The visual system and the body work as a coordinated team to help our body stay upright, balanced and moving. In a fraction of a second, light enters the eyes sending signals to our brain where it is processed to tell us the shape, color, speed and distance of an object. Although this process seems effortless, it requires one-third of our brain to function.
How the muscles of the eyes help us see and move
The six extraocular muscles supporting each eye are the smallest yet quickest muscles in our body. These small muscles create quick and precise movements allowing the eyes to perform specialized tasks:
Scanning: One of these tasks is a scanning function called saccades. This occurs when the eyes dart across several points within our visual field to send information to the brain about how our body is positioned. This function helps us to stay upright and balanced while moving.
Tracking: Our eye muscles are also responsible for tracking moving objects within our field of vision. When movement is sensed, the extraocular muscles are able to quickly respond and adjust the position of our eyes. This function helps us to stay focused on an object while moving.
Focus: Additionally, our extraocular muscles can subtly shift the position of our eyes to perform a process called convergence. This function allows us to focus both eyes on a single object.
Can we improve movement through vision training?
When we think about improving and strengthening movement, it is natural to think about the larger muscle groups that support our bones and joints. However, incorporating eye exercises into our practice can have a powerful impact on our movement including improving brain speed, balance, posture and coordinated movement (walking, running, climbing, getting in and out of a car, playing sports, and more). It can also improve things such as reading, comprehension, handwriting, focus and depth perception. I have even seen improvement with night vision.
To function properly, the muscles of the eyes require strength, coordination, and range of motion. In our training, we incorporate eye exercises that we refer to as Brain Speed drills, including playing catch while tracking letters on the ball. This simple and fun exercise can take on many creative ways to play based on the person’s abilities. You can learn more about exercising the eyes on our BrainSpeed page.
How does impaired vision impact movement?
When our vision is not working properly, it can have a direct impact on how well our body moves or does not move.
Weakened eye muscles can cause a narrower field of vision, which can interfere with the visual system’s ability to accurately assess how the body is positioned in its environment. This often happens as a person ages, which can make everyday tasks such as stepping down from a curb, getting in and out of a car, or walking upstairs challenging.
When the eyes do not converge, the brain is receiving signals from each eye that do not correlate, requiring the brain to work harder to interpret the information. This can cause loss of eye positioning, poor concentration, slower reading and also interference with the body’s motor skills. Additionally, it is taxing on the brain. Before I corrected my convergence, I would literally fall asleep after reading a few sentences or even words. Once I corrected my vision, my concentration and comprehension of what I was reading greatly improved. I could actually read through a book without falling asleep.
When one eye is more dominant than the other or the eye muscles are weak, the dominant eye will lead and the body will follow influencing the body’s alignment. This can lead to poor posture and in some cases, Scoliosis (a curvature of the spine). It can also place undue stress on the body’s joints, bones and muscles. Once the eye muscles are strengthened and converging, the body can then have a greater opportunity to align correctly and relieve pressure on other areas of the body.
Trent McEntire, Director and Founder
As someone who became a professional dancer after rehabilitating his own severe movement restrictions established at birth due to Cerebral Palsy, Trent understands how the quality of life is affected by how well you can (or can't) move your body.
For 20 years, he has been sharing his discoveries and method with those seeking to overcome their own movement limitations. His work has led to an international school and equipment designed to further the development of Pilates Therapy and Neuro-Movement. Trent has presented his work at international conferences and host sites in Italy, Japan, Spain, Mexico, UK, Brazil, Canada, and throughout the US.