lørdag 24. mai 2014

Kjeven

Nøyaktige bevegelser avhenger av nøyaktig kroppsoppfatning. Forestillingen vi har om kroppen må stemme med hvordan den faktisk henger sammen. Det er ikke alltid det mentale kartet vi har stemmer med terrenget. Når du lærer Alexanderteknikk er derfor en nyttig del av prosessen å lære mer om kroppen. Jeg har i tidligere blogginnlegg skrevet om det meste av skjelettet. Forrige gang var om foten. Denne gangen skal vi se nærmere på kjeven.

Kart og terreng
Hvordan tror du kjeven din ser ut? (Jeg tenker her på underkjeven. Overkjeven er del av hodeskallen). Før du leser videre kan du forsøke å tegne kjeven din, sett fra siden, slik du forestiller deg den. Etterpå kan du sjekke om din forestilling stemmer med virkeligheten. (Lenke lenger ned i teksten). 

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Kjeveleddet
Når du har tegnet formen på kjeven er det neste du kan gjøre å finne kjeveleddet. Å ha en klar forestilling om hvor leddene er og hvordan de fungerer er spesielt nyttig for korrekt kroppsoppfattelse. Å finne kjeveleddene er ganske enkelt: stikk en finger i hvert øre og gjør tyggebevegelser. Leddene sitter like foran ørene. Det er fint å se i et speil samtidig slik at du får informasjon om hvor kjeveleddene sitter i forhold til resten av ansiktet. Kanskje sitter de høyere opp enn du trodde? Hvordan stemmer dette med tegningen du laget av kjeven din? Legg også merke til hvor kjeveleddene er i forhold til tennene i overkjeven.

Evolusjonen har gitt oss et ganske spesielt ledd i kjeven. En gang i tiden bestod kjeven av flere knokler og flere ledd, slik det gjør hos krypdyr i dag. De ekstra knoklene har med tiden blitt til hammeren og ambolten, to av de tre små knoklene i mellomøret. For å kompensere for tapet av bevegelige deler er kjeveleddet et slags dobbelt-ledd. Leddkapselen er delt i to av ei bruskskive. Når du åpner munnen er den første delen av bevegelsen rotasjon med senter i kjeveleddet (i condylar process). Etterhvert begynner bruskskiven i kjeveleddet å gli forover slik at rotasjonsbevegelsen fortsetter i en større bue. Her er en kort animasjon av bevegelsen. Utformingen av kjeveleddet gjør det også mulig å bevege kjeven sideveis, noe som er nødvendig for å kunne gjøre tyggebevegelser.

Kjevebeinet
Kjeven utgjør haka di. Den ser du hver dag i speilet, du vet hvor den er og hvordan den ser ut. Resten av kjeven er det ikke like greit å ha en klar forestilling om. Buen forover der tennene sitter kalles kjevebeinets «kropp». Hvis du føler med hendene langs kanten av kjeven fra under haka og bakover kommer du til slutt til et hjørne. Dette hjørnet er tydelig fordi det ikke er dekket av muskler. For å bli bevisst kjevens form er det en god idé å ha klart for seg hvor dette hjørne er, og hvor det er i forhold til kjeveleddet og til haka. Kjenner du på baksiden av dette hjørnet og oppover mot øret kan du kjenne bakkanten av av «ramus». Ramus betyr grein og er navnet på de delene av kjevebeinet som stikker opp på hver side. Du kan kjenne bakkanten av ramus helt opp til øret, men ikke helt til kjeveleddet. Selve leddet ligger i ei grop i tinningbeinet. (Du kommer nærmest leddet ved å stikke fingeren i øret).

Hvis du føler langs kanten av kjeven der tennene sitter (alveolar process) og helt bak til jekslene kan du kanskje finne forkanten av ramus. Den er ikke så lett å kjenne fordi den er dekt av en muskel. Du kan kjenne den nederste delen lettere ved å kjenne med en finger inne i munnen, rett bak bakerste jeksel. Prøv å dann deg en forestilling om bredden av ramus. Heller ikke i forkant kan du kjenne ramus helt opp. Toppen ligger under kinnbeinsbuen. Den øverste delen av ramus er delt i to utspring, det bakre er leddkulen (condylar process), det fremre en spiss (coronoid process) som er feste for muskler. Du kan se bilde av kjeven her.

Verd å merke seg med kjeven er at den er så «luftig». Inne i buen som er avgrenset av kjeven er det mye plass. Tunga fyller mye av dette rommet. Gulvet i kjeven er dannet av muskler (mylohyoid). Ser du på en hodeskalle nedenfra kan du se rett opp i ganen. Det vi tenker på som kjeven er altså lite bein og mye bløtvev og åpent rom. Til gjengjeld er selve knokkelen ganske solid og inneholder mindre luft enn mange andre knokler i kroppen. Det gjør at man ofte finner fossile kjevebein.

Kjevemuskler
Vi har fire muskler som har til jobb å bevege kjeven. De to ytre kjenner du sikkert. Tyggemuskelen (masseter) går fra kinnbenets bue og dekker ramus. Tinningmuskelen (temporalis) går fra tinningen, under kinnbenets bue og fester seg i fremre øvre tupp av ramus. Disse musklene er veldig sterke.

På innsiden av kjeven har du laterale og mediale vingemuskler (pterygoid). Mediale vingemuskel er festet på innsiden av ramus og gjør mye av den samme jobben som masseter gjør på utsiden. I tillegg kan den bevege kjeven sideveis under tygging.

Den laterale vingemuskelen er den eneste av tyggemusklene som åpner kjeven. Den er orientert mer eller mindre horisontalt og er todelt. Den ene delen er festet i bruskskiven i kjeveleddet og bringer denne forover når munnen åpnes. Den andre delen er festet rett under selve leddkulen (condylar process). I tillegg til å åpne kjeven kan denne muskelen også bevege kjeven sideveis under tygging.

Andre muskler er også aktive når du tygger, eller når du åpner gapet for å gjespe. Da bruker du muskler også på undersiden av kjeven.

Her er en video (7min) med fin animasjon av tinningbein, kjevebein og kjevemuskler.

Kjevefrigjøring
Det spesielle med kjevemusklene er at de må jobbe hele tiden, ellers ville vi gått rundt med kjeften åpen. På den måten ligner kjevemusklene på nakkemusklene som hele tiden må jobbe med å balansere hodet.
Kjeven er i nøytral posisjon når munnen er lukket og tennene er noen millimeter fra hverandre. Engelske tannleger har en fin huskeregel: Lips together, teeth apart, never from this rule depart.

Kjeven er et område i kroppen hvor det er vanlig å holde på for mye spenninger. For å begynne å gi slipp på disse spenningene kan du øve på å la tyngdekrafta bevege kjeven. La munnen åpne seg ved at du lar kjeven falle. Pass på at du ikke bruker noen muskler for å sette i gang bevegelsen. Når munnen åpnes har du valget mellom å fortsette å puste gjennom nesa, eller puste gjennom munnen. Prøv begge deler.

La kjeven henge ei lita stund og se om du kan la kjeven falle enda litt mer ned. Lukk så munnen igjen og gjenta noen ganger. Når du synes du har fått en god åpning, prøv å anslå hvor mye du har åpnet munnen og hvor mange fingre du vil få plass til mellom tennene. Stikk så fingrene inn mellom tennene og se om antagelsen stemmer.

Øv på å la kjeven fall i ulike posisjoner, når du står, sitter, ligger, står på alle fire eller lener deg forover. Målet er ikke å kunne la kjeven åpne seg mest mulig, men å bli kjent med hva det vil si å gi slipp på spenninger i kjeven. Du kan veksle mellom å la kjeven falle og å gjespe. Å gjespe er en helt naturlig måte å tøye (de fleste av) kjevemusklene på. Etterhvert kan prøve å gi slipp på kjeven ørlite grann mens du fremdeles har munnen lukket.

Når du klarer å gi slipp på kjeven vil du kanskje merke at du puster lettere. Det er en sterk sammenheng mellom å holde pusten og å stramme kjeven. Klarer du å la kjeven være fri er det mindre sjanse for at du holder pusten.

Hvis kjeven din ikke er for stiv, vil det være litt bevegelse i kjeven i takt med bevegelsene av resten av kroppen. Kanskje du kan kjenne at kjeven beveger seg litt for eksempel når du går, eller du kan kjenne hvordan tyngdekraften påvirker kjeven når du lener deg forover for å sette deg ned eller reise deg opp.
Å ha en fri kjeve er veldig viktig for sangere. Spør gjerne en sanglærer for flere øvelser for å frigjøre kjeven. Husk å utføre øvelsene ved å bruke det du har lært av Alexanderteknikk.

Kjeveretning
Øvelsene over er ikke Alexanderteknikk, og øvelsen der du lar kjeven henge har en ulempe. Når noen konsentrerer seg om å la kjeven falle vil de normalt synke sammen i kroppen. Alt går ned, ikke bare kjeven. Hva vi gjør med kjeven må integreres med hvordan vi bruker hele kroppen.

Det enkleste er å ha en bevissthet om lengden av ryggsøyla når du lar kjeven falle. Lengden av ryggsøyla inkluderer nakken. Lar du nakken være lang unngår du kollaps samtidig som det faktisk blir letter å gi slipp på kjeven.

Andre idéer som kan være til hjelp for å gi slipp på kjeven er å la sidene av ansiktet være «lange». Det kan hjelpe til å redusere spenninger i tinning- og tyggemuskler. Innvendig kan du forestille deg å ha masse plass i munn og svelg. Dette kan hjelpe til å redusere spenning i vingemusklene (pterygoid), og kan også hjelpe til å reduserer spenninger i muskler som balanserer hodet og som sitter like foran og på sidene av nakken (Rectus capitis anterior og lateralis).
Å tenke på noe morsomt kan også hjelpe. Et ørlite smil gjør det letter å slippe kjeven. Det må ikke være et glis, bare et glimt i øyet.

Hva du gjør med tunga har veldig mye å si for spenninger i kjeven. Tunga er et kapittel for seg, så den skal jeg komme tilbake til. I denne omgang vil jeg bare nevne at skal kjeven være fri må du la tunga være i fred.

Kjeven er den eneste bevegelige delen av hodet. Det er klart at bevegelser i kjeven vil påvirke balansen av hodet og dermed hva som skjer i leddet mellom hode og nakken (atlanto-occipital-leddet). Det er en ganske vanlig uvane å legge hodet bakover for å åpne munnen, som om det er overkjeven som beveger seg og ikke underkjeven. Dette medfører unødvendig spenninger i nakken. Om du åpner kjeven helt opp, som når du gjesper, vil bevegelse av hodet være naturlig. Ved normal åpning av kjeven, som når du snakker, er ikke det nødvendig. Du kan sjekke om du har denne uvanen ved å ligge i aktiv hvilestilling (semisupine) og observere deg selv mens du snakker.
Med hodet hvilende på bøkene kan du lettere legge merke til om du strammer i nakken. Du kan også holde fingrene på overkjeven mens du snakker for å konstantere at overkjeven er helt i ro og at det er underkjeven som beveger seg. Overkjeven er som nevnt en del av hodeskallen. Det vil hjelpe på bevisstheten om underkjevens form og funksjon om du har en klar forestilling om kjevebeinets posisjon og bevegelse i forhold til overkjeven.

Det er så tett sammenheng mellom hva som skjer i kjeve- og nakkeledd at enkelt sagt blir nakken stiv om kjeven er stiv, og omvendt. I Alexanderteknikken tenker vi på å la «nakken være fri» som en slags sikkerhet for at unødvendige spenninger ikke oppstår når vi setter i gang aktivitet. Det er en god idé å inkludere tanken om at også kjeveleddene er frie.

Vi lar nakken være fri for at hodet skal få gå «fram og opp». Hvis du er spent i nakken, og gir slipp på denne spenningen, vil hodet på grunn av måten det balanserer på ha en tendens til å rotere forover. Samtidig vil den reduserte spenningen i nakken innebære at nakken er mindre sammentrykt. Tilsammen vil dette gi hodet en tendens til å gå «fram og opp».

Kjeven oppfører seg på en lignende måte. Muskelspenninger rundt kjeven vil dra kjeven opp og inn. Slipper du kjeven vil den ha en tendens til å rotere fram og ned. Det er mange måter å stramme både kjeve og nakke på, så «fram og opp» og «fram og ned» vil ha ulik og individuell betydning. Poenget er at hode og kjeve går hver sin vei. For å gi hodet retning kan det hjelpe å tenke seg at kjeven går vekk fra hodet. For å gi kjeven retning kan det hjelpe å tenke at hodet beveger seg vekk fra kjeven.

Generelt gjelder det at det ofte er lettere å gi slipp på spenninger i en del av kroppen om man tenker seg at kroppsdelen beveger seg vekk fra en annen ende av kroppen. Prøv ut det å tenke at kjeven ikke bare beveger seg vekk fra hodet, men også vekk fra for eksempel halebein eller skuldre, hender eller føtter.

Musklene er del av et system som dekker hele kroppen fra topp til tå. Knoklene, inkludert kjeven, er med på å gi lengde og bredde til systemet. En ekspanderende tendens øker synergieffekten mellom beinbygning og muskler. Også kjeven må ha en retning innen dette systemet.

Kjeve-reaksjon
Det er fint å kunne gi slipp på eventuelle unødvendige muskelspenninger vi har i kjeven. Det er også fint å inkludere kjeven i oppmerksomheten når vi forsøker å bevege oss seg mest mulig optimalt. Men det er fortsatt ett element som mangler. Vi spenner kjeven fordi det er en del av vår måte å reagere på. Som vanlig i Alexanderteknikken koker alt ned til spørsmålet om hvordan vi reagerer på stimulus.

For å gjøre en innsats kan vi bite tennene sammen. Det kan være bokstavelig. Kjevespenningen kommer som reaksjon på impulsen til å gjøre noe (stort). Vi må bruke hodet og erstatte reaksjonen med mer hensiktsmessig kraftbruk.
Den viktigste impulsen for kjevespenning er antagelig negative følelser. Stress og angst kan gi spenninger i kjeven. Et forsøk på rotter viste at de fikk økt spenning i tyggemuskelen (masseter) når de ble stresset. Økt kjevespenning er antagelig en helt naturlig ting også hos mennesker. Men kjevemusklene er skjelett-muskulatur som vi har en viss grad av kontroll over. Vi kan velge å ikke gjøre noe med kjeven, selv om det ikke alltid er like lett.

I en stresset situasjon er det normalt ikke mulig helt å unngå økt spenning. Men hvis vi kan inkludere kjeven i oppmerksomheten, og akseptere følelsene, har vi større sjanse for ikke å stramme mer enn nødvendig. Bevissthet om kjevespenningen kan også være et hjelpemiddel til å være mer i kontakt med følelser og pust. Ellers merker man kanskje først etterpå at kjeven er spent, og har gått glipp av hva som egentlig skjedde.

Relatert til følelser er ofte uvaner som å skjære tenner eller gjøre andre ting med kjeve eller tunge. Slike uvaner medfører store unødvendige spenninger og det vil lønne seg å bli kvitt dem. Men det skjer ikke av seg selv. Å endre vaner i forhold til hvordan vi bruker kjeven krever en god del innsats og oppmerksomhet, fordi vi bruker kjeven hele tiden.

Kjevearbeid
Det lønner seg å bruke litt tid og oppmerksomhet på kjeven hver dag. Selv har jeg tenkt på kjeven ganske ofte, mye og lenge. Men når jeg tenker etter har jeg pleid å bruke liten tid og oppmerksomhet på kjeven i min Alexanderteknikk-undervisning. Dette er tydeligvis et hull i min praksis. Kjeven er ekstremt viktig, for det er helt opplagt at en spent kjeve hemmer hodebalansen, fri nakke og fri pust. Jeg skal forsøke å forbedre meg.


Kommentarer? Kommentarfelt nedenfor.


Relaterte blogginnlegg:


Lenker:
Video som går i noe detalj om tinningbein, kjevebein og kjevemusklene:


Kort animasjon av kjeveleddet:

Lær mer om tyggemusklene:



Mer forskning som viser sammenheng mellom kjevespenning, stress og smerte:
«Treatment that helps patients reduce parafunctions, excess masticatory muscle tension, stress and emotional distress should be effective in reducing TMD pain».

Store Norske Leksikon:

lørdag 17. mai 2014

Tradisjon

17. mai er tradisjon. 17. mai er bunad, norske flagg, korps, barnetog, is, brus, pølser og russ i bakrus. 17. mai er ikke en vanlig dato. Det er umulig å tenke på 17. mai uten å tenke på tradisjonene knyttet til dagen. Assosiasjonene til 17. mai-feiringen er så sterke. 
Mange har sine egne tradisjoner på 17. mai. Det er helt bestemte ting som må gjøres. Fast antrekk, fast timeplan, faste aktiviteter og fast meny. Hvis ikke alt er med er ikke dagen komplett. Tradisjonene kan være så sterke at de overskygger hensikten med feiringen. 

Som lærer i Alexanderteknikk er jeg bærer av en tradisjon. Når vi underviser Alexanderteknikk bruker vi hendene som et hjelpemiddel i undervisningen. Dette er en ferdighet, et håndverk, som overføres fra en generasjon til den neste, fra lærer til student, akkurat som folkemusikk overføres fra spillemann til spillemann. Mine lærere var John og Carolyn Nicholls. Deres lærer var Walter Carrington. Hans lærer igjen var Frederick Matthias Alexander himself.

Som bærere av tradisjon viderefører vi noe verdifullt. Vi holder et håndverk levende. I dag da maskiner tar over for mange håndtverkere, finnes yrkestradisjoner som holder på å gå i glemmeboken. Å holde disse ved like har en stor verdi. Det er kunnskap som vanskelig kan lagres digitalt.

Men som tradisjonsbærere kan man også føre videre ting som kanskje ikke fortjener å videreføres. Alexanderteknikken har utgangspunkt i én person, Frederick Matthias Alexander. Alt han sa, skrev og gjorde får en spesiell posisjon.

Alexander var eksepsjonelt dyktig i bruken av hendene. Han kunne skape store forandringer i elevens muskelskjelett-system gjennom kombinasjonen av berøring og bevegelse. Bevegelsen han brukte var i stor grad det å sette seg ned og reise seg opp fra en stol. «Stol-arbeid» er dermed blitt det sentrale element i tradisjonell Alexanderteknikk-undervisning.

Problemet er at selv om stolen gir gode muligheter for læreren til å omorganisere elevens muskelspenningsmønster er det ikke sikkert at bevegelsene inn og ut av stolen alltid er de som er mest egnet som virkemiddel for at eleven skal lære å bruke Alexanderteknikken på egen hånd. Selve Alexanderteknikken, det eleven skal lære, er å tenke «inhibition» og «direction». Eleven skal lære å tenke selv, ikke å sette seg ned og reise seg opp. 
Alexander påpekte for så vidt dette selv. Men opp igjennom Alexanderteknikkens historie finnes eksempler på at tradisjonalister har hevdet at å undervise uten å bruke en stol ikke egentlig er Alexanderteknikk. Bare tull selvfølgelig.

Enda mer krakilsk ble tradisjonalistene når noen kom på at det kanskje ikke er nødvendig for læreren å ha hendene på hele tiden, men at det kanskje til og med er lurt å ta dem av av og til og la eleven prøve seg på egen hånd.
Dette kan ha noe med at Alexander foreslo en snever pedagogiske modell. I kapitlene i bøkene hvor han beskriver læringsprosessen virker det som om eleven bare skal være ganske passiv. Han skal tenke «inhibition» og «direction» mens læreren gjør alt arbeidet med sine hender. Det gir inntrykk av å være en form for dressur eller passiv omprogrammering.*

Slik tenker ikke jeg, og forhåpentligvis ikke de fleste Alexanderteknikk-lærere. Det er ikke engang sikkert om Alexander selv fulgte denne oppskriften i særlig grad. Antagelig var hans undervisning mer eklektisk. Likevel står det på min diplom fra Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique at jeg skal undervise teknikken slik den er utlagt i Alexanders skrifter. Jeg vet ikke om STAT har gått bort fra denne formuleringen. I alle fall er det en anakronisme. En avleggs tradisjon.

Alexander presenterte litt av hvert i sine bøker som ikke er verd å videreføre. For eksempel hadde han en nokså merkelig oppfatning av evolusjonsprosessen. Og i hans første bok finnes rasistiske utsagn. Dette kan kanskje sammenlignes med jødeparagrafen i grunnloven. Grunnloven er heldigvis oppdatert. Alexanderlæreres forhold til Alexanders ideer er dessverre ikke helt oppdatert på alle punkter.

Alexander hadde få begrensninger når det gjaldt å antyde hva teknikken hans kunne forårsake av positive effekter. Det finnes lærere som følger den tradisjonen den dag i dag. Denne uken hørte jeg om en Alexanderlærer som i fullt alvor snakket om at Alexanderteknikken kunne virke forebyggende mot lungekreft. Slikt er ikke akseptabelt. Dette er en av grunnene til at jeg skrev om Eyebody i de tre foregående blogginnleggene. Eyebody er en slags form for alternativ behandling basert på Alexanderteknikken og som hevdes å kurere både det ene og det andre, blant annet både grå og grønn stær.

For de som er inne i tradisjonen kan det være vanskelig å oppdage dens problematisk sider. Det er nyttig med input utenfra. Jeg ble bevisst mine fastlåste forestillinger om 17. mai første gang jeg var i utlandet på den datoen. Det var rart å oppleve dagen som en helt vanlig dag. Det blir som med uvaner. Du aner knapt at du har dem før du oppdager alternativet, noe som er et velkjent fenomen i Alexanderteknikk-timer.

Jeg hadde for eksempel en elev som når han skulle opp fra en stol ikke kunne la være å dra skuldrene opp, dra hodet bakover og gjøre et kast forover med overkroppen. Det eneste han egentlig behøvde å gjøre var å la overkroppen helle enda et lite stykke forover slik at han fikk vekt på føttene, så kunne beina gjøre resten og skuldre og nakken kan være relativt avspent. Da han oppdaget den nyere og enklere måten virket det neste som en åpenbaring. Bevegelsen ble mange kilo lettere. Men det gikk ikke like bra alle gangene til å begynne med, for selv når det finnes enklere måter vil vi gjerne holde på den måten vi er vant til, holde på tradisjonene.

Du har helt sikkert dine egne 'tradisjoner' når det gjelder hvordan du beveger deg og gjør dagligdagse ting. Jeg har mine egne. Jeg vet at ikke alle er like bra. Vi må alltid prøve å oppdatere tradisjonene slik at de tjener oss til noe positivt og ikke er en blokkering. Noen Alexanderlærere anbefaler knepet med å bytte om på høyre og venstre hånd i dagligdagse aktiviteter. Det fører ikke nødvendigvis til at du gjør ting bedre, men du får i alle fall et nytt perspektiv på ting.

Tradisjoner må fornyes, akkurat som grunnloven er blitt fornyet i disse dager. Prinsippene i Alexanderteknikken er også en slags grunnlov, en rettesnor for å ha et bevisst forhold til egne handlinger.
Prinsippene kan forstås og tolkes på ulike måter, noe som fører til ulike tradisjoner og retninger innen Alexanderteknikken. Min tolkning av prinsippene skriver jeg om i denne bloggen. Bloggen feirer 5 års-jubileum i disse dager. Det er også blitt en tradisjon.

God 17. mai!

*Se for eksempel Constructive Conscious Control, del 2, kapittel III Imperfect Sensory Appreciation og kapittel IV Illustration.


Relaterte blogginnlegg:


lørdag 10. mai 2014

Eyebody part 3

The art of integrating eyes, body and brain – and letting go of glasses forever

Alexander Technique teachers have a natural interest in vision. Vision is our dominating sense. Its influence on how we think, act and live should not be underestimated.
Peter Grunwald is regarded by many as the leading authority on eyesight and visual functioning in the Alexander Technique community He has developed his own approach which he calls The Eyebody Method.

In the first and second parts of this article I presented the ideas behind the method and the health claims made. In this third part I'm discussing whether the Eyebody Method works at all. I'm also having a look at the kind of thinking underlying the method. Finally I outline the challenges facing the Alexander Technique and the Eyebody Method respectively.

Does It Work?

In recent years two Norwegian physiotherapists have developed a self help method in collaboration with a well known neurologist to help patients with anxiety, depression and musculo-skeletal disorders.(1) The method consists of using deliberate focused attention on simple specific movements. The idea behind the method is that the brain's networks for planned movement, body image and focused attention to some extent overlap with networks for anxiety and pain. Through the execution of simple, planned movements the influence of anxiety and pain is reduced due to increased proprioception, clearer body image and improved balance.

It is obvious that this process is likely to take place when applying the Alexander Technique in activity. I suggest that this also could be a relevant explanation for the Eyebody Method.
The process of applying 'panoramic vision' and conscious depth perception' may well lead to “increased feeling of safety, satisfaction and overall well-being” (Grunwald 2004, p. 38). In this sense the Eyebody Method could actually work.(2)

But, the subtitle of the book Eyebody is: “The art of integrating eyes, body and brain – and letting go of glasses forever”. The method is claimed to help against disorders that prevents clear-sightedness, like myopia, presbyopia, astigmatism etc. Vision is about more than seeing clearly, but seeing clearly is what glasses help us do. Glasses do one thing – they correct refractive errors. Can the Eyebody Method correct refractive errors and give clear sight?

The Eyebody Method has elements from the Bates Method.(3) The Bates Method has been around for a hundred years without being documented as effective for visual acuity. If the Bates Method actually were effective in improving eyesight this could easily have been documented by now. That the Bates Method improves eyesight to any significant degree is extremely unlikely. To the degree that the Eyebody Method overlap with Bates, it is not effective either.

Despite this there are reports that the Bates Method improves eyesight. The reasons for this could be many. If you become more aware of what you see, you notice more. This could be interpreted as seeing 'better'. Likewise, if you use habitual tension in an effort to see, letting go of this tension makes seeing easier, which also could be interpreted as seeing 'better' without there being any change in acuity.(4) Reduction in strength of prescription glasses could be due to incorrect prescription at the outset. The possible sources for errors are numerous.

But maybe the Eyebody Method has something more to offer? This is the outlining of the necessary steps to treat myopia:

“To reverse this condition we need to build up the connection to the reptilian brain through panoramic awareness of the retina, the layer of the choroid all the way to the lens, the vitreous humour and the pathways to the reptilian brain, before we can establish the connection to the limbic system (frontal area of eyes) and the upper visual cortex (auxiliary area of eyes). With conscious depth perception we can integrate the visual system, including the fovea centralis and the lower visual cortex for focused sight" (ibid, 62).

Can this help against myopia? Very unlikely. You see the same pseudoscientific nonsense as revealed in part 1 of this article. But the process of being present and aware through 'panoramic awareness' and 'conscious depth perception' could improve the state of mind. What Eyebody has that Bates hasn't, is what it got from the Alexander Technique: mindfulness in activity.

The state of mind will influence what a person sees. But it does not mean that the person's eyesight has improved. It only means that he/she makes the best out of the vision abilities available.(5) Grunwald gives two examples in his book of someone going to the optometrist when exhausted, unwittingly weakening his argument instead of strengthening it.(6)

'Letting go of glasses' does not imply that you see better, only that you've got rid of the glasses.(7) Glasses are a bit like a prosthesis. If you have a prosthetic arm you can throw it away and make the best out of what you've got left. The arm won't grow out again. You can throw away your glasses and learn to live happily without them, but I wouldn't bet on your eyesight improving.

There are some indications that lifestyle may influence vision.(8) In Alexander Technique terminology we would say that 'use affects functioning'. If this is the case there could be some truth in the anecdotal evidence of vision improvement from Alexander Technique lessons, and the Eyebody Method. The general failure of methods of 'natural vision improvement', however, makes it necessary to be very cautious. We may say that we help people use themselves to the best of their abilities, but until it is documented I consider it foolhardy claiming to increase clear-sightedness.

The Alexander Technique is effective against specific problems by improving general use. For instance, it can help reduce habits of strain and tension which people with visual impairment may acquire in the use of the head and neck in attempting to see better. The Eyebody Method might also help alleviate these tendencies.
The problem with the Eyebody Method is that its proposed working mechanism for improved general use is fatally flawed. If the Eyebody Method works it is not because of the theory behind it, but despite of it. There are no plausible reasons for the Eyebody Method being more effective than the Alexander Technique. But maybe the Eyebody Method has got something that the Alexander Technique has not?


Remember from part 1 that seeing clearly is, according to Peter Grunwald, not the primary function of the visual system (ibid, 38).(9) Reading the case stories in Eyebody one gets the impression that the teaching is some kind of psychotherapy. Living happily is what the Eyebody Method is about. In a case story about a woman with myopia Grunwald writes:

“In addition to raising her children K worked in human resources for a large corporation. Her time was split between administration using computers and talking on the phone, lecturing to groups and consulting people.

She said she sometimes got stressed, frustrated, and angry and she felt she was on an emotional rollercoaster. She often felt overwhelmed trying to juggle her family commitments, work and personal interests. She felt supported by her husband, although their lives had drifted apart. She was not overly concerned about this, although it was at the back of her mind. Anxiety had always been part of her life” (ibid, 63).

As the learning process goes on she experiences change:

“She became aware of a new way to deliver her presentations and said she felt much more 'in tune' and present, more able to 'hold' her audience. In a similar way she felt that her connection with her husband changed in quality and he noticed that she seemed more available in their relationship” (ibid, 64).

The other case stories have similar elements

Watching and listening to Peter Grunwald he comes across as a very warm and gentle human being. It would not surprise me if he has great ability in connecting to people, making them feel seen and cared for, and having the ability to creating a supportive atmosphere. I'm sure many who have taken part in workshops and had lessons with him experience true personal growth during the process.(10)

In these situations, however, and in particular during workshops lasting a week or weeks, mechanisms of group psychology may cause a kind of brainwashing (in a very pleasant way) which leaves people convinced that their eyesight has improved in ways it has not.(11)

These mechanisms can work even stronger when elements of faith healing (12) are introduced. This is from an article in a Danish magazine describing a workshop with Peter Grunwald:

“To begin with we were asked to visualise our day as it had been until then. Inside my head a little person moves in funny staccato movements, swirling all by herself through the morning, arriving to where I now was sitting. [...] It is very exciting to see Peter's work, and all participants queued to experience it first-hand . It went quickly. After having told about my vision, he puts his hands on my head and 'talks' with my brain. “I just work as feedback. The brain itself does the work,” he says. It is not easy to hear what he says to my brain, but I catch some things: “Willingness to trust” is repeated, and “let go of content of confusion”. He moves his hand about a bit and also places a hand on my back. I don't know what happens, but I can sense an increasing well-being. When he is finished I feel more invigorated. I think of the little person that swirled around in my head that morning ... This man has really got something.” [My translation from Danish]

The journalist obviously interprets hands-on Alexander Technique work as something magic. The real magic is that Peter Grunwald can communicate directly with a brain. There are strong elements of spirituality (13) in Grunwald's ideas. He has not only created a method for vision improvement, but also a belief system.(14)



The Belief System

In Eyebody you find this case story:

“Back in 1992 I was leading a workshop for a small group of participants. A woman, rather slumped and hunched with dark sunglasses and a white cane, was guided into the room by her son. The son left and the woman stayed for the two-day workshop. Over the two days the woman was able to recognize more and more images. With my help she began to be more upright and looked both younger and taller. She was obviously enjoying herself more. At the end of the second day everyone in the group took a partner blindfolded through the adjoining garden for a walk as an exercise. We had not previously been in this garden, but when it was the blind woman's turn she took her partner for a walk, as everyone else had done. We were all amazed at the woman's ability to manage the walk so easily and at her uprightness and poise. When I congratulated her on her ability to do this, she didn't respond. After completing the workshop that afternoon, the son came back to pick her up. The woman took her sunglasses out of her bag, took the cane her son gave her and slumped down as she left the venue. I have neither seen nor heard of her since. From that day on I promised myself that I would only work with people who had the commitment to make constructive changes in their lives” (Grunwald 2004, p. 102).



Grunwald fails to see that the woman had learnt a great deal, but she had not yet learnt how to respond to the stimulus of using the cane. Instead he interprets the woman's response as a sign of lack of commitment.(15)



“To illustrate what I mean by commitment, imagine that you are in a new partnership. At first there is the honeymooon phase, and any frustrations or criticisms of your partner is overlooked. Then little things can start to bother you. Commitment is needed to overcome these ups and downs” (ibid, 14).


There will come times when you begin to have doubts about the Eyebody Method. Maybe that is why Grunwald seems to put particular emphasis on the attitude or 'belief system' of the pupil:
“In my teaching I guide people to find new solutions and make different choices. Often I notice that the feeling and belief of 'I can't do it' is stronger than the 'I can redirect the visual system so that seeing is effortless and clear.' The 'I can't do it' was not part of my own belief system, although for people who revert back to wearing glasses this may be a hindering thought pattern. In my teaching I work directly with this counterproductive thought form as its importance cannot be underestimated” (ibid, 109).

Commitment is not sufficient. You need belief, maybe even a leap of faith. If you don't 'get it' there is something wrong with your thought pattern. Maybe you need a shrink:
“When I work with someone who has almost no ability to contact their vitreous humour I may refer them for psychotherapy” (ibid, 84). (16)

To 'redirect the visual system' you need a special kind of thinking:
“What we usually call 'thinking' occurs in the frontal lobes of the neocortex and is what I call 'two-dimensional thinking'. But there is another sort of 'thinking' that has its origins toward the back of the neocortex, an area I call the upper visual cortex. I associate this area with conscious, three-dimensional thinking” (ibid, 14). (17)

“The frontal lobes do not coordinate the whole as vision generated within the upper visual cortex does. We place high value on frontal lobe thiking in modern culture. Our frontal lobes are able to deliver information, news, facts and statistics. [...] Our frontal lobes are sohpisticated and important, but they do not coordinate our whole selves” (ibid, 54).

Grunwald seems to have a negative attitude towards the frontal lobes, which he associates only with logical thinking. (18) You saw this negative attitude also in part 1 (See the section “Vision leads”). Logic and reason is dangerous to a belief system built on imagination and not on facts. This is probably one reason he doesn't want you to be too sceptical:
“What is required for me to start learning this Method? 
There are few basic requirements. A certain level of commitment and willingness to change is fundamental. It is important to keep an open mind when learning something new. A constructive scepticism can be helpful but a destructive scepticism will not allow you to learn; it will limit you to what you already know” (ibid, 126). (19)

In a learning situation there could be a limit to what level of scepticism is helpful. But even a slight scepticism is sufficient to debunk the theory behind the Eyebody Method. A certain level of scepticism is necessary when considering whether an idea or method is correct or not. There has been far too little criticism of the Eyebody Method. The only thing I have discovered is a vaguely critical review of the Eyebody book in Statnews. (20)

Grunwald is the originator of Eyebody, but he didn't develop it completely without influences from others. (21) These other persons could have given him healthy corrections. Grunwald at times had doubts: “At times I wondered if this was all only in my own head” (Grunwald 2004, p.119). Possibly, outside influence could have made him moderate his ideas.

Instead, the impression is that Grunwald was surrounded by toadies:
“Each January since 1998, a group of enthusiastic and experienced Alexander teachers from around the world have explored the AT principles applied to vision and eyesight, coming together in Auckland, New Zealand. This year we found that glasses had a dramatic effect on our overall posture. Specifically we noticed an automatic slumping when putting on our glasses, even though we were directing our use as well as we could. The occipital bone and the lower back were particularly affected by the shortening and narrowing of the entire visual pathway” (Grunwald 2000, p. 12). (22)

The lack of constructive scepticism has allowed the creation of a method based on beliefs and not on reason. A belief system is difficult to criticise. Criticism from outside more often than not only causes stronger convictions among the believers. Change must come from within the congregation.

The Challenges
The Eyebody Method is endorsed by many in the Alexander Technique community. They fail to see that the emperor has got no clothes on. Generally, Alexander Technique teachers lack the ability to spot pseudoscience and unrealistic claims. There is a lot of pseudoscience in the Alexander Technique world. The Eyebody Method is only the tip of the iceberg. This situation is unsustainable because ideas contrary to common sense and scientific facts will sooner or later fail.

We have got to be open to new ideas. But at the same time it must be possible to openly criticise these ideas, to put them to the test. The Alexander Technique is very much about getting rid of the things that we don't need. We don't need obsolete ideas, be they from me, from Peter Grunwald, or even from Alexander himself.

We are on the threshold of a new era for the Alexander Technique. More and more research is being carried out on its effects and possible working mechanisms. A knowledge of scientific method and scientific process will be helpful in meeting the challenges of on the one side not overstating positive results, and on the other accepting the negatives. They will come, because the Alexander Technique is not a panacea. We need to be ready to face the facts. (23)

The challenges facing Peter Grunwald and his Eyebody Method are these:
-stop promoting bogus claims. Claims of helping conditions like glaucoma, cataracts and macular degeneration are irresponsible, unethical and in some instances illegal.
-stop promoting pseudoscience. The current theoretical framework of the Eyebody Method is nonsensical to such a degree that it can not be taken seriously. The practical method can function fine without it.
-don't meet criticism with: “Oh, but you have to experience it”. It is fully possible to make the criticisms I have made and still acknowledge the experiences people have had with the method. Experiences are real. The explanations are bunk.
-consider stop claiming to improve eyesight and instead rebuild the Eyebody Method as a 'mindfulness' technique where awareness of vision is used as a tool.

The Conclusion
The Eyebody Method is an alternative therapy derived from the Alexander Technique, based on pseudoscience. The method promotes bogus claims of health effects and seemingly asserts to engender permanent clear-sightedness so that you can 'let go of glasses forever'. None of these claims have been documented. The Eyebody Method could potentially work as a 'mindfulness' technique.


Please feel free to comment below.

NOTES
1) The physiotherapists and the neurobiologist have published two books. I have written unpublished articles on the books and their relevance to the Alexander Technique. I'll email pdf copies of the articles to anyone interested. Translated into English the titles of the books are The Balancing Code and The Learning Key. As far as I know the books are not published in English. 
I have also written blogposts about the books intended for the general public: Balansekoden og Læringsnøkkelen (sorry, Norwegian only).

2) Interestingly a main tenet in this method (Learning Oriented Physiotherapy) is that people experiencing anxiety often have problems with balance and that this problem is related to having become reliant on sight for the adjusting of balance at the expense of proprioception. Balance is of the highest priority in the brain, and 'breaking' the 'balancing code' means to build up the proprioceptive sense to becoming free of having to rely on vision. Vision processes are too slow and resource consuming to be an effective balancing agent. This speaks against Grunwald's claim that the 'upper' visual cortex has a coordinating role in the functioning of the brain. But when it comes to activating brain networks through deliberate awareness I choose to give the Eyebody Method the benefit of doubt, saying that in this respect it works approximately along the lines of the Alexander Technique.

3) “ ..., Peter had synthesized the Alexander Technique and the Bates Method of Natural Vision, ...” (Galen Cranz in the foreword, Grunwald 2004, p. 8). The Bates exercises of 'palming' and 'sunning' (with eyes closed) are suggested as suitable exercises for beginners (ibid, 114-116). The Bates Method or other forms of 'natural vision improvement' are not found to improve vision.

4) I touch upon this in a blogpost on the Alexander Technique and eyesight: Synssansen (Sorry, Norwegian only).

5) This is parallel to a musician performing at her/his best in a favorable state of mind. The musician makes the best use of her/his abilities. It does not mean that the level of skill has increased.

6) The first one is about himself when he went to an optometrist for lens reduction. (Grunwald 2004, p. 23). The other is a fictitious example of someone visiting the optometrist while tired on a Friday afternoon, (ibid, 58).

7) Grunwald's antipathy towards glasses is based on his misunderstanding of how vision works. But, having said that, wearing glasses is never a perfect solution. It can lead to various negative habits concerning the use of the eyes, head and neck, which in their turn have a negative effect on 'use' in general. The Eyebody Method might have an influence on these habits, but so do the Alexander Technique.

8) A study has found Myopia Increasing in the U.S. Population and another that Outdoor Activity Reduces the Prevalence of Myopia in Children. The problem here is that the reasons or working mechanisms for this is not found. It is impossible to tell whether the Alexander Technique or the Eyebody Method could have any impact.
Heredity is probably the most important factor in juvenile myopia: Parental myopia, near work, school achievement, and children's refractive error. Undercorrection of myopia enhances rather than inhibits myopia progression. This seems to contradict Grunwald's theories.

9) This is expressed very nicely in a blog by a workshop participant:
“The Eyebody method can improve your vision. I am not even talking about the number of lines you see on the Snellen chart or the refractive error that the ophthalmologist can measure. In many cases these things can undoubtedly be achieved by changing the way you are using your visual system, however it seems that for most adults it is essential to not (over)focus on objectively measurable vision improvement. When I talk about improving your vision I mean enhancing your visual experience so you can see and notice more things, so the environment (things and people) you see are more alive and you feel more connected to the environment. I mean making vision a source of joy rather than a burden, which it often is for me, even when I see very clearly whatever I need to see.”

10) A British massage therapist who took part in a 3 week Eyebody retreat in 2010 has written a very fine account of it. (You can skip the middle part about the accommodation): The Eyebody Retreat 2010 in Detail
There is a wide variety of activities used in the teaching of the Eyebody Method, including meditation, dance, ball games, psychotherapeutic exercises etc. In this YouTube interview Grunwald is asked whether former participants will learn something new. Apparently the content of the teaching is constantly developing. If there are other sources out there on the net with descriptions of workshops/lessons, please let me know.

11) This is because, as Grunwald states: “It's the brain that sees, not the eyes!” (Grunwald 2004, p. 25). Grunwald uses this almost as a slogan. This may give the impression that Grunwald knows something about vision that others don't know. Having studied Grunwald's ideas it is clear that he does not.
An interesting fact is that one can detect visual stimuli, albeit subconsciously, even when the visual cortex is damaged. This is called blindsight. Without the eyes, however, we can't see a damned thing.

12) “Faith healing is dangerous in its practice and uncertain in its results” (Alexander 1996, p.215).

13) There are several references to spirituality in Eyebody, but especially on pages 105-107, when the subjects are meditation and 'death and dying'. Here Grunwald says about the 'upper visual cortex' that: “It is the place some might call the 'doorway', where we connect with a non-physical realm of guidance. This may well be the place from which we depart when we die. [...] If we have lived life connected with the higher region of the visual pathway we can move through it and out this doorway through the upper visual cortex; leaving the body and staying conscious in the process of leaving” (Grunwald 2004) It seems as if Grunwald sees the Eyebody Method as a spiritual practice. 
It is my impression that the emphasis on spirituality increases in more recent material. In this YouTube interview he also talks about 'death and dying', and he touches upon spirituality in this second interview with Robert Rickover.
I want to make clear that it is not my intention in any way to criticise Grunwald for his religious beliefs, only his pseudoscience and unfounded claims.

14) Grunwald regards the Bates Method as a belief system. It would be quite natural if he regards the Eyebody Method likewise: “In his elegant, comprehensive book The Art of Seeing, he [Huxley] synthesizes Alexander's principles and Bates' practical methodology and belief system [...]” (Grunwald 2004, p. 15).

15) Grunwald blames the woman for the failure. A teacher (Alexander Technique teachers not the least) should never ever blame the pupil.

16) The vitreous humour is the gel like substance filling most of the eyeball. Grunwald think it is related to emotions: “Then there are those feelings relating to the reptilian brain and its fight or flight response, those of fear and anxiety, which I relate to the vitreous humour, the fluid that supports the eyeball from within” (Grunwald 2004, p. 84). The vitreous humour is produced by cells that degenerate after birth. It has no blood supply and changes very little. If you believe you can feel your vitreous humour you have a vivid imagination. If you can't, it just means that you are not that gullible.

17) It seems as Grunwald has turned the popular idea of left-brain/right-brain into a back-to-front model. He can't possibly, by the way, choose what parts of his brain to employ.

18) The frontal lobe is associated with reasoning, planning and problem solving. But also parts of speech, movement and emotions. It is not such a cold and sterile place as Grunwald envisages. Brain Structures and their Functions 
Grunwald's 'holistic' definition of vision includes planning ahead (Grunwald 2004, p. 52), meaning that the Eyebody Method principle of 'vision generated within the upper visual cortex leading' (ibid, 54) must by necessity involve the frontal lobes.

19) Grunwald creates a false dichotomy between being open minded and being a sceptic. A sceptic will change any opinion in the face of solid evidence. Someone with opinions based on a belief system will not budge.

20) The reviewer says that:
“The most curious and innovative ideas are those that detect sympathy between particular parts of the body and the visual system. This fascinating section is the most radical, and to my mind we were asked to take most of it on trust. The four 'Eyebody Principles' contentions made me a little nervous. I found no testing of these principles within the text. [...] I met the author at Oxford last year and he suggested that I attend one of his courses, to better understand the book, which is probably good sense. However this inflates the price from £15.95 to several hundreds. I take his point, but I do believe that a published book should make its own case. The Use of the Self is not a comprehensive guide to the Alexander Technique, but it is perfectly understandable. Perhaps Peter Grunwald has found a wonderful means of 'letting go of glasses forever' as the cover proclaims. I am afraid that I could not tell from reading the book whether he had or not” (Greenoak 2005).

21) Here are some quotes showing Grunwald's collaboration with colleagues: 
“I attended numerous Alexander conferences to share with and get feedback from my international colleagues, to find out if I was still on track. And many helped me further” (Grunwald 1999b).
“This year, in collaboration with some of my colleagues, I was able to research successfully directing the sclera, cornea and outer layer of the optic nerve to affect indirectly the functioning of the shoulder girdle, arms and hands. These directions are seemingly essential for reversing the malfunctional pattern causing astigmatism, a curvature of the cornea” (Grunwald 1999a).
“During the last intensive workshop in January, held in New Zealand, a group of enthusiastic Alexander teachers from around the world discovered the intrinsic workings of the accomodating area of the eye” (Grunwald 2002).

22) It is not only Grunwald's Alexander teacher colleagues who are responsible. I suspect a certain cranio-osteopath to be particularly to blame for the creation of a bunk neurobiology: “When I 'found' the vitreous humour I sensed that there might be a pattern in all this. [...] Hugely encouraged by that, I sought out a very good cranio-osteopath to work with in his way. I needed some help to get into the area behind the eye - the optic nerve. He unknowingly helped me to open up the stretch between the eyeball and the visual cortex, which lies in front of the occipital bone. And there I found the whole area of the lower parts of the body” (Grunwald 1999b).

23) The case of homeopathy is a tragic example of alternative health practitioners desperately holding on to debunked theories in the face of facts. It is my hope that Alexander Technique teachers will behave with more dignity and intelligence.

Literature and resources
Alexander, Frederick Matthias (1996): Man's Supreme Inheritance. Mouritz.
Fadnes & Leira (2006). Balansekoden. Universitetsforlaget.
Fadnes, Leira & Brodal (2010) Læringsnøkkelen. Universitetsforlaget. 
Greenoak, Francesca (2005). Book Review: Eyebody. Statnews Vol. 6 Issue 15. 
Grunwald, Peter (1999). Eyesight and the Alexander Technique. Statnews Vol. 5 Issue 3.
Grunwald, Peter (1999) The Eye-body Reflex Patterns. Direction Journal volume 2, number 7, Vision issue.
Grunwald, Peter (2000). Eyesight and the Alexander Technique. Statnews Vol 6 Issue 1.
Grunwald, Peter (2002). Presbyopia and Glaucoma – New observations applying the Alexander Principle. Statnews May 2002 Vol. 6 Issue 7.
Grunwald, Peter (2004). Eyebody, The Art of Integrating Eye, Brain and Body – and letting go of glasses forever. 
Grunwald, Peter (2005) .Integrating Eyes, Brain and Body. The Congress Papers, 7th International Congress of the F.M. Alexander Technique. Stat Books.
Løgstrup, Mette. (2008). Eyebody. Article in the magazine Nyt aspekt og Guiden september-oktober 2008.

Online interviews:

Other online resources
YouTube presentation: Peter Grunwald on Eyebody
Alternatives London presents a workshop in the Eyebody Method:
The website for the Eyebody method: eyebody.com
Introduction and first chapter of the Eyebody book (pages 12-24):
Summary of the chapters in Eyebody:
Account of a 3 week Eyebody retreat by British massage therapist. 
Blog with writings on eyesight, Eyebody, Bates and the Alexander Technique: 

lørdag 3. mai 2014

Eyebody part 2

The art of integrating eyes, body and brain – and letting go of glasses forever.

Vision is our dominating sense. Its influence on how we think, act and live should not be underestimated. Peter Grunwald is regarded by many as the leading authority on eyesight and visual functioning in the Alexander Technique community. In the first part of my article I presented the principles underlying Grunwald's Eyebody Method. In this second part I write about the health claims of the Eyebody Method, and about some of the things Grunwald says about the functioning of the eyes.

A cure for all ills

In the Frequently Asked Questions section in his book Eyebody(1) Peter Grunwald writes:
“Does this Method help every condition?
Generally speaking, yes. It is possible to change most eye or body problems by gradually working with and coordinating the entire visual system. Specific visual and physical conditions will, over time, improve and begin to function naturally and optimally” (Grunwald 2004 page 123).

Grunwald believes all visual dysfunctions have a common origin: 

“My understanding is that all visual dysfunction arises not in the eyes themselves, but in the brain; specifically in the function of the upper visual cortex. The upper visual cortex guides the whole visual system”(2) (ibid, 37).
If you are near-sighted, this is what Grunwald believes happens inside your head and eyes:

“The upper visual cortex contracts onto the limbic system which then presses against the reptilian brain. As a result of this the auxiliary areas of the eye will tighten, followed by a tightening of the frontal area of the eye. The pressure on the third ventricle causes the pupil, retina and choroids to contract. The panoramic part of the retina receives less light and the panoramic photoreceptors transmit less stimulation to the thalamus. The thalamus then deflates and moves back and down, pulling the optic nerves along with it. This creates an elongated eyeball” (ibid, 61).

In other words – if you are nearsighted you have a 'deflated' thalamus. One can wonder whether a thalamus actually can 'deflate', and if so, how Grunwald is able to know that it is 'deflated'.

Fortunately, he advises medical attention in urgent situations, like in the case of retinal detachment, a condition which can lead to blindness.
“In the case of detached retinas, for example, it is very important to seek medical advice immediately – a laser operation will help the choroid and retina to function together again” (ibid, 60).
But he does not shy away from suggesting that the Eyebody Method can help prevent recurrence:
[...] But then some time after the operation it is important to undo tensions and contractions which have resulted from the operation itself, to undo the tension which caused the retina to detach in the first place, and to re-educate the visual system to prevent recurrence. (3) (ibid)

In the Frequently Asked Questions section Grunwald also writes:
“Will the Method help glaucoma, cataracts or macular degeneration?
Yes, in all three conditions the overall activity of the visual brain needs to be increased first through conscious depth perception. Eye improvements will follow”(4) (ibid, 123).
Glaucoma, cataracts and macular degeneration are all serious conditions that are major causes of blindness.

“no person shall publish, or cause or permit to be published, any medical advertisement that (a) directly or by implication claims, indicates, or suggests that medicines of the description, or medical devices of the kind, or the method of treatment, advertised will prevent, alleviate, or cure any disease, or prevent, reduce, or terminate any physiological condition specified, or belonging to a class of disease or physiological condition specified, in Part 1 of Schedule 1;”
Schedule 1 is a list of diseases and conditions. Cataracts and glaucoma are on the list.(5)

I don't know if Peter Grunwald is legally bound by this, but I think ethically he should be. (6)

The Medicines Act of 1981 also states that 
“no person shall publish, or cause or permit to be published, any medical advertisement that— 
[...] directly or by implication claims, indicates, or suggests that a medicine of the description, or a medical device of the kind, or the method of treatment, advertised—
(c) (i) is a panacea or infallible;”

Conditions mentioned in Eyebody and upon which the Eyebody Method apparently is supposed to have an effect are: astigmatism, bunions, cataracts, depression, detached retinas, dry eyes, floaters, dyslexia, fear and anxiety, general fatigue and exhaustion, glaucoma, headaches, hearing difficulties, heart problems, high/low arches of the feet, hip joint pain, hypermetropia, immune deficiency or auto-immune disorders, jet lag, light sensitivity, lower back pain, macular degeneration, memory problems, menopause, irregular or painful menstrual cycles or menstrual tension, migraines, myopia, pelvic imbalances, poor blood circulation or feeling of pins and needles, poor night vision, presbyopia, reproductive disorders, scoliosis and spinal dysfunctions, shin disorders, neck and shoulder tension, singing difficulties and speech impairment, squints, throat disorders, tinnitus, varicose veins. (Grunwald 2004. Most are from pages 60-89)

Snake oil, anyone?

Apart from the specific eye conditions, a similar list could have been derived from the writings of F.M. Alexander. We should be careful not to repeat his mistakes.

Even if you hurt your back in an accident, the Eyebody Method is apparently the answer:
“The pain may go away, whether over time or by means of physical intervention, but the contraction, pain or trauma of the lower back can still be found in the visual system, even years later [...]”.
You can try any other modality and maybe feel better:
“If I have sessions of cranial osteopathy, Feldenkrais, Alexander, structural integration, massage, physiotherapy, chiropractic, or other body or mind/body work, my body may feel lighter and I may feel more aware and alive, and pain-free. I might be thinking more clearly, be more coordinated and in better shape.”
But it just doesn't do the trick:
“... this is likely to have only a marginal affect on my visual system as the appropriate relationship of the brain region to the eye area has not been addressed directly.”
Peter Grunwald's Eyebody Method is what you need:
“Only when we bring consciousness into the visual system can these patterns be dissolved from the source” (ibid, 48).

Peter Grunwald is probably an honest person, but he definitely sounds like a quack.


The pseudoscience
Peter Grunwald gives the impression of being someone who knows a lot about eyesight and the brain. Whenever he writes or speaks he produces strings of words from the medical dictionary. A closer look, however, reveals that his understanding has serious shortcomings.

You have already read about the 'deflated' thalamus of the myopic brain. In the corresponding description in his article in the Oxford Congress Papers Grunwald states that: “This in turn narrows and shortens (depresses) the thalamus, which literally pulls back and down and pulls the optic nerve downwards with it, shortening the brainstem and spinal cord. This causes the eyeball to over-lengthen and hence allows the light to fall short of the fovea centralis, the area of photoreceptors within the retina needing stimulation for the brain's ability to perceive clarity” (Grunwald 2005, page 158).

It is clear that he believes that there are mechanical changes somehow taking place in the brain. Could it be that he takes the popular idea of neural plasticity a few steps beoynd reason? One could forgive him by thinking it is meant only figuratively, but when he writes that the thalamus “literally pulls back and down” he obviously believes it actually happens.

Peter Grunwald is very fond of fluids. Apparently believing that they are so 'subtle' that they can be influenced by our thoughts:
“There is a hierarchy in our organization: the overall coordination of the brain is at the top and the body is at the bottom. The body is made of dense matter while the brain and visual system is made of delicate tissue [...] The system of organization goes from more subtle to less, [...]” (Grunwald 2004, page 82).

About the vitreous fluid - which he 'relates' to the “reptilian brain and its fight or flight response” (ibid, 84), he writes:
“The vitreous humour plays a major role in the balance of emotions [...] by releasing the vitreous humour, the jelly like fluid within the eyeball, emotions are eased and the lower back and visceral organs will gradually function normally” (ibid, 126).

“Detached retinas [a sight-threathening condition] often seem to happen in conjunction with an emotional stress, like a loved one dying or a sudden relationship break-up. The vitreous humour contracts or shortens very rapidly so the retina is suddenly not supported and pulls away from the choroid” (ibid, 78).

“Allow this vitreous humour fluid to be alive. Notice you can move this fluid by visualizing it” (ibid, 114).

“In some people this fluid can start to solidify and have little ability to move” (ibid, 84).

The vitreous fluid is the gel-like substance that fills most of the eyeball. It is produced by cells which degenerate after birth. It has no blood vessels and changes very little. In older people it can liqueify and increase the risk of retinal detachment. You wouldn't want to move it around even if you could. (7)

One thing is Grunwald's warped concepts of brain physiology. Even more serious, maybe, is his failing understanding of how the eyes function.

In the above quote from the Congress Papers Grunwald says that the changing eye-ball “allows the light to fall short of the fovea centralis”. Strictly speaking this is wrong. The light doesn't stop. It is the clear image that 'falls short'. We understand what he means, but this error may shed some light on other peculiarities. (8)

This is what Grunwald believes about the use of glasses or contact lenses:
“As we have seen, lenses are cut in such a way that light is directed onto the fovea centralis, so that the 5% of the brain within the lower visual cortex receives constant, intensive amounts of stimulus and picks up a clear image” (Grunwald 2004, p. 57).
This is wrong. The clear image comes not from the amount of stimulus received. The amount of stimulus is irrelevant as long as it is not too dark.

Grunwald continues:
“A major side effect is that we are using only 5% of the photoreceptors actively and 95% lie dormant. The rest of the retina is not stimulated. And just as the retina is not being stimulated, so the rest of the visual cortex is not being stimulated or activated. A large portion of our brain is being starved of information and stimulation” (ibid).

He says something similar in the May 2000 issue of Statnews: “Prescription lenses focus the light only onto the fovea centralis, where we receive information for clear sight. This way of seeing excludes light from the all-important peripheral vision” (Grunwald 2000, p. 12).

It seems as if Grunwald believes that using prescription glasses or lenses reduces the amount of light hitting outside of the fovea. Glasses may create artificial alterations in the field of vision, requiring adaptation. It is not a perfect solution. But they don't prevent the retina outside of the fovea from being stimulated. And even if there are any impairments to peripheral vision it is unlikely that this means that 'a large portion of our brain is starved of information'. The advantage of being able to see clearly is probably much more important to brain activity. (9)

There seems to be almost no limit to the ills the use of prescription glasses might cause. According to Grunwald they may even make your head shrink slightly:
"Wearing glasses or contact lenses can create patterns of thinking and seeing wich may affect the memory and the ability to visualize, while causing an overall subtle contraction of the surrounding bone structures of the skull" (Grunwald 2004, p. 57).

About the retina Grunwald says that:
“The retina consists of at least ten layers of photoreceptors called rods and cones” (Grunwald 2004, page 28).
This is incorrect. The retina has multiple layers, but only one layer of photoreceptors.

He presents a simplified description of the retina:
“Cones are found within the fovea centralis and the macula which surrounds it; this area is responsible for detailed vision. The rod photoreceptors are situated in the peripheral area of the retina beyond the edge of the macula, [...]”
What he doesn't tell you is that there are also cone receptors beyond the macula, even though the number of rod receptors dominate.

Grunwald believes you can access the rod receptors at will by using panoramic vision:
“When you think of using your panoramic vision you are accessing, by means of your intention, more of your rod receptors and thereby stimulating different pathways in your brain.” (ibid, 36)
Even if true it wouldn't necessarily help as rod photoreceptor activation depends very much on light conditions.

Grunwald puts much emphasis on the rod photoreceptors, probably because signals from the area outside of the fovea goes to the area he calls 'the upper visual cortex' where you can find his 'primary coordinating mechanism'. (10) This could also be one of the reasons he recommends using pinhole glasses (11):
“Pinhole glasses have pin-sized holes stamped out in black plastic. The specific size of the holes helps light reach the fovea centralis, where the cone photoreceptors send messages to the lower visual cortex for clear-sightedness. The result is similar to that of wearing normal prescription glasses. As an additional benefit, the blackness of the plastic helps stimulate the 95% of photoreceptors within the peripheral area of the retina (the rods – as in night vision) which send messages to the thalamus and to the upper visual cortex. This means the all-essential panoramic vision is stimulated” (ibid, 110).

The rod photoreceptors are active when there is less light. But covering the eyes with plastic will not give these receptors anything useful to do. One can wonder why he criticises prescription glasses for hampering the peripheral vision when pinhole glasses excludes it almost completely. One can also wonder how someone like Grunwald, who has such a scant understanding of how the eyes function has managed to become the vision-guru of the Alexander Technique world (12).


Grunwald ends one of the chapters in Eyebody by telling about two old ladies, aged 81 and 100 respectively, who found that in old age they no longer needed glasses for reading. (ibid, 108) Grunwald seems oblivious to the fact that this is not unheard of. Due to the general tendency for presbyopia, someone myopic may with age experience that they no longer need glasses in some situations. Indeed, this may well be something some of his pupils and workshop participants experience when they are able to 'let go of glasses forever'.

Does the Eyebody Method work at all? That is the question I will discuss in the next part of the article. I will also be discussing the wider implications for the Alexander Technique community.


Please feel free to comment below.


Related blogposts:
Eyebody part 3

NOTES
1) My main source of information has been the first edition of the book Eyebody from 2004. An updated version was published in 2007 but I have reasons to believe that Grunwald's theories have been extended but not modified.

2) Attributing all illness to a single cause is very often wrong and very often a sign of quackery. Alexander Technique teachers tend to regard 'misuse' as the cause of most problems and we should be very careful not overstating it.

3) Grunwald warns against laser eye surgery: “After these operations the eye remains myopic, that is, elongated towards the back and contracted towards the front. The visual cortex is still contracted, with resulting contraction in the rest of the visual system. All that has happened is that instead of glasses on the outside to compensate for the shape of the eye, the cornea has been permanently altered, thus fixing for life an area that may hinder the movement in the frontal area of the eyes. This frequently leads to presbyopia. The conjunctiva and cornea relate to the neck, throat and shoulder area. Thus a laser eye operation can – long-term – cause physical problems in the torso, neck and head beyond those caused by the dysfunction the surgery was performed to treat. The limbic system and the corpus callosum can be adversly affeted which can create different problems over time” (Grunwald 2004, page 60).
Only operating when necessary is a good principle, and the value of laser eye-surgery can be debated, but here Grunwald is effectively scaring people with nonsense.

4) On the FAQs page on his website he answers the question like this:
“Will the Method help glaucoma, cataracts or macular degeneration?
In all three conditions the overall activity of the visual brain needs to be increased first, then: (a) in case of glaucoma it is necessary to release the shortening in the areas of the front of the eyes (especially the Canal of Schlemm); 
(b) in the case of cataracts, to bring nutrition into the fluid of the lens so that it can decalcify and the capsule of the lens can function optimally;
(c) with macular degeneration, applying the principles helps the retina, the vitreous humor and the choroid behind the retina to function better. Even if you have had an operation to correct one of these conditions, the habits, which set up the problem in the first place, can be modified using the Method.
The core areas of the rest of the body likely to be affected are:
1. Glaucoma: a tightening of the upper chest affecting the lymphatic system and the heart area, also there is an affect on the pelvis/hip area and the femur bone connection.
2. Cataracts: affects the diaphragm and the breathing with very often a marked curvature of the upper back and shoulders.
3. Macular Degeneration: affects are shown in the pelvic area, lower back and visceral organs.”
In Eyebody he also explains how he deals with glaucoma:
“After establishing the primary coordinating mechanism, people with glaucoma need to relate the visual pathway through the limbic system together with the frontal area of the eye, especially the canal of Schlemm, the optic nerves, optic discs, the retinas and the choroids to activate the thalamus” (Grunwald 2004, page 71).
And cataracts: “As with all dysfunctions, establishing the primary coordinating mechanism is the first step to undo the pattern of cataracts. The frontal area of the eyes, the retina and vitreous humour need to be stimulated so that the fluids of the lens can be supported with nutrients to undo the calcification. The reptilian brain and limbic system play a major role in this, together with the efficient functioning of the pineal and pituitary glands. Even if there has been a cataract operation, it is vital for the long-term health and optimal functioning of the eye to establish the primary coordinating mechanism and prevent recurrence” (Grunwald 2004, page 73. For additional imaginative descriptions of visual pathologies, see pages 60-81).

5) Peter Grunwald indicates that his method can help against cataracts and glaucoma several times in the book Eyebody, and in several other connections: In the article The Eye-body Reflex Patterns in Direction Journal vol 2 number 7, on the front page and FAQs page on his website, eyebody.com, in this recent flyer adverticing a one-day workshop, in this YouTube interview promoting a workshop at Alternatives London (around about 1:50), in this interview at Robert Rickover's bodylearning site for podcasts on the AT, and at this information page about events at the 2015 International Congress in Ireland.

6) Medsafe, the New Zealand Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Authority, has a “Guidance for Natural Health Practitioners” with some exemptions from the Medicines Act 1981, but there are still some things Natural Therapists can't do:
“What Natural Therapists can't do: [...]
Advertise methods of treatment to prevent, alleviate or cure the diseases or conditions listed in Part I of the First Schedule to the Medicines Act 1981.” That is: they can't claim to prevent, alleviate or cure cataracts or glaucoma.

7) The vitreous humour has a very high water content but a viscosity up to four times that of water. When the gel liquefies it is the collagen fibers in the gel that begin to lump together.

8) In the second of two interviews with Robert Rickover, Peter Grunwald begins his outlining of the visual system by talking about the speed of light, which may impress the ignorant, but which is quite irrelevant.
http://bodylearning.buzzsprout.com/382/108137-how-the-alexander-technique-can-help-with-vision-improvement-part-2

9) I have not been able to find information about research that could give any indication that the use of lenses or prescription glasses causes reduced activity in the brain.

10) The rod photoreceptors are important because Grunwald claims that: “Using panoramic vision actually stimulates the functions of the thalamus and hypothalamus, essential for the optimal functioning of the entire physical mechanism. If the thalamus and hypothalamus are not being adequately stimulated by panoramic vision, the parasympathetic functions of the body – such as the heartbeat and breathing – will suffer and the body will be adversely affected. This happens when we use focused vision exclusively; we stimulate only the lower visual pathway” (Grunwald 2004, page 36).

11) Peter Grunwald sells his own brand of pinhole-glasses, with “special hole sizes”. In the US it is illegal to claim that pinhole glasses improves eyesight (Wikipedia: Pinhole glasses) and in the UK there have been court cases (The Independent: The Truth about Pinhole Glasses). 
When Grunwald promote his pinhole glasses in this YouTube video (at 3:23), he is at pains at telling you that they are not designed for alleviating particular symptoms. He claims “the brain's optimal focus is being used.” and that the visual system will start to improve. He then goes on to say they are good for “near-sightedness, far sightedness, for people with presbyopia,” and for lower backs. In Eyebody he writes that: “They help in cases of short-sightedness, far-sigthedness, astigmatism, and middle-aged sight.” (Grunwald 2004, page 127) The same claims are repeated on the FAQs page on his website: http://www.eyebody.com/faqs/index.cfm#pin3

12) After I published this article Grunwald wrote an article in Statnews January 2015, vol 8 issue 8, titled ''Applying Alexander principles to seeing without glasses'''. In the article he writes: ''Glasses for nearsightedness are cut just like a magnifying glass, and once I became aware of how they really affected me I had the image of trying to start a fire in my retina'' (Grunwald 2015, p. 23).
This is not correct. Glasses for nearsightedness are not cut like a magnifying glass. In myopia, the light is focused in front of the retina. Prescription glasses or lenses are used to disperse the light. It is quite remarkable that Grunwald has promoted seeing without glasses for more than two decades, but doesn't know the basic facts about how glasses work. Maybe even more remarkable is it that he is himself nearsighted. He has not even got around to understand how his own glasses work.
In the January 2015 Statnews he still mentions the speed of light, which is quite irrelevant.


Literature and resources:
Grunwald, Peter. The Eye-body Reflex Patterns. Direction Journal volume 2, number 7, Vision issue (1999).
Grunwald, Peter. (2000). Eyesight and the Alexander Technique. Statnews May 2000, vol 6 Issue 1.
Grunwald, Peter (2004). Eyebody, The Art of Integrating Eye, Brain and Body – and letting go of glasses forever. Eyebody Press, New Zealand.
Grunwald, Peter. (2005). Integrating Eyes, Brain and Body. The Congress Papers, 7th International Congress of the F.M. Alexander Technique. Stat Books.
Grunwald, Peter. (2015). Applying Alexander Principles to Seeing Without Glasses. Statnews Jan 2015, vol 8 issue 8.
The website for the Eyebody Method: eyebody.com
Eyebody FAQs page:http://www.eyebody.com/faqs/
YouTube presentation: Peter Grunwald on Eyebody 
New Zealand Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Authority, Guidance for Natural Health Practitioners: http://www.medsafe.govt.nz/profs/NaturalHealth.asp