The EYES have it!
Updated: Oct 24, 2022
My clients are always a little mystified, maybe annoyed, when I ask them to direct their eyes to a place on the wall or say, "Don't look down."
Here's the thing....your eyes are part of your CENTRAL nervous system. They are essentially PART of your brain. They help the brain determine where you are in space and which muscles to activate and are constantly working in the background without you realizing it. Until today ;)
Race car drivers know, "Don't look at the wall," because if they do, they will drive into it. Likewise, martial arts teachers encourage you to have your competitor look DOWN because that is where you want them to go.
The image to the left shows how your eyes process in the BACK of the head. Notice the path from front to back...
Almost a straight line.
Almost like a, you guessed it, a LEVEL.
After a car accident in 2017 and three years of Visual therapy, I was diagnosed with a trauma-induced oil drop cataract in my left eye. Leading up to finding out what was going on, I went thru VISUAL therapy and became obsessed with everything about the eyes.
Similar to a level, the eyes process thru the thalamus gland, which acts as the bubble between the lines. The thalamus is known to relay 98% of incoming motor and sensory information - hearing, taste, sight, touch, and BALANCE (but not smell) from your body to your brain (can you hear me saying proprioception).
With everything we do daily, we look down a lot! The brain is tilted forward....muscles in the front of the body get stronger, creating a better communication line to the brain, while the muscles along the back of the body weaken and feel lost. The brain and back body muscles stop talking. When you hear that a friend or a parent has fallen, was it forward or backward??
Unless they slipped on ice, it is usually forward. This is because those strong front muscles have pulled forward while the back muscles were helpless to pull you the other way.
Now, your body is pretty incredible. When the back muscles lose touch, they become weak and tight from being ignored. They freeze or get stuck. They see this as the only way to do something. They want a place at the party. To stabilize or anchor, although inproperly.
When we do back work in Pilates, it is so difficult. Why? Because the communication lines need repair and the muscles need to thaw. When you are on the box on your stomach, and we do swimming or bird-dog on your hands and knees...lifting your arms simply next to your ears seems impossible. Raising your arms overhead next to your ears should be 100% doable.
But Eden, what about walking? I have to see where I am going!
Cavemen always looked toward the horizon for possible predators. Granted, they were barefoot, but the feet are in charge of where you are going. They should be flexible (Heel, ball, toe) and aware enough to feel the ground. Being mindful when you walk. Your center of gravity should be in your lower core and hips, not shoulders, to recover quickly in case of a stumble. Walking sticks are a great way to help retrain your whole body to walk straighter. We evolved to walk this way, not looking down! I was just in New York, and New Yorkers look straight ahead and walk with purpose.
What if our balance isn't the result of an aging body but aging eyes? So many people blame their bodies but do not give their eyes the attention they deserve.
In 2021, I had cataract surgery in my left eye, which made a big difference. When my clients with balance issues share that they are delaying their cataract surgery, I share that they will be happy afterward. Find the right team of Optometrists and Ophthalmologists to help you see your best. Make sure when you are in the seat with your chin on the rest or looking at the chart of letters that you are sitting up straight with your ears back over your shoulders.
Help your body work at its best. Get your eyes checked. Keep those back muscles in the game. Find a paved path and look at the horizon while you walk. Maybe it is a few steps today, but soon it will be a few blocks.
Sometimes the most challenging exercises are the small, uncomplicated ones.
It is as simple as looking straight ahead.