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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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