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Sensory Tools: Vision (Part 1)

Sensory Tools: Vision (Part 1)

By Shane Sauer

Knowing what tools are in Your Brain’s Toolbox is one thing.  Knowing what to do with them is another.  Consider this blog (and the next) a quick reference guide for your vision system.

Your vision system is incredibly complex. In fact, there are numerous textbooks written just about vision.  While the system is very complicated, the end goal is simple: to create a clear picture of what is happening around you. To do this well, there are a few skills you should have with your eyes:

  1. Focus on an object
  2. Stabilize on a fixed point
  3. Follow a moving object
  4. Track and object with changing distance

There's even more than this, but these are the big ones. Fortunately, these skills are muscularly controlled, which means you can train them and improve them! Unfortunately, like any muscle, they become untrained when not used. So, if you spend a lot of time in front of a screen or wear glasses, you might be limiting the movement of your eyes and deconditioning these muscles.  This week, let’s take a deeper look and consider how we might train and strengthen the first two skills.

Eye Skill #1: Focus


This is the one skill every eye doctor tests.  Without it, everything appears blurry.  Unlike the standard eye test leads us to believe, this skill is essential at distances other than twenty feet! Your eyes make this happen by using small muscles to change the shape of their lens. Over time, the lens shape can change making corrective lenses necessary. However, proper training can strengthen the eye muscles and reduce or eliminate this need; just like taking away a brace after rehabbing and injury.

The number one way to train this skill is to get outside (or at least look out the window).  Give your eyes a chance to stop looking at screens and focus on something farther away. From there, choose and object in the distance and focus on it. Next, hold your thumb close to you and focus on that. Jump your focus back and forth between the two. This will make your eye muscles work to shape the lens.

Eye Skill #2: Stabilization

Ever heard of isometric strength training? It’s becoming very popular again in the fitness world with exercises like planks. Stabilization is the eye’s version of isometric training.  Once you have focus, the next step is to keep it.  Your eye muscles have to hold the shape of the lens and they have to hold the position of your eyes. Any loss in stability will cause a loss of focus.

Good news, though, it's easy to practice. Hold an object in front of you (like your thumb) and stare at it.  If you lose focus or your eyes start to water or burn, it means your eye muscles are getting tired. Each time you practice, see if you can go for longer.  The real challenge comes when you try this while looking at different angles.

That should be enough information to digest for now.  In my next blog, I’ll cover the remaining two vision skills, so be sure to keep your eyes open for that (pun intended).  Also, take some time to work on these suggested exercises.  They are a foundation for any future eye exercises you may come across.

Check out this video that exapnds on and takes a deeper look at the information presented in this blog.
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