and relax breaths. To do so, inhale deeply into your belly only, so that your lower body lifts off the ball. Hold this for a few seconds, then exhale sharply, letting the ball sink deeper in to your abdomen. If possible, create a small break between the bottom of your exhale and the next deep abdominal inhale. You might notice, that each exhale relaxes your abdomen more, letting you sink deeper into the ball after each breath.
3. Move the ball to another spot on your abdomen and repeat the five contract & relax breaths there. You might notice more tension in the stomach area or more in the lower abdomen, the digestive tract. Spend time where you feel the most tension.
3. Then start rolling on the ball from top to bottom using a push/pull motion in your hands and feet, stripping along the rectus abdominus (“six pack”) while continuing the deep abdominal breath. This big muscle runs parallel to the spine. Do some contract & relax breaths on any tight spot you can still find.
4. Change the direction now, going side to side, cross fibering (going against the grain) of the rectus abdominus. The transverse abdominals go the other way, they run deep below the six pack muscles in a 90 degree angle. And the obliques are oriented in a 45 degree angle for our full range of motion. Do about 5-10 rounds in each plane of the belly, giving any tense areas more attention.
5. The last technique is the most intense, yet it feels amazing. It’s a pin, spin & mobilize movement. Move your ball back into the center of your abdomen or the area where you felt the most tension. Press your body weight on to the ball, then walk your hands and feet to the right side to a roughly 45 degree angle to the mat. This spinning action will wind up your skin, fascia and muscles, creating heat and deep massage of the internal organs. If you want more, press yourself up on your forearms or hands, then lift one arm up toward the ceiling for a breath or two. Lower and and switch arms. Spin back to center and go the other way. Repeat on any other areas of your belly if needed.
Roll off the ball and come to a seated or standing position and notice the difference in your breath and your relaxation level. If time permits, sit down and palm your eyes for ten minutes or more. Use your (mental) foundation object or any positive thoughts, a mantra, a memory, word or image that gets you into a deep mental relaxation. You might notice more visual clarity and a calmer state of mind after this self massage sequence. Even when you have no time to palm your eyes afterwards.
Remember this feeling to bring you back into this state of calm quickly when stressed. Find a mental foundation object (memory, word, image, mantra, smell, sound etc) for a faster way to calm yourself down. Being able to easily move back into relaxation after the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) was triggered is called vagal flexibility. But that is a whole new post!
This post could have also been tilted “Why you should ditch the word try from your vocabulary”.
There are two issues with this pervasive and dangerous word. First, when we say we “try” to do something, we leave the backdoor open to not do it. After all, we said that we would only try, not actually do it. The only exception here is when you try something for the very first time, be it a new food or a new exercise. It’s ok to say I will try this but after you did, decide not to continue eating it or doing it, because you do not like it or it doesn’t work for you. We are talking about the other “try”. The one that is about the things you really want to do, but seem to have trouble sticking with.
When it comes to vision improvement (and pretty much everything else in life), trying is not getting you anywhere. Start making decisions instead. Maybe that decision is to stop doing something that hasn’t been good for you such eating too much processed food. Maybe it is a small goal such as “I will palm for five minutes every morning”, instead of “I will try to palm for 20 minutes every morning” and then never doing it.
Start with baby steps, it is much easier. According to research, it takes about 40 days to establish a new habit. Once you have the habit of palming every morning for five minutes, you might then say “I will palm for ten minutes every morning”.
It might work, or it might not. Failing is part of the process. When you fail, ask yourself “Why did I fail when I increased my palming time from five to ten minutes”? Write down all the reasons you failed and start with a new plan. Maybe you just need to set the alarm earlier or find a more comfortable position, or palm in the evening for ten minutes and stick with five in the morning. Whatever it is, analyze and experiment. But don’t try.
The second big issue i have with the word try is that it implies straining or making an effort. When it comes to eyesight, it’s the worst thing you can do. And the main reason your vision is not good (I am assuming you are reading this because your eyesight is not perfect).
Natural, healthy vision is effortless. Practicing the Bates Method to improve your vision is practicing relaxation with the help of specific techniques. In the beginning you will have to give your eyes rest (e.g. palming) to get a sense of what relaxation feels like in your eyes. After all, you are so used to strain that you might not even recognize relaxation. Once you experience how easy and effortless relaxed vision is, you will practice it all day long until it becomes a habit. Your vision will get better over time. This might go fast or very slow. There might be resistance and times when it gets worse again. Analyze why it’s getting worse and take action to change that.
Vision improvement is a process of practice to learn seeing, the natural and easy way. It’s the exact opposite of trying.
Last but not least, we also associate trying with hard, as in “I am trying really hard to get this done”. As if trying alone is not bad enough!
Stop trying. Especially trying hard. And put yourself up for success by making decisions. If you fail, analyze why, modify and start over. Never try. Ever. Again.
People often ask me why sunning your eyes is so beneficial? The short answer is that our cone cells need light to see colors and details, and sunlight is the healthiest source of light out there. If you want to know more about sunning your eyes, read on.
Have you ever been in a pitch black room without any light? Have you noticed that you don’t seem to see anything? However, if there’s even the slightest bit of light, your eyes will adjust and give you some vision, although it’s black and white and rather grainy.
The word “Photo” literally means “light,” and the cells in our retina are called photoreceptor cells because without light, they don’t function. Looking at this anatomically, there are two basic type of cells, the rods and the cones. The rods are the ones that give you the black and white, grainy, soft focus night vision, and they’re also the ones providing most of your peripheral vision. This is the reason that peripheral vision at the outer edges doesn’t produce color, but you do see movement, and without that, we probably wouldn’t have survived as a species.
The other photoreceptors, the cone cells, are responsible for color and detail (or sharp focus) vision. The center of the retina, the macula, is packed with cone cells only, and therefore produces clear, sharp vision. They only work when there’s light, and they work best in detecting accurate colors when the light is bright, as sunlight is. Without light, they would slowly deteriorate.
Yet we have been told by the media, the optical industry and most optometrists (who sells sunglasses too) that we will damage our eyes or, even worse, become blind if we don’t shield our eyes from the sun. Now I’m not talking about extreme conditions such as a polar expedition, climbing in the Himalayas or piloting a plane at 30,000 ft. I’m talking about our daily lives which are spent mostly indoors, working in some type of building with often tinted windows and artificial light sources. We then walk to our cars or the train station and sit inside again, shielded from the sun. Maybe we hike or bike on the weekends, or even drive to the beach or lake. But often we run errands that require being indoors again other than the part of getting there.
And how many now immediately put sunglasses on if there is even the slightest ray of sunshine coming from above? People often say they do this because they are so light sensitive. Is that any wonder if their eyes are never exposed to natural sunlight?
Do a simple test to see if you are truly light sensitive. Go outside into the sun. You might not be able to look straight ahead if it’s a bright day and want to put your sunglasses on. Instead put your hand parallel to the ground at the level of your eyebrows as if you wore a baseball cap or hat. Is it still too bright? Or did the shield do the trick? The reality is that it’s not so much the light itself that is too bright but the angle of the sunlight hitting the eye. Additionally, the overall brightness of the environment affects how strongly we perceive the light, due to the reflective properties of the environment. White reflects the most light, whereas black reflects the least.
Unless you have an eye disease such as macular degeneration, a second occurrence of cataracts, uveitis, conjunctivitis, corneal abrasion (e.g. through Lasik), a viral infection or another illness that makes you more light sensitive (e.g. migraine), or are taking medications that produce light sensitivity, you probably aren’t photophobic (light sensitive). If you do suffer from MD or secondary cataracts, do not do sunning.
Sensitivity to light is also common in most visual disorders, especially myopia and astigmatism. Wearing tinted glasses (the ones that get darker with more light) not only make the light sensitivity worse but often the refractive error as well, since the amount of light available has a big effect on clarity when vision is not perfect to begin with. So in addition to increasing light sensitivity, these tinted prescription glasses also decrease visual acuity in the long run and will often result in the need for stronger glasses. Just what the optometrist ordered.
If you are so light sensitive that you cannot gaze at the horizon line on even an overcast day, you will need to reverse the light sensitivity first before being able to improve your myopia or astigmatism.
Knowing that the cone cells are needed to produce the clear vision that we all want, it would make sense to do anything to keep them healthy. Light is like a vitamin for them. So shutting light exposure down by sitting in dark offices and wearing sunglasses outside is depriving those cells. Not only do we need sunlight to generate Vitamin D, but it’s also been shown that increasing exposure to this type of lightmake us happier. If you are still light sensitive, wear a hat or cap when you go out in the middle of day to prevent any strain which might cause you to squint your eyes.
Sunning is the important thing you can do to eliminate light sensitivity and allow you to improve your vision. Therefore it’s one of the core eye relaxation and improvement techniques of the Bates Method. You can do it anywhere, and anytime, but it’s best if you do it outside when the sun shines, and without the barrier of a glass window between the sun and your eyes. If you live in a part of the world where the sun tends to be elusive, especially during the winter months, you can do it inside, using a high wattage white infrared lamp, like the ones used in bathrooms and in the food catering industry, as they emit a nice amount of heat in addition to bright light. More on that further down.
How to do basic sunning
Go outside and face the sun. If you are just starting out and are used to wearing sunglasses whenever outside, do it in the early morning or late afternoon hours when the sun is lowest. Otherwise any time of day is fine.
Gently close your eyes and feel the warmth and light of the sun on your closed eyelids. Closing the eyes helps relax them, especially when there’s still some light sensitivity present. It also helps to turn the visual “faucet” off to let the mind truly relax. Think of this as a mini spa treatment for your eyes and brain. Let your mind drift to pleasant thoughts to further the relaxation.
Now slowly and deeply inhale and turn your head to the left side. Feel the gentle stretch in the neck and notice that your left eye is now shaded by your nose. Be aware of the difference in light strength. Exhale and turn your head to the right, noticing your right eye now being in the shade and your left eye receiving more light and warmth. Also be aware of the center when both eyes get an equal amount of light. Your head movement will look as if you are saying “no”. Do it slowly and gently, breathing deeply. Let the breath initiate the turns of the head.
Keep going back and forth, turning your head sideways as far as your neck allows you. If your chin doesn’t go all the way to the shoulder for a 180 degree head turn, do not force it. With daily sunning, your tight neck and shoulder muscles will also relax and release tension, which will in turn improve blood flow to the brain and help you to improve your vision. Tight neck and shoulder muscles are a big contributor to tension in the eyes and vision problems.
If you notice a lot of tension in the neck, you can also do a few “yes” movements with your head, tilting the head slightly back as you inhale and moving the chin toward your chest as you exhale. Keep the shoulder blades relaxed and the trapezius muscle away from the ears as you move your head. Let your eyes come along for the ride, and they should feel as relaxed as a kid on a swing that is being pushed by a parent. The eyes do not initiate any movement when sunning.
Sun for five to ten minutes or however long you can. You can stand or sit. If in public, you can turn your head even slower and take full breaths between sides, so it’s more inconspicuous and nobody will notice that your eyes are at the spa!
If you are at work and see the sun breaking through the clouds, do it at your office window right then and there, even if just for a minute or two. Anything is better than nothing. And if the sun is shy and barely shows itself, don’t wait for a specific time, since the sun might be gone for the rest of the day.
Sunning should always be followed by palming, ideally twice as long as you did the sunning. If that is not an option, palm at least until any potential after images or colors have faded and your visual field with eyes closed is dark again.
Additional benefits of sunning
In addition to reducing any light sensitivity and supporting relaxation of eyes and mind, sunning has these benefits:
The shift from shadow to light when turning the head will slightly open and close the pupils which strengthens the pupillary reflex
The pupillary reaction will gently massage the lens capsule and stimulate the photoreceptor cells in the retina without the need for sharp focus
The warmth of the sunlight and the movement of the head will release tension and it improves blood flow to the neck and shoulder muscles which consequently relaxes the facial muscles (all these muscles are connected and tension in the neck and shoulders often carries over to the face including the eyes)
The deep breathing improves flow of oxygen to the brain which the eyes are a part of. The brain uses 25% of all oxygen while only weighing about 2% of your body weight, and 1.5 pints of blood circulate through the brain every single minute! Consider this and breathe deeply.
Sunning is so enjoyable and restful that you are more likely to take little breaks from the computer that don’t habitually involve smoking or eating unhealthy snacks. It might also help to take your tea or coffee break outside and combine it with some sunning and palming.
Sun exposure is the only natural way for the body to get enough vitamin D, which is needed to absorb calcium to keep bones strong and healthy. A lack of vitamin D has also been linked with cognitive impairment.
Sunning reactions or discomforts
Sunning should feel really nice on your eyes, neck and shoulders. If you feel any discomfort, it’s most likely due to tension in those areas. If the neck hurts when turning your head, turn it less in the beginning and do not tilt the head back as much. Maybe you could even get a massage to release any deeper muscle tension.
Should your eyes get watery, itchy or start to twitch, it’s usually a symptom of the intense strain you’re carrying in your eyes. Continue to do the sunning in a relaxed way, and it will slowly melt that tension away. Maybe do it for shorter periods or only with the morning or evening sun until the worst strain is released.
If facing the sun with closed eyes is too strong even in the morning or late afternoon hours, start practicing on an overcast day or stand with your back to the sun, and work from there (once that feels comfortable you can proceed by facing the sun).
Remember, always palm after sunning for double the amount of time, or until any afterimages have dissolved.
Making your own sun
If the real sun is not shining, you can fake it by using a 250W heat light, also called white infrared bulb. They are sold at hardware stores or online, and are usually used in bathrooms or for food catering to light the food and keep it warm.
You’ll need to use a lamp that can handle those high wattage light bulbs though, so check your lamp beforehand. The cheapest option is to buy a metal clamp lamp like the one pictured. It’s very inexpensive and available at hardware stores in the construction aisles.
The sunning itself is done exactly like outdoors. Depending on where you mount or place your heat lamp, you will either stand or sit when doing the sunning indoors. Distance should be about 3 ft / 1 m, but this depends on your personal comfort. You’ll want to feel the warmth and the light but not end up with red skin from the heat.
Make sure to keep your head level when turning side to side. The head should only tilt back when you do the up and down motion instead of moving from side to side.
When traveling you can also use a strong flashlight and just move it back and forth over one eye, then the other. Hold it as close to your eye lids as feels good. Do three sets with palming in between. Flashlights won’t emit that much heat, but the light in and of itself is very beneficial, especially in the darker winter months.
Advanced sunning techniques
Once your eyes get used to sunning, you can deepen the technique in following ways:
Open your eyes when your head is turned to the sides, blinking rapidly when eyes are open (start this in an environment that doesn’t have extremely bright objects such as white houses on your sides).
Hold your hands in front of your eyes with your fingers spread and rapidly move them in opposite directions, while turning your head side to side with your eyes open, and blink rapidly. The fingers provide a filter that will allow some sun to enter our eyes without being too strong (see picture).
There are further techniques beyond this, but this has to be taught in a lesson where the teacher can observe the student and make sure there is no strain involved. If you are interested in a session, please contact me at 310.462.2462 or email me at claudia (at) batesvision.com (and this can be done via Skype, FaceTime, Google hangouts or other modern video technologies if you are not able to come in person).
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 email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.