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March 19, 2024 by Nicholas Brandon

My current teacher, whom I have been studying with Penelope Easten corroborates many of Alexander’s discoveries with the latest science which you may find interesting, she speaks a lot of Prof McGilchrist’s research, and I have found similarities in Prof Huberman’s research. Humbemans has a hugely popular YouTube channel.  https://www.youtube.com/@hubermanlab/videos



Professor Andrew Huberman, a prominent neuroscientist and professor at Stanford University, has conducted extensive research on the relationship between vision, breathing, and the nervous system. His work sheds light on how our visual habits influence not only our perception but also our physiological responses, including breathing patterns and nervous system regulation.

One key insight from Professor Huberman’s research is the concept of “gaze control.” He emphasizes that where we direct our gaze can profoundly impact our physiological state. When we focus our attention on distant horizons or expansive vistas, our breathing tends to become slower and deeper, promoting relaxation and reducing stress. This phenomenon is linked to the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system, often referred to as the “rest and digest” response. This is the optimal state for poise, presence, creativity, compassion and happiness.

Conversely, when we narrow our gaze or fixate on screens or close objects for extended periods, our breathing tends to become shallow and rapid. This is associated with heightened sympathetic nervous system activity, commonly known as the “fight or flight” response. Prolonged engagement in these visual habits can contribute to feelings of tension, lack of poise, anxiety, and physiological arousal.

Professor Huberman also highlights the role of the diaphragm, the primary muscle involved in breathing, in regulating the nervous system. By consciously engaging the diaphragm through deep, diaphragmatic breathing, we can activate the parasympathetic nervous system, eliciting a relaxation response and promoting a sense of calm.

Furthermore, Professor Huberman’s research underscores the interconnectedness of vision, breathing, and emotional regulation. He suggests that by strategically shifting our visual focus and adopting mindful breathing practices, we can modulate our physiological responses and enhance our ability to manage stress and anxiety.

There are indeed connections between Professor Huberman’s research on gaze control and the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system, and the work of Professor Iain McGilchrist on the functions of the left and right hemispheres of the brain.

Professor McGilchrist’s research, as outlined in his book “The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World,” explores how the left and right hemispheres of the brain have distinct roles and functions.

In particular, he highlights how the right hemisphere is specialized for processing holistic, spatial, and contextual information, while the left hemisphere tends to focus on more narrow, analytical, and detail-oriented processing.

No doubt you will recall in lessons the practise of allowing the view to come to you, with a soft open expanded awareness as well as thinking of spatial awareness, which is the relational space you inhabit around you and the ground and Earth beneath you. Not forgetting the fuller, deeper, expansive three-dimensional breathing.

Professor McGilchrist’s research on Right Hemisphere Dominance in Spatial Awareness: The right hemisphere is primarily responsible for processing spatial information and contextual awareness. When we direct our gaze towards distant horizons or expansive vistas, we engage the right hemisphere’s spatial processing capabilities. This activation of the right hemisphere may contribute to a sense of expansiveness and relaxation, aligning with the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system.

Left Hemisphere Influence on Focused Attention: Conversely, when our gaze is directed towards close objects or narrow points of focus, we may be engaging the left hemisphere’s tendency towards focused attention and detail-oriented processing. This narrow focus may be associated with heightened sympathetic nervous system activity, as the left hemisphere is more closely linked to aspects of vigilance and stress response.

In essence, the connection between Professor Huberman’s research on gaze control and the parasympathetic nervous system, and Professor McGilchrist’s work on hemispheric specialization, suggests that our visual habits not only influence our physiological state but also reflect underlying patterns of brain function. By understanding how different modes of visual attention correspond to activation in specific brain hemispheres, we gain insights into how we can modulate our physiological responses and promote well-being through mindful engagement with our visual environment and of course our body intelligence.

When I speak of body intelligence, I mean the importance of cultivating an expanded field of awareness, an understanding of how the various parts of our body fit together, this being one of the basic tenets of the Alexander Technique work. If you change how you think, you can change how you move. And if you change how you move, you will change how you feel. “Body mapping” works directly on the “thinking”. By changing our conceptions of how our parts fit together, we can change how we move them. The accompanying feeling can be a sense of lightness, ease, balance, presence, strength – and fascination with the wisdom underlying our creation.











Practical Tips for Cultivating Poise Presence and Awareness

Mindful Seeing: Take moments throughout the day to consciously observe your surroundings with a soft, wide gaze. Allow your peripheral vision to expand, taking in the entirety of your visual field. Notice any habitual tendencies to narrow your focus and gently release tension in your eyes face and body.

Palming: Give your eyes a restorative break by practising palming. Rub your palms together to generate warmth, then cup them over your closed eyes without applying pressure. Breathe deeply and allow your eyes to relax in the darkness. This simple practice can alleviate eye strain and promote relaxation.

Neck Release: Recognize the connection between your visual habits and body tension. Engage in gentle neck releases by nodding your head forward and back, allowing the weight of your head to release any accumulated tension in the neck and sub-occipital muscles.

Whole-Body Awareness: Practise the Alexander Technique principle of whole-body awareness. Notice how your visual habits influence your posture, movement, and overall sense of ease. Cultivate a sense of unity between your eyes, head, neck, and spine, allowing for fluid coordination and balanced alignment.

Mindfulness Practices: Incorporate mindfulness practices into your daily routine to enhance your overall awareness and presence. Engage in activities such as meditation, deep breathing, or mindful movement to cultivate a sense of calm and clarity in both mind and body.

By embracing the interconnectedness of vision and body use, we can unlock the full potential of our visual system and promote holistic well-being. Through mindful practices and intentional awareness, we can enhance our eyesight, alleviate tension, and cultivate harmony between mind and body. Let us embark on this journey towards clearer vision, vibrant health, and embodied presence.

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