Before you exercise, I bet you warm-up. Or at least know that you “should” stretch pre- and post-workout. What about when you read or use a computer?
Do you warm-up your eyes? Similar to the large muscles of our legs, our eyes are surrounded by muscles to support movement. It is important to provide these muscles, which support vision, opportunities to move in multiple directions and to rest. We already know how to move our eyes. In this article, we will scaffold our prior knowledge up a notch or two by exploring the Visioncircles warm-up series. The five movements are known as SPACE—an acronym for getting one’s eyes Sensitive, Positive, Active, Clear and Energetic. For me, these movements relax the my eyes and my visual field broadens as I move beyond “screenview.”
In case you prefer viewing to reading, I made a short video of this warm-up series. Otherwise, read on.
With SPACE, we begin at the end and work our way backwards (just like in PACE if you are familiar with the Brain Gym® work). The E stands for Energetic. Begin with a sip of water. Most of us can benefit from this! Next up is an activity called The Cloverleaf. Picture a cloverleaf with its four lobes. Now, draw the cloverleaf shape with your nose. Notice whether there is any tension in your neck as you move the head side to side, up and down. (If there is tension, pause and take a deep breath.) Repeat at least two more times. Consider round one as a preview, round two is a review and round three is “got it”! Oftentimes, I notice an increased level of energy after loosening up my neck.
From here, we move onto the C part of SPACE. The Necklace is the movement used to get Clear. Begin by crisscrossing your hands so that the right fingertips are touching the left collarbone and left fingertips are on the right collarbone. (PS Your collarbone is the top rib, also called the clavicle.) Rub gently on either side of the sternum and then continue rubbing underneath the collarbone working your way out to the shoulders. Eventually, your fingertips will massage on top of and then behind the shoulders, almost like giving yourself a big hug. In this position, push your shoulders back into the fingertips. This often clears out tension and feels so good.
Next, it is time to get Active, with not only our vision but also our whole body. The Brain Gym work speaks a lot about the Cross Crawl. In Vision Gym, we modify the Cross Crawl slightly into a Swing Along. Stand with feet shoulder width apart. Shift your weight to one leg and then the other leg. The feet stay on the floor; it is a simple weight shift. As you get the bottom half moving, invite the arms to join the process. When shifting left, allow the arms to swing to the left. As you shift to the right, the arms will swing over to the right. Continue in a smooth rhythmical pace. To engage the eyes, move them the same direction as the arms, side to side. I find that this whole body movement gets my eyes moving in the periphery and awakens muscles along my spine.
At this point, it can be helpful to work on the attitude a bit—let’s get positive. This activity is one of my all-time favorites. It is Positive Point Palming. Rub your hands briskly together until they are warm. Gently place them over your eyes so that the palms are on the cheekbones, thumbs on the temples and fingertips near the forehead. Close your eyes and breathe. When ready, move one hand and open that eye. Notice that eye’s range of vision. Cover that eye. Remove the other hand and open the eye. Notice where it can see. If you think of each hand as a shutter, you can even fling open both shutters and celebrate binocular vision with both eyes. Isolating vision to one eye quite literally shows me each eye’s visual field; putting them together helps me appreciate my midfield and all I do within the visual range of both eyes. Closing my eyes to relax in darkness feels very comforting after working with screens.
The last activity is about getting Sensitive and in fact, the Energy Fountain requires some sensitive self-awareness. While standing or sitting, imagine you are zipping up a jacket. Did you straighten your spine in the process? Now unzip and notice if your posture sagged. Play with figuratively zipping and unzipping a few more times; it can be a subtle experience. Imagine the zipper continues up higher past your throat. In fact, imagine it going out the top of your head like a fountain. As you perfect the experience, stop using the hands and just use your imagination. Let the fountain overflow while “zipping up” and notice the different sensations when “zipping down.” Change positions: try sitting in a chair to “zip up and down.” How is it the same or different?
These five movements with the acronym SPACE work on many different aspects of our vision from our inner imagination to our outlying peripheral vision. It works on visual reflex points (the Necklace) and physical relaxation (Positive Point Palming). The direct and indirect objectives and outcomes are profound. Yet, it’s simple. What do you notice?
For me, when I was learning about Educational Kinesiology, I attended a course called Visioncircles. During the three days, I watched my eyes change moment by moment. My vision was different when I was playful than when I was acting out a goal/stressor. I learned all sorts of activities and intentional movements (like SPACE) to support the many aspects of our visual system. I had never thought of vision as being a dynamic system that changes moment by moment depending on our stress. Now, I recognize that my eyes are just one more way I can notice my mind/body’s reaction to life events.