Everything is moving all the time. Just look around at nature. Wind is blowing, birds are flying, waves are crashing, the Earth is spinning constantly. We humans are no exception. Our hearts are beating, our lungs are breathing, if we stop moving we won’t last very long. Contrary to what one may think, the eyes are only at rest while in motion. Even when we are asleep we go through several REM cycles (Rapid Eye Movements) in which our dreams are most vivid.
The fact that the eyes are primarily composed of lymph material and nourished through the lymphatic system is further proof of the importance of movement. Unlike the blood which is circulated through the body by the contraction of the heart muscle, the lymph is circulated through the body by movement. Therefore the only way we can guarantee lymph moves in and out of the eyes is by constant activity of the eye muscles.
The eyes are organs of light and are on a constant hunt for light. Lack of motion of the eyes results in a stare. You can see for yourself what happens when you stare. When you restrict the natural impulse of the eyes to move by staring, the visual field begins to collapse and the quality of vision declines. Many of the Bates Method practices aim to break up the habit of staring, which we often learn early on in our lives. This stare can be a result of boredom, dissatisfaction with the situation, or daydreaming and can easily be combated by stimulating curiosity and increasing your participation in the present moment. One of the best ways to break the stare and to encourage the movement of the eyes is through deep, rhythmic breathing in accompaniment with regular light blinking. Next time you catch yourself staring, state out loud “Be Here Now!”
An easy way to encourage movement is by swinging. Dr. Bates taught several different types of swings, but the simplest is called the Long Swing. Start by standing with your feet about a hips width apart in a comfortable stance. Turn your body 90 degrees to the left and lift your right heel. Swing through the center as you turn your body 90 degrees to the right and lift your left heel. In a fluid motion, continue moving your entire body side to side letting your arms be heavy and swinging freely. Keep your eyes soft as they simply follow the movement of the body and begin to shift more rapidly. Become aware of everything in the room or space appearing to slide in the opposite direction that your body is moving. You can alternate between eyes open and eyes closed as you swing for 5 to 6 minutes. If you cannot perform the long swing, you can simply move your head left to right as if you were shaking your head to say “no”. Any type of swinging motion like this will break the habit of staring and help loosen the six muscles around each eye in order to relax your eyes and mind.