The word “Hatha” is a Sanskrit word, which is broken down into two parts: “Ha” means “sun” and “tha” means “moon”. Putting these two opposites together insinuates balance. The branch of Hatha Yoga refers to the physical path, consisting of Asanas (yoga poses or postures), Pranayama (breath control and manipulation), and Kriyas (purity through proper diet and cleansing practices). Hatha Yoga is the most popular path and is generally the first thing that people think of when they hear the word Yoga. An image of a group of people stretching around in a room together for an hour or so is an approximation of Hatha Yoga. Remember though that Hatha is just one path out of six and both Yoga and the Bates Method run much deeper.
Hatha Vision is the physical path of the Bates Method. It includes all of the Bates Method relaxation drills like swinging, sunning, palming, shifting, centralizing, etc. Anything regarding the physical body can be categorized under Hatha Vision. Breath is of utmost importance in Hatha Vision because it is the primary access to relaxation of the body and mind. Reestablishing the habit of deep, rhythmic breathing calms the entire nervous system and helps the involuntary systems of the body to release, including the smooth muscles around each eye that hold chronic strain. Remember that shallow breath equates to shallow, dim vision.
Since the goal of Hatha is balance, the Bates Method strives to achieve balance in several respects. We first distinguish between the stronger and weaker eye and work the weaker eye more to bring the two into balance. Hatha Vision, or Sun Moon Vision, uses light (sunning) and darkness (palming) to reactivate and flex the lens and ciliary muscles in order harmonize our central and peripheral, or daytime and nighttime vision.
Another important balance we need to establish is between near and far vision. This is accomplished by glancing at an object at least twenty feet away frequently while performing up-close tasks such as reading, writing or while using computers or cell phones. If the eyes are only used for up-close tasks and are rarely used for looking in the distance, then the near and far vision becomes unbalanced and the eyes lose the ability to focus in the distance.
Hatha Vision also brings more awareness to the diet and emphasizes the intake of vitamins and minerals necessary for sufficient eye health. Balancing our diet and increasing levels of Vitamins A, B complex, C, D, and E as well as lutein and xanthium can help keep the eyes young and resilient. Classical Chinese Medicine has perfected the use of herbal blends to sharpen eyesight for thousands of years and has established the connection between certain organs, like the liver and kidneys, with the eye organs. Meridian tapping and acupressure points are also practices of Hatha Vision that help release fears deeply embedded in the limbic system and reduce levels of cortisol, also known as the stress hormone.
Visual blur is a sign that something is out of balance. Glasses and contacts trick the mind into thinking everything is fine, but underneath the surface the imbalance grows further out of alignment and the blur becomes worse. By removing our lenses and performing the various physical practices of Yoga and the Bates Method we gain access into the more subtle paths like Jnana, Raja, Bhakti, Karma and Japa and begin to bring into balance the realms of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual, which can bring about clearer eyesight.