One of the foundational vision improvement exercises Dr. Bates taught is the Long Swing. This is a simple slow twisting of the body to the right, torso and head and shoulders all moving together while the view slides by (or “swings”) in the opposite direction to the left. Then you twist back to the left while the scenery slides to the right. The twist is from the hips, not the shoulders or neck, to one side then to the other, slowly and rhythmically. To the right, then to the left, gently and easily. This helps loosen up a “holding on” pattern in the eyes, that habitual unseeing stare that often comes from wearing glasses for long periods of time.
Here’s a video of the Long Swing, faster than I’d like to see it done, but it will give you the idea.
Greg Marsh, a well-known vision teacher in Colorado, says the Long Swing is so deceptively simple, people think it can’t be that beneficial, so hardly anyone does it! I have to admit, he could have been talking about me in the past. I remember doing a short workshop with Robert Lichtman, who founded the Effortless Vision website, several years ago. He took us outdoors and taught us the Long Swing. Having read a few vision improvement books, I was sure I knew how to do this, but I had been approaching it like an athletic event, which is not the point! The Long Swing is not a gym routine — it is meant to be relaxing. I had been doing it much too fast and too vigorously.
Robert pointed out another big mistake I was making: I was not grounded. Back then I wasn’t even sure what it meant to be grounded, I was so anxious. I mentally scanned my body when he said this, and it looked like both of my legs ended below the knee, as if I had no feet. Even with my fuzzy understanding of “grounded”, I knew I needed to have feet to do it! Now having studied energy medicine with Deborah King for several years where we have a big emphasis on being grounded, I know more about this, and am better at it. I do tend to be anxious by nature, so learning to be more grounded and to actually feel my connection to the earth beneath me, having awareness in my feet and legs, is a major change for me. Paradoxically, I believe a key factor in my becoming less nervous and more grounded is daily meditation, as taught by my energy medicine teacher. Meditation has helped greatly to relieve my lifelong anxiety, so when I’m not meditating, I am more here.
A vision improvement friend who had fairly mild myopia, about -2, used to get bad headaches. When he started the Bates Method, his headaches disappeared and he stopped needing his glasses. Of all the different practices he did to help his eyesight, he credits the Long Swing with helping him the most. Following his lead, I’ve recently incorporated the Long Swing into my own daily routine. I do it a few times during the day, especially if I’ve been sitting at the computer for a while, and this helps loosen my neck and shoulders. I also do it 50 or more times right before I go to sleep, which Dr. Bates recommended. I can’t say my visual acuity is drastically different (yet!), but I am noticing more and deeper depth in my surroundings, a richer 3D effect.
If I start to do the Long Swing when I’m not present and centered, I’ll slightly lose my balance. So it tells me quickly if I’m running on auto-pilot, not really here. Similarly, if I am not focused and just “going through the motions” I’ll sometimes lift the heel of the foot I’m twisting my body toward, not the one I’m twisting away from, and wobble or start to lose my balance. If I’m swinging toward my right, I want my full weight on my right foot. When I get wobbly, it pulls me back to be in my body quickly, since I’m clearly not grounded. I’m realizing I use the Long Swing as much for balance and to help me be grounded as I do for improving my vision. And actually, for me, these 2 are very closely related. If I’m mentally somewhere else, my brain and my focus is probably not connected to what’s right in front of me either, and I won’t see it clearly.
Like exercise, or a simple walk in Nature, the Long Swing helps me be in my body, connected to my environment. It allows me to relax, while teaching me how to better connect visually to what I’m looking at, and to appreciate it. The Long Swing lets me be right here, right now.