I have studied many programs and books on natural vision improvement over the past two years. These books and courses in vision improvement have many common characteristics. Most admit that what they teach contradicts what your eye doctor will tell you about vision. They also include eye exercises of various types. In my experience, the only doctors who will give you eye exercises are developmental optometrists. They specialize in functional vision improvement. That means they can help you teach your eyes to work better together, but do not advocate improvement in visual acuity (distance vision). In contrast, the natural vision improvement programs teach that you can completely rid yourself of glasses or contact lenses.
Each program begins with a discussion of the eye’s structure and the function of each part of the eye. Most also provide a list of terms with definitions. One common misconception that is often addressed is that we are born with certain eye challenges. However, vision is actually a learned process. Some of us don’t develop all the visual skills we need and so we find other ways of coping or accommodating for the visual deficit. Visual development depends on the experiences and environment of each individual. Good early visual skills can be damaged later by stress, poor nutrition and aging. Some people don’t develop good visual skills early on, others are compromised by excessive exposure to fluorescent lighting or hours of computer eyestrain. And most significant for me: some people see in 3D while others view the world as basically flat.
Since vision is a learned skill, it can also be improved through practice and teaching, which is the foundation of all vision therapy. One of my favorite books on improving your vision is: Improve your vision without glasses or contact lenses: a new program of therapeutic eye exercises. It’s by the American Vision Institute: Dr. Beresford, Dr. Muris, Dr. Allen and Dr. Young. I like it because it gave me a technique none of the other programs suggested, one that I knew I could incorporate into my life rather easily. It’s called “a year of traffic lights.” The suggestion is to do eye exercises at each stop light. The authors presuppose that the average person will stop at approximately ten lights per day for about 2 minutes at each light, providing about 20 minutes for practicing eye exercises. That’s what my vision therapist recommends anyway. It means that I can do a little extra, depending on how much travel I do that day.
They simplify the exercises down to “Seven new visual habits.”
Habit #1: Pumping. Other programs call this near/far focusing. The specific details of this exercise vary, but the basic idea is the same. It’s even one I have done at my doctor’s office in a manner specific to my eye issues. Focus on the smallest detail of an object about 6 inches away and then rhythmically change focus to something more than 15 feet away. Choose a different object each time you focus in the distance, while the near object stays stationary.
Habit #2: Tromboning. My doctor actually called one of the exercises in his office by this name. There are various names given for this technique, but the basis is the same.; Hold an object (finger, thumb, pen, etc.) at arm’s length in front of you and slowly bring it toward you until it touches the tip of your nose. Then move it slowly back out to arms length, like a musician playing a trombone. You should keep it in focus, not seeing double, while breathing slowly in and out with the movement.
Habit #3: Clock rotations. Start by looking at a far object directly ahead. While keeping head and shoulders still, look to the far left, as if looking at the 9:00 on your giant clock. Stretch for a couple of seconds, not looking at anything in particular, then return to far object at the center. Repeat for 10:00, 11:00, etc. all the way around the clock. Do it slowly. This stretches the extraocular muscles.
Habit #4: Eye Rolls. Slowly roll eyes in a complete circle one way then the other. Aim for coordination and control as you stretch the extraocular muscles. This should never be done violently or with any jerking. You don’t want to see flashes of light because that signals stress to the retina. The goal is to develop smooth, controlled eye movements. If it makes you dizzy to do clock rotations and eye rolls, you can cover your eyes with your hands to do them with your eyes open underneath. (You probably don’t want to cover your eyes at the traffic light, howeverJ.)
Habit #5: Slow Blinking. Inhale and blink normally. Close eyes as you exhale, relax and slowly blow the air out. The object is to just relax, slow blinking in time to your slow breathing.
Habit #6: Squeeze Blinking. Squeeze eyelids tightly shut and hold to a count of three. Open wide and blink a few times then keep repeating. This produces more tear fluid to refresh the eyes. Isolate the eyelid muscles as you repeat this exercise.
Habit #7: Blur Zoning. This also has various names (magic pencil, etc.). Slowly run your gaze around the edge of a blurred object, following the outlines. Myopes (nearsighted individualsl) will look at a far object while hyperopes (far-sighted people) or presbyopes (those who need reading glasses) will look at a near object. (Choose what is blurry for you.) Study the smallest detail you can see and work to determine the exact shape, working on smaller and smaller details. Avoid squinting as you calmly pick out more details.
ROTATE techniques at each stoplight. They can also be done during TV commercials, or when reading or talking on the phone. You can also do them while walking or weight lifting (during whatever exercise you do.)
These seven techniques are found in various forms in most of the programs I have studied. Improve your vision also includes sixteen booster techniques which range from positive (power) thinking to chart scanning to acupressure, light therapy and palming. My favorite is the last one: aversion therapy. It is suggested that after you have adapted to a weaker prescription you smash the previous pair. You get out all the negative feelings and commit to better vision. I probably couldn’t really smash a perfectly good pair of glasses, so I would choose to donate them to someone less fortunate instead. ( If you keep the frames, they recommend that you wrap the lenses in adhesive tape and put them in a plastic bag before smashing them so pieces of glass don’t fly everywhere.)
Several times in the course of this book, readers are encouraged to use the techniques under the care of a behavioral optometrist. The authors share the address for COVD (College of Optometrists in Vision Development) and OEP (Optometric Extension Program Foundation). There are no phone numbers or website information, probably because the book was published in 1996. Searchers can now find answers regarding vision therapy on the COVD and OEP websites. This is one of the few books or programs which suggests working with a behavioral optometrist. I have found it a helpful starting place in my quest for better vision.