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Wake Up Your Eyes with Pencil Pushups – Carol’s Teaching Tip

written by Carol, Pure Pilates Director

They say the eyes are the window to your soul, but I would say your eyes are the window to your brain.

In our workouts, the brain tends to get most of our feedback from the receptors in our muscles, joints, and tendons. This is our Proprioceptive system and it senses what our body is doing and where our body is in space.

But our brain also gets information from our Vestibular and Visual systems as well. The Vestibular system is essential to our balance and spatial orientation, while the eyes have priority when it comes to communicating with our brains.

The brain does have a hierarchy and it prefers to get its information first from the eyes, second from the inner ear (vestibular) and lastly from our senses of where we are in space (proprioception). Don’t get me wrong, all 3 systems are beneficial for our brains, but we need to exercise all systems for better movement. And if we understand that the brain prefers to accept information from our eyes, why not leverage the hierarchy so the changes in our bodies can happen quicker and have lasting results?

As an avid exerciser who enjoys Pilates, cycling, and lifting weights, I know that exercising my eyes assists any physical workout that I jump into. I like to think of the eyes as the reset button on my brain (computer hard drive) that allows my body (my computer) to show up optimally for every workout. As a movement teacher, I see better movement when my clients exercise their eyes. 

Some say it’s magic, but I remind them it’s just neuroscience.

So let’s exercise the eyes with Pencil Pushups.

Pencil Push Ups focus on eye convergence. Convergence is when you look at an object that is close and your eyes move inward to focus on the object. It is helpful when both our eyes work together to see one image. When our eyes do not converge it can affect reading, concentration and movement.

Please note: If you have any issue with balance or coordination, I recommend trying the Pencil Push Ups in a seated position. If you have great success with convergence, up-level your stance and challenge your balance by scissoring your feet or standing on one foot.

  • Hold a pencil (or something similar) at arm’s length in front of your nose.
  • Focus on the end of the pencil (eraser) as you move it toward the bridge of your nose.
  • The goal is to see 1 eraser and have it split into 2 erasers approximately 3 inches from your nose.
  • Attempt 10 to 15 pencil pushups to start.
  • If you don’t see 2 erasers, your eyes are not converging. Don’t fret, continue performing the exercise regularly. If you are moving the pencil quickly in and out, try to slow down the exercise.
  • If you see 2 erasers, but it’s 1 to 2 inches to your face, slowly move the pencil away from your eyes until you see one. Play with moving the pencil in a smaller range of motion to get convergence of 2 erasers to happen a bit further away.

Movement drill:

  • Try an exercise or movement that is challenging or you want to improve.
    • It can be as simple as turning your head side to side to notice how much range of motion you have or doing a full set of criss-cross from the stomach series.
  • After the exercise or movement, do a full set of Pencil Push-ups. 10 to 15 repetitions or 30 to 60 seconds.
  • Repeat the exercise and see if there is improvement.

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Katie is a passionate mover who was brought to Pilates through dance. After a professional dance career, Katie discovered her love of teaching-connecting the mind and body, and working with students of all ages and levels. Her appreciation and understanding of everyone’s ever changing body and needs only became greater as her own body went through pre and post natal stages, an experience which has helped Katie navigate problem solving, and bring a freshness to each session making them feel personal and specific to each body’s needs. Her sessions are full of flow and aim to challenge clients with a sense of comfort, and often a little humor, all of which she has brought to Pure Pilates since 2016. Katie thinks the gift of movement and self care is one of the best things one can do for overall wellness, and is thrilled to seek and fulfill milestones and goals with each of her clients. When she’s not at the studio, Katie is taking care of her three little humans- another job that also makes her smile, laugh, and challenges her on the daily.
Eighteen years ago I discovered my love for Pilates. After having my two children, I felt the need to move my body again. At the time I was living in North Carolina, and worked through many different exercise and training programs. I discovered Pilates, and instantly knew it was right for me. Forteen years later, and a move to New Jersey, I decided to share my love of Pilates with other people looking for some way to move their bodies. Pilates has also been a way for me to keep me strong and flexible to continue many activities. My family loves to be active, and I often find when we are all together (mostly vacations) our days consist of activity and movement such as hiking, kayaking, or skiing(more on this later). As I have gotten older I find it even more imperative now that I keep my body strong. Recently I was in a skiing accident that left me with many knee injuries and ultimately having to go into surgery. I found being able to do light Pilates a few weeks after surgery kept me sane and ultimately helped with recovery time. Pilates has not only helped me be able to keep up with my children, but has also provided me with a body that is able to function at peak performance. My approach to Pilates can be described in one, simple word: movement. Movement can help you, both physically and mentally. Movement, and Pilates, is ultimately about self care. Having a built in time to focus on your body and movement can help relieve yourself of feeling tired, anxious, and stressed. Movement awakens you. Even after one session you can leave feeling calmer and energized.
Enjoyment of life through movement is a vital part of Kathy’s philosophy. When not in the studio she leads an active lifestyle trail running, cycling, skiing and hiking. She also loves connecting with people while traveling with family and friends. One of her favorite cycling trips was riding along the coast of northern California. Learning new things and sharing knowledge is also important to Kathy. She has a passion for food, likes to cook for her family and experiment with new recipes. She is currently trying to achieve the perfect pizza. She is also an avid reader of historical fiction and biographies. Her latest endeavor is learning to play golf.
Carol M. Crincoli, owner Pure Pilates studio, has been in the fitness industry since 1990, with experience in corporate and commercial fitness, recreational programming and teaching as an adjunct professor. She began practicing Pilates in 2003 and received Pilates training through the PhysicalMind Institute in New York, NY. She holds certifications from the Pilates Method Alliance (PMA) and the American Council on Exercise (ACE) as a group exercise instructor, personal trainer and lifestyle and weight management consultant. She was also accepted into the IDEA-PFT Recognition System as an Elite Level Personal Fitness Trainer. She is the only trainer in the NY-metro area for Trent McEntire’s Arcus equipment. Carol graduated from the Boston Conservatory of Music with a BFA in musical theater and a minor in dance. Opening Pure Pilates is the culmination of a lifetime dream, and her mission to "inspire life from the core" is a holistic approach to health and wellness—from exercise and nutrition, to stress management and self-care. Carol is also the inventor of 8th Avenue Rail, an organizing solution for Tower springs.