Originally appeared in
Earth Star Magazine
December 2006 / January 2007
By Rosemary Gaddum Gordon, D.B.O., M.A.
Good vision is much more than reading the small letters on an eye chart. It allows us to connect with our environment and gain meaning and understanding. It calls for the eyes to have full range of movement; to be able to follow or track something smoothly; to be able to work well together as a team and comfortably shift focus from distance to near and near to distance. When all these skills come together we experience easy, clear vision with good depth perception. When any of these skills is not working well we may suffer from blurry vision, headaches, eye strain or fatigue and our ability to connect to and comprehend the world is diminished.
We start developing visual skills the moment we open our eyes. These skills build on each other in a progressive way. If there is an interruption like an illness or stressor during our development, some of the skills may not fully mature. As we grow we often manage to compensate in some way. Later in life those visual compensations may break down resulting in some of the symptoms listed above.
The first skill is full range of eye movement. When we are born we connect with our caregiver and watch the activities around us. We can’t sit up and move our head, so it is the eyes that move. In this way the full range of the ocular muscles are developed.
The habit of looking around like a baby is often curtailed as we age. We may be told to be less nosey or to look only at the teacher as he or she speaks. If we wear glasses, we cannot see clearly unless we look through the center of the lenses, so we will turn our head rather than move our eyes. If we spend hours in a cubicle working at the computer or studying, our peripheral vision is cut off. The usual distractions that might prompt us to look around are reduced. As the range of motion of our eye muscles shrinks, so does the circulation to them and they stiffen. We will have healthier eyes if we maintain the full breadth of these natural movements.
Here is a simple practice which I call Yoga Eye Stretches. Please go very carefully and slowly as you move your eyes. If you go too far too fast you may strain and give yourself a headache. First remove your glasses (and contacts if convenient.) Sit with your spine erect or lie down flat on the floor. Slowly look up towards the top of your head as far as you can without strain. Breathe, relax and hold for ten seconds. Notice what you can see. If you feel some strain, back off and look a little lower. Then look all the way down towards your feet and hold for ten seconds, remembering to breathe easily. It’s OK to blink. Then return to the straight ahead position, close your eyes and rest. Notice which muscles you have just stretched and how they feel. When rested, repeat these simple stretches with the same care in the other directions of gaze by looking from side to side, up-right and down-left and then up-left and down-right, resting between each pair. Follow these movements by rotating your eyes slowly several times in each direction. Notice what you see as you go around and let your eyes move as smoothly as you can. Keep breathing and relaxing. Conclude by palming. (Cover your closed eyes with your cupped hands and resting. Do not let your hands touch your eyes.)
These stretches stimulate your brain as well as your eyes. I wonder what you’ll notice.