This post could have also been tilted “Why you should ditch the word try from your vocabulary”.
There are two issues with this pervasive and dangerous word. First, when we say we “try” to do something, we leave the backdoor open to not do it. After all, we said that we would only try, not actually do it. The only exception here is when you try something for the very first time, be it a new food or a new exercise. It’s ok to say I will try this but after you did, decide not to continue eating it or doing it, because you do not like it or it doesn’t work for you. We are talking about the other “try”. The one that is about the things you really want to do, but seem to have trouble sticking with.
When it comes to vision improvement (and pretty much everything else in life), trying is not getting you anywhere. Start making decisions instead. Maybe that decision is to stop doing something that hasn’t been good for you such eating too much processed food. Maybe it is a small goal such as “I will palm for five minutes every morning”, instead of “I will try to palm for 20 minutes every morning” and then never doing it.
Start with baby steps, it is much easier. According to research, it takes about 40 days to establish a new habit. Once you have the habit of palming every morning for five minutes, you might then say “I will palm for ten minutes every morning”.
It might work, or it might not. Failing is part of the process. When you fail, ask yourself “Why did I fail when I increased my palming time from five to ten minutes”? Write down all the reasons you failed and start with a new plan. Maybe you just need to set the alarm earlier or find a more comfortable position, or palm in the evening for ten minutes and stick with five in the morning. Whatever it is, analyze and experiment. But don’t try.
The second big issue i have with the word try is that it implies straining or making an effort. When it comes to eyesight, it’s the worst thing you can do. And the main reason your vision is not good (I am assuming you are reading this because your eyesight is not perfect).
Natural, healthy vision is effortless. Practicing the Bates Method to improve your vision is practicing relaxation with the help of specific techniques. In the beginning you will have to give your eyes rest (e.g. palming) to get a sense of what relaxation feels like in your eyes. After all, you are so used to strain that you might not even recognize relaxation. Once you experience how easy and effortless relaxed vision is, you will practice it all day long until it becomes a habit. Your vision will get better over time. This might go fast or very slow. There might be resistance and times when it gets worse again. Analyze why it’s getting worse and take action to change that.
Vision improvement is a process of practice to learn seeing, the natural and easy way. It’s the exact opposite of trying.
Last but not least, we also associate trying with hard, as in “I am trying really hard to get this done”. As if trying alone is not bad enough!
Stop trying. Especially trying hard. And put yourself up for success by making decisions. If you fail, analyze why, modify and start over. Never try. Ever. Again.
In part 1 of this post I demonstrated a neck and head self massage to improve posture and eyesight. In addition to directly working on these areas, it’s important to massage the upper back muscles as well, namely the upper trapezius, levator scapulae and the rhomboids. The first two are contributing to the movement of the neck, and the rhomboids and the levator scapulae are responsible for lifting the shoulders up. We do this all the time when sitting hunched over at the computer, holding a phone between shoulders and ear, and even when doing yoga.
This constant state of elevation in the shoulders combined with stiffness in the neck mover muscles due to bad posture, stress, shallow chest breathing, sitting at the computer with a fixed gaze, creates major tension in the upper back, neck and head. All of which effects our eyesight.
While you can roll the neck and head muscles at your desk, you will need a wall or floor space (more intense) to do the following upper back release sequence. Do this short sequence after work or in the morning after waking. Best to roll directly on the skin for maximum shear in the myofascial tissues (and clothes tend to get rolled into the balls).
The video shows the sequence at the wall. For more intensity, do it on the floor.
1. Place the balls right above your shoulder blades in the center of the shoulders (not to close to neck). Step away from the wall and use your body weight to let the balls sink into your upper trapezius and levator scapulae. When on the floor, lift your pelvis up (you can put a yoga block under your hips for a more restorative version). Breathe deeply into belly and chest
2. Start crossfibering the muscles by bending and straightening your knees (wall) or by chugging your hips forward and back (floor). The balls will move up and down the shoulders, about 2 inches.
3. Then change the direction of the movement by moving side to side. The balls will glide along the edge of the shoulder blades from left to right, covering the whole width of the shoulder blades. When doing this on the floor, it helps to move the arms side the side, bending one at the time to create that sideways motion of the upper body.
4. Move the balls together and down to just under C7, the last cervical vertebrae. They will be right and left of the spine, touching each other. Repeat the chugging motion, moving the balls up and down a few inches, crossfibering the upper trapezius and rhomboid minor. When doing this on the floor, cradle your head in your hands.
5. While chugging, put more weight onto the left side for a few strides, then to the right. Wherever you feel more tightness, do it a bit longer.
6. Add a pin & stretch by moving the arms up in circle shape on an inhale and lower them down on the inhale. The movement should resemble the snow angel arms we did as kids.
7. Last stop is at T5/T6, roughly in the middle of the shoulder blades. Do a bit of moving up and down, then hug yourself and twist the upper body from side to side, putting weight onto one side at the time. This massages the rhomboid major and the trapezius.
Notice the difference after you have rolled these upper back muscles. You will feel relaxed, refreshed and be able to breathe more deeply. Your body and eyes will thank you!
As a Bates Method and yoga teacher, I pay attention to the whole body, the posture and the breathing. For this post, we will only look at the upper body, specifically the neck, jaw and temples, since these areas are directly connected to tension and strain in our eyes. And with the help of the Yoga Tune Up® therapy balls, you can conveniently self massage these hot spots directly at your desk, while closing your eyes and giving them the rest they deserve.
Many of us spend hours, if not the whole day, sitting at the computer. Spine rounded in flexion, shoulders in protraction, internal rotation and elevation, head extended backwards, craned forward, or tilted sideways holding the phone between shoulder and ear, with the neck bearing the weight of the head. And our heads are heavy, about 11 pounds or 5 kg without hair. That constitutes roughly 8% of our body weight. Quite a lot of weight that our neck and shoulder muscles have to hold up there, all day long!
All of this sitting and slouching looking at the screen is creating muscle tension and weakness throughout the body, witnessed as bad posture and resulting lower back pain, neck stiffness, limited shoulder mobility or pain, tension headaches, migraines, jaw pain, TMJ, the list goes on. This in turn leads to an imbalanced posture from head to toe.
When looking at this from an eyesight perspective, it becomes obvious that some of the head tilts initiate from poor vision, e.g. craning the head forward when myopic, or tilting it back when presbyopia starts and the near point gets blurrier. But this also goes the other way. That is a whole new post, but just know that our head posture is a main contributor to astigmatism, and the angle or tilt of the head can directly be measured in the angle of your astigmatism. And staring at a screen up close for hours will most likely end in myopia.
Glasses are also a major reason for bad head posture and the resulting strain and pain. Are you tilting your head backwards when sitting at the computer? If you do, you probably wear bifocal or varifocal glasses. These lenses assume you are looking down when you are using the plus prescription in the lower part of the lens for near work, and straight ahead when looking at the distance. But the computer is straight ahead and near. To compensate, you need to crane your head backwards to access the lower part of the lens. This not only creates extraordinary neck tension, but starts or worsens any existing astigmatism.
The following therapy ball self massage sequence gets into the nooks and crannies of your tense muscles and fascia, the connective tissue which runs throughout your body. Its superficial layers are right under the skin, the deep layers in and between our muscles. The stiffer and harder the fascia, the more tense and stiff the muscles surrounded by it.
Start by breathing deeply into the belly five times, feeling it expand and collapse. Then let the breath ripple from the belly up into the chest on the inhale, letting it leave the body on a long exhale. Keep inhales and exhales equal in length. Continue this abdominal thoracic breath throughout the whole self massage sequence. It improves flood of blood and oxygen into your tissues and cells.
1. Place one of the balls at the lateral side of the neck. Test the waters by pressing the ball against the sternocleidomastoid muscle (the one you’ll use to turn your head backwards when changing lanes, tilt your head to the side and when looking down). If you feel tension there, spin the ball, winding up skin as you do. This alone stimulates the superficial fascia around the neck muscles, creating slide and glide between fascia and muscle which is important for smooth and pain-free movement.
2. Add some motion for a deeper tissue massage. Nod your head “yes” a few times, then “no”, turning it side to side.
3. Move the ball to another area on your neck and repeat.
4. Cup the ball in your hand and place it on the side of your jaw. The muscle you feel there is the masseter, the strongest muscle in the body. Turn your head slowly sideways as if saying half of a “no”, letting the ball crossfiber the masseter. This might be quite intense, so adjust the pressure with your hand or by leaning more or less into the ball. If you find a particularly tense spot, keep the ball on that area with sustained compression for a couple of breaths, then add a stretch by opening and closing the jaw.
5. Place the ball at your temple and roll it forward and back. You can also use sustained compression by just pressing it against one area, or spin the ball on the skin, gathering up superficial fascia. Remember to breathe deeply.
6. Repeat this on the other side. One side might need more attention than the other, because none of us is symmetrical.
7. Finish this tension tamer by gently drumming your fingers along the bony ridges of your eye sockets (above the eyebrows and along your cheek bones) and your temples.
For a quicker version (albeit without the spinning movement of the ball on the skin) you can massage jaw and temples at the same time by using the balls in the tote.
You can purchase The Yoga Tune Up® balls during a session at my practice, or by visiting yogatuneup.com Should you order online, make sure to get the smallest size for this exercise, or the starter kit with differently sized balls which come in handy when massaging your whole body.
Part Two of this stress relieving sequence will include the shoulders, upper back and chest for a complete release of “tech neck”. When working these areas, you will need floor or wall space.
Please remember that while self care through neck and head massage is really important in your journey to improve your eyesight, you need to address the origins and causes of your poor posture and eye strain at the computer as well. Be it by getting rid of varifocal lenses, an ergonomic makeover of your workstation, improving your proprioception through yoga or other movement practices, learning the Bates Method to recognize eye strain in the first place, practicing the Bates Method to improve your vision, blinking and breathing, daily exercise, relieving mental strain, or just taking frequent breaks.
In fact, as you have probably figured out by now, all of the above mentioned changes are important for good eyesight and a healthy body and mind. If you only address the tension but not the root causes, the tension will come back quickly and your eyesight will not improve. It might even get worse.
Medical Disclaimer: The information on this website is not intended to replace traditional vision care or regular check ups at an ophthalmologists office and is not medical advice. I understand that vision educators are not medical doctors. I am clear that I am not being diagnosed, prescribed for or treated medically for my vision or any other health condition. I understand that I can check my own vision to my satisfaction at any time. The information on this website is intended as a sharing of knowledge and information from the research and experience of Claudia Muehlenweg, myholisticvision.com, and the experts and doctors who have contributed. We encourage you to make your own vision care decisions based upon your research and in collaboration with a qualified eye health care professional.