Eyes, your vision and your body, The Eyebody Method

I recently went to a retreat in Wales which looked at the connection between our eyes, our visual system and rest of our body. The Eyebody retreat was lead by Peter Grunwald, a teacher who has spent the last 20 years exploring the connection between the eyes and the rest of the body. Originally, he was motivated to start this work by poor vision. He was determined to stop wearing glasses and use natural means to cure his short sightedness. Now, he leads workshops around the world in his eyebody technique, a series of methods and approaches which help restore our visual system to it’s natural state.

I was a little cautious going in to the retreat, I have come across teachers in the yoga world who have a very high reputation and seem to promise a great deal but rush through a series of ideas they get from other teachers. I soon realised that wasn’t the case with Peter, he is that rare beast in the somatic world, an innovator.

Because he was an Alexander teacher before becoming a full time workshop leader, I expected that his technique would bear some similarity to some of the Alexander principles. There are some cross overs, in the Alexander work the key principle is allowing an integrated release in your head, neck and back to precede free movement. In the eyebody work, it is establishing a release through your lower brain to your upper brain (the upper part of your neo cortex, at the place where you would have a top knot at the back of your head ) that provides the foundation for both an integrated way of seeing and moving. Both are based on patterns and principles underlying human development rather than a series of movements or postures.

This makes both the Alexander work and the eyebody work more flexible but also more difficult to understand and teach.

The eyebody work differs significantly from the Alexander work by the use of intentions and vision types.

The vision types are: over contracted, over expanded and mixed. The types refer to habitual areas of clarity and avoidance. An over contracted type is comfortable seeing in the close distance but has difficulty seeing in the far distance. A mixed type will have one eye that switches on to see in the far distance and the other eye for close up. This means that the middle ground will be a place of confusion for the mixed type. Each type has wider associations than vision habits, it also refers to both posture and communication habits.

Intentions are wishes  with commitment, soul qualities which move you away from just needs for survival. Each part of the eye has a separate intention, for example the layers in the front of your eye are explored with the intent for trust and safety. These explorations are started with a commitment for presence as opposed to under focussing or over focussing. Under focussing or over focussing are habitual states whereas presence is more of the relaxed alert state which comes from contemplative or meditative work.

This commitment to presence in your whole body and the environment around you, with a focus on your upper visual cortex, seems to be the essence of the work.

Every day we did some exploration of the people types. It was fascinating to see what I had in common with people who had a similar vision type to me and what the difference was between the types. These vision types went much further than just the normal short sighted / long sighted classifications. We also did some unusual explorations of the anatomy of the eye. Interestingly, Peter never used a diagram or a power point to describe the anatomy of the eye. He said that he used to do this but he was not happy with the outcome as people failed to understand the experience of being in the different parts of the eye.

The venue and the people were both great, I really enjoyed both the company the surroundings. The food was ‘delicious vegetarian’, a phrase that normally strikes dread in me, but in this case it really was delicious and with lots of variety.

It’s taken me many years of patient work to get the principles of the Alexander work and it’s probably going to be the same for the eyebody work. A couple of times I got a really unusual feeling of being completely present and co-ordinated but it soon disappeared. My vision did improve quite a bit through the course, I recovered a lot of peripheral vision which I hadn’t even noticed that I had lost. I could see better in the dark too, again another ability that had slipped away without me noticing it. My ability to see clearly improved though it is still blurry without glasses. And I was able to see fine in bright sunlight without needing dark glasses.

All in all, I had a good time at the course and can recommend it for anyone who wants to explore an unusual and innovative way of making the connections between your visual system and your body as a whole.

Check out http://eyebody.com/ for information about the retreats. Information about the venue is at http://www.bucklandhall.co.uk/

 

 

 

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© Kevin Saunders, Yogaground 2012

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