I wrote a while back about the muscles of the eye (read that here). I’ve said it before, but that rarely stops me from saying it again. The length of your muscles create physiological states in the body. These physiological states of the body are given names that sound all formal and scary and disease-like. Myopia is the medical term for nearsightedness. Myopia could also be called muscles in the eye that are too short -- but that doesn’t sound as smarty pants as myopia.
This is a creepy picture of my myopic eye:
The problems with science done by one large group of people that all hold the same cultural beliefs and habits is, they rarely look at their habits as disease creators. But of course, the answer, just like our car keys, are often hidden in an obvious place, aren’t they? As I wrote last year, the rate of myopia is steadily increasing. Tension in the eye comes from the failure to use our eyes in their relaxed, long-muscle orientation. Looking at far away places or gazing at layers of trees upon hills all utilize different muscle patterns than looking at computers and books and iPhones and Kindles. And, the latest generation of kids will have worse vision than we do.
Natural movement is what our bodies require to perform optimally, and that includes our eyes. But if you can't be outdoors all of the time, shoot for a couple hours a day. Fourteen hours of outdoor time a week is correlated to a decrease in myopia as presented at the 115th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology last week (click).
In addition to getting your eyes outdoors (hey I know, why don’t you blend your outdoor vision relaxation with 14 hours of weekly walking?) there are corrective exercises too. Just like you can train and restore the big muscles in the body, you can do corrective exercises for the little bitty ones. William Bates, a physician from the 1920s came up with an entire program dedicated to restoring the proper function of the eye. I was totally stoked (totally!) to find that the content of his book Perfect Sight Without Glasses (1920) and years and years' worth of Better Sight Magazine is free online (click). I've never read his book, but it's on my to-do list, as well as try out his program.
Another thing I do for my own personal vision issues:
I have worked on my own eye-muscle meditation for the last year. I sit quietly (without any glasses or contacts) and close my eyes. I imagine I am an inspector of my eyeballs and teeny tiny muscles. With my eyes closed, I let my brain go exploring for tension patterns that are so habitual for me, I don’t even realize I am constantly gripping my eyes. Once I find tension spots, I let them go -- kind of like finding out your jaw is clenched (hey! when did my jaw get all clenched!) and relaxing it.
I use this technique for headaches too and have found that all I need for eye and headaches are about 18 minutes of eye-socket spelunking. Try it. It is awesome, effective, and free.
And, P.S. It would make a lot of sense if Bates’ books were audio, right? Then we could listen to them on podcast while walking outside.
And for the physics and anatomy nerds out there -- your body, while it seems like one fixed entity a la a point mass, each individual part of your body (and then, each teeny tiny part of every teeny tiny cell) is responsible for dealing with their own excessive distortion created by the way you move. Notice, in this slow-motion film of the eye, that when the the bulk of the eye has stopped, the smaller parts of the iris *wobble* as they catch up.
Have you ever pulled a wagon with a ball in it? Ever noticed that, when you stop the wagon, the ball continues to roll? Every *thing* has its own inertia. Even the parts of your eyeball are independent from the outer eyeball and the muscles that move it.
These micro-wobbles are happening all the time, in all the tissues of the body and to a much greater extent in bodies that are not moving in a choice-driven, stabilized, and controlled manner. These micro-movements add up over time to disease or injury. To minimize them, each of your joints needs the correct amount of mobility and stability -- which, of course, requires the correct muscle length.
A Broken Record.