The Road to Healthy Vision

Eyesight is one of nature’s greatest gifts. Protect it.

Dr. William H. Bates (an ophthalmologist) was the pioneer in ‘good seeing’. He related clear vision to relaxed eyes, and poor vision to stressed eyes. In an unexpected twist, he realized that you must work hard to see poorly and do less to see well.

Exercises were designed to restore good vision without glasses. One of his students was Aldous Huxley, who was legally blind (seeing eye dog and a cane) at 16 years old. Huxley restored his vision to 20/20 and then wrote “Brave New World” plus much more.

The Bates exercises are generally useful for eye health. You don’t have to be interested in eliminating your glasses. In today’s computerized world, eye health is critical. Stressed eyes leave us exhausted at day’s end, often with a headache or blurry vision. A destructive circle forms. Straining to see creates eye stress, which leads to stronger glasses, which causes even more stress and headaches, etc.

The basic concept is: use your eyes as they are designed to work. Following is a brief outline of a few key techniques.

1. Palming uses the pads of the hand to cover the eyes. This blocks out all light. Any sparkles you see on the backs of the eyelids become a measure of stress. Those sparkles are basically noise on the retina since no light is present. The palming goal is to achieve total blackness.

2. Sunning is looking toward the sun with eyelids gently closed. The head moves side-to-side or up-and-down. Done correctly, it feels like the whole head fills with light. Sunning conditions the eyes to accept light without squinting. Squinting (light rejection) is undesirable. Sunning and palming are alternated if possible.

3. Shifting acknowledges that only 1% of the retina sees clear detail. As designed, the eyes focus from point-to-point, taking in small clear images. The brain adds up the small clear images to get a large clear picture. The eyes cannot take in large clear images. Any effort to do so simply stresses the eyes.

These simple techniques remind the eyes that they are meant be relaxed. And, the whole body feels that relaxation. Tiredness and headaches decrease. Life seems easier and more fun. You’ll probably want to do more.

Here’s a useful image. Get a sense of the eyes moving outward and forward on the skull, while the picture of interest gently enters through the open space between the eyes. Relaxed seeing is more about “letting it in” than “going out to get it.”

Your eyes are not separate from the rest of the body. Take care of them, and they’ll take care of you.


Jack Menear