Eye Exercises

There are a number of exercises which help vision. Versions of these have been known in some cultures for thousands of years but the best known exercises were invented by American ophthalmologist, Dr William Bates.

Meir Schneider

These exercises were popularised by Meir Schneider. He was born blind because of and glaucoma, had five unsuccessful operations as a child, leaving him with scars over 99% of his lenses. He could only see light and shadows and was declared blind and advised to study using Braille. He visited many doctors who told him it would be impossible to improve his vision. In spite of this he refused to give up.

He was fortunate to meet up with a lady who had studied the use of movement to help with her own health and taught him to sense the connection between his own body and his eyes. She introduced him to a boy with rapidly declining vision. This boy had used the eye exercises devised by Dr William Bates to successfully improve his vision. Meir practised these exercises with great perseverance and learned how to relax his eyes. He made slow progress but was rewarded: after eighteen months he was able to read print without glasses. Ten years after starting his work he was granted an unrestricted driver’s licence. His vision improved from 0.15% to 40% of normal.

Eye Exercises

A basic exercise is to stop what you are doing every 20 minutes and deliberately look into the distance and focus on this without strain for 1 minute. After close work, such as computer work, Schneider recommends looking into the distance for 3 to 4 minutes every hour. This relaxes the eye and is a good habit to get into and he believes this prevents cataracts. Focusing on objects in the periphery of vision is also helpful.

Being outdoors for at least an hour per day (without glasses or contacts) also helps vision as it exposes the eye to natural light. Walking at night is also beneficial as it restful to the eyes.

There are many other eye exercises but a basic one is palming. Dr Bates felt the eyes needed rest (they are moving even during sleep). Palming also releases rigidity in the eye muscles. It also releases non-specific tension. Cover the eyes with the palms and make sure the arms are in a comfortable position and the whole body is relaxed. You may need pillows to support the arms. Rub the hands to warm them. Close the eyes and cover with palms keeping the hands a little cupped aiming to shut out all the light. Breathe slowly and deeply as you do this. It may help to imagine deep blackness. You may see flashes of light. Aim for a twenty minute session with a minimum of 5 minutes. Meir Schneider has sometimes used marathon 11 hour sessions with remarkable gains.

Another useful exercise is sunning. It teaches the eye to accept light without strain. People who squint and dislike light will particularly benefit and it helps glaucoma. This is done with weak sunlight coming at an angle to the eyes. Sit outside or at an open window (not through glass or with glasses on). Close your eyes and roll the eyes slowly from one side to the other by 180 degrees. You will notice different colours. Green means you are straining. Try about 40 turns for 2 to 3 minutes. Palm for a minute or two after and repeat – ideally carrying on for 10 to 15 minutes. A variation is to do sunning with one hand on the forehead and one on the back of the neck.

Another exercise is blinking which massages the eyeballs and helps movement of the pupils. A good exercise is to lie on your back and gently roll the neck from side to side. When comfortable with this then open and close your mouth as you roll the neck then add regular blinking. Do it for several minutes – it relieves tension in the eyes and face. Another blinking exercise is just to blink as you roll your head from side to side.

For peripheral vision you need to get a piece of paper and tape it over most of the eyes so you only see out of the corners. Then make circles with a finger of each hand at the edges of your visual fields –making the circles gradually bigger. This stimulates peripheral vision and allows more light into the eye.

David Webber

David Webber developed iritis at the age of 43. Despite medication, eye injections and several operations he gradually went blind. He then heard about Bates and Meir Schneider. Then his meditation teacher gave him four eye exercises from an eye-healing Buddhist tradition. These exercises were to meditate on the colour blue-black four hours a day (which is the only colour to completely relax the eye). Then he was to lie on his back with hands on his belly and knees pointing to the ceiling. Then to put his palms on his eyes to further relax them. Third he must blink frequently. Fourthly he was to sun his eyes in morning and late afternoon. (It was though that Bates derived his exercises from this Buddhist knowledge).

Webber struggled to do these exercises. But he didn’t give up. Next he studied the works of Moshe Feldenkrais and located some tapes of Feldenkrais’s teaching on eyes. This involved him lying on the floor where he knew he had to completely relax his eyes and nervous system. As the lesson progressed he had to feel the weight and shape of his eyeball. They felt as if they were floating in warm pools. His mind became quiet and he knew he had found the key. He had to scan the body, bit by bit, and notice any tension and keep his breathing calm and slow. As any movement of one part of his body can affect another it involved his whole body relaxing not just his eyes. He had to do this without straining. He then did palming. He was instructed to notice any colours present whilst palming. If there were colours he was told his eyes were not quiet. He was to find a point that was darker or blacker and then let it spread but without effort. After palming he was to move only his eyes (not his head). Each movement had to be slow and quiet. Little by little his eyes improved. He found it helped to open and close his hands before palming to release any tension from his hands – this helped his eyes pick up a relaxed state. After 6 weeks his vision was 20/20 in his left eye. He had trained his eye to see again (for a more detailed account see The Brain’s Way of Healing by Norman Doidge).