Saturday, November 16, 2013

Peripheral vs. focal vision

One of the main organs that controls how we organize our posture is our eyes. We orient in space through our vision, and oftentimes, because the dominant eye moves to our own sense of gravity, we develop a tilt of the head--a postural lesion.

We can soften the dominance of one or both eyes by closing the eyes and noticing the feet. The baroceptors of the feet, which sense the ground and organize to it, get more sensitive without the vision setting up a clench of the ankles, a preparation to move toward what we are focusing on. Eyes closed, the feet relax--and that relaxation affects the entire posture, from knees to hips to shoulders and neck.

Of course, you can't move that efficiently with eyes closed. So you can try, instead, to change the gaze to a peripheral, broader one, instead of a focused one. Notice that when you soften your vision and widen it to reach into the periphery, your ankles remain unclenched--you have increased flexibility of your tibia (large leg bone) on your talus (ankle bone)--you're grounded rather than contracted. Notice how your hips respond when you change your gaze from focused and narrow to peripheral. The hip joints become more relaxed as your gaze softens and broadens.

Peripheral vision is about having what you look at come toward you. You become the wall--there is no more me vs. the other. It creates something called "postural empathy" and engages the mind on a subcortical level, which involves an awareness of pure space, an openness to all that is, without having to define it.

Focal vision, on the other hand, is about having your eye pop out to what you look at. It engages the mind on a cortical level, and thus makes associative judgments of what you see based on what you already know--linking images to your past history and existing knowledge.

If you want to get beyond your old patterns and habits of being, if you want to re-organize in present time, go to the periphery with your vision. Broaden your gaze.

The first session of Rolfing is about the relationship of the shoulder girdle (often referred to as G') to the pelvic girdle (often referred to as G). The relative position of G' to G will affect your breathing, your gait pattern, as well as the contraction pattern of your lower back muscles. G', in the chest area, is where we mirror relationships with others; if your shoulder girdle tends to be forward of your pelvic girdle, you might also think about bringing more peripheral vision into your awareness, as a peripheral gaze brings G' back and will change the entire breathing and walking pattern.

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