The long swing is an exercise that Dr. Bates recommended to help relax your eyes. It also has an effect of relaxing other tense muscles, which will also help your vision, because patterns of chronic tension are connected throughout the body.
Nathan Oxenfeld, a vision improvement teacher in NC, put out a short video demonstrating the movement of the long swing and the different things you can try doing with it.
Also see this video by Greg Marsh, a vision improvement teacher in CO. It was part of a larger webinar that he recorded.
You can do this in any environment imaginable, indoors or out, where you’re alone or you don’t mind looking like an idiot.
Stand with your feet about shoulder width apart or a little wider, your feet pointed out about 45 degrees. Turn your whole body easily to face to the left, keeping an upright posture. You will naturally lift your right heel off the floor as you turn left. Now turn right, doing the same thing, lifting your left heel off the ground to allow your body to turn that direction. Go back and forth. Don’t go so fast that you turn this into a workout. A couple seconds each direction might be about right for you. Keep breathing easily.
Spend at least five minutes doing this. That’s enough to get some effect. This is a pretty common Bates method exercise, and some instructions have you count each direction, and go up to 100. Don’t do that. Then it becomes all about the counting. Ignore the number. Just set a timer for five or ten minutes.
The physical movement of this also you can kind of use to loosen up tense muscles. If you’re like most people with myopia, you have tense shoulders, so probably a little tension in other areas too, and while doing this take the opportunity to breathe deeply and really try to relax as you move back and forth. And you’re kind of doing the same thing with your eyes. You’re not trying to focus on or look at anything, you’re just loosening up your gaze, softening up your gaze.
Remember to breathe! You’ll find that as you relax you will naturally start to breathe deeper while you do this exercise. People with tense eyes also tend to have habitually shallow breathing. It’s all part of a larger pattern of tension.
So clearly the long swing isn’t what you may think of if you’re searching for eye exercises. It’s not really an eye exercise at all in the sense of working out your eyes. It’s a way to relax your eyes, loosening them up so they can work better. You can kind of think of it as eye training, but it’s more mind training than anything else. Your brain already knows how to use your eyes if you don’t interfere with habits of tension.
Also see Nancy’s article The Long Swing and Me.
A couple forum threads about the long swing might also be helpful:
Don’t make the mistake of going too fast. Fast isn’t necessarily bad visually, but it defeats the goal of getting yourself to relax. You end up tensing your body too much to stabilize yourself so you don’t lose your balance and fall over. A slower movement is easier to maintain your balance with and to keep doing for several minutes without getting tired.
The long swing in combination with palming afterwards is particularly effective at getting yourself to relax, as Greg Marsh demonstrates in his video above.
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