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Yoga For Your Eyes (Article)

by Jeff Hickman, Product Manager for TOTAL HEALTH Nutrition Center

We have all experienced a loss of flexibility in our bodies as the years roll by. Whether it is from a lack of stretching or as a result of injury, our muscles are tight and simple things like touching our toes or scratching the middle of our backs may have become impossible. Turn on an early morning Yoga show and see what is possible when you have a limber body. It’s amazing to see how limber the body is designed to be!

Athletes know that stretching is essential for maximum performance and every sport has specific regimens that relax and stretch the muscles used in their sports. When most people try to stretch, they use a pumping motion that causes some small pains, which make us feel we are stretching the muscles back out. What we are actually doing is forcing some small tears in the muscles – not actually stretching them longer. To stretch a muscle properly, you need to relax the muscle from its tightened, stressed state. Warm water, a hot tub or topical analgesic ‘sport’ crèmes all help the muscles relax. So when was the last time you relaxed your eyes? Could the same principles used in Yoga, relaxation, imagination & stretching also be used to improve vision? William Bates thought so!

In the last few years, there have been a number of programs that claim you can get rid of your eyeglasses without surgery. The regimens have ranged from essential oils massaged into pressure points around the eyes to daily use of the Tibetan Eye Chart. Behind many of the programs are ideas of William Bates, M.D. and his theories are over 55 years old. In 1940, his book The Bates Method for Better Eyesight Without Glasses presented his theories & studies on improving eyesight. Bates had ideas that presented a revolutionary approach to why the eyes lose their ability to focus. “In the same way you may temporarily improve the sight by effort, but you cannot improve it to normal, and if the effort is allowed to become continuous, the sight will steadily deteriorate…”1. It seems Bates was saying that trying to see is the problem. “The eye with normal sight never tries to see…Whenever the eye tries to see, it at once ceases to have normal vision…It requires a strain to fail to see at the distance, because, as I have already stated, the eye at rest is adjusted for distant vision.” 2. Bates felt that if the strain was relieved and the eyes were allowed to relax, vision would improve. Hence, my title ‘Yoga for the Eyes’ is about to take a new meaning.

Bates continues, “The eye possesses ‘perfect vision’ only when it is at rest…. The act of seeing is passive. Things are seen, just as they are felt or heard or tasted, without effort or volition on the part of the subject…. In imperfect sight they (letters on a test card) are sought & chased. The eye goes after them. An effort is made to see them. The muscles of the body are never supposed to be at rest. The blood vessels, with their muscular coats, are never at rest. Even in sleep, thought does not cease. But the normal condition of the nerves of sense – of hearing, sight, taste, smell & touch – is one of rest. They can be acted upon; they cannot act. The optic nerve, the retina and the visual centers of the brain are as passive as the fingernail. They have nothing whatever in their structure that makes it possible for them to do anything, and when they are the subject of effort from outside sources their efficiency is always impaired” 3. It sounds like our rational mind would try to work to see better, when in fact it is all our close up computer work, reading and eyestrain under artificial light that is the source of the problem. Is it only a coincidence that when we are on a picnic or at the beach, we comment that we should do this more? Could it be that our eyes are getting the rest they need?

An excellent example of this theory is when you are outside and hear a plane overhead. You try to see it, but there is nothing except the sound. When someone (who can see it) says ‘look way out there’, you suddenly see it! What happened? For an instant, your imagination kicked in & you rested, while imagining the plane being ‘way out there’ and there it was! You saw it by relaxing – not trying harder.

So how do we relax our eyes? During sleep our eyes can never rest unless the room is completely black. The outside streetlights, glow of clock, the LED light on the VCR or a nightlight in the next room all prevent the eyes from relaxing. In Chapter IX – Palming, Bates discusses absolute blackness that is needed for the eyes to rest, along with ideas in being able to imagine or visualize perfect blackness. Palming is the technique of placing the palms over the eyes and looking into perfect blackness. “It is impossible to see perfect blackness unless the eyesight is faultless, because only then is the mind at rest; but some people can without difficulty approximate such black nearly enough to improve their eyesight, and as the eyesight improves the deepness of the black increases.” 4. I have tried to fall asleep with my palms over my eyes, but I always wake up with my arms at my sides. Even though I awake refreshed, my eyes, which flicker at times during the night, had only a few minutes of complete blackness…. Until I started wearing a sleep mask!

Initially, wearing a sleep mask to bed is a little strange and I found myself waking upright in bed disoriented, but I would put it back on and quickly regain sound sleep. After a week, I was hooked! The relaxing that happens in 8 hours of complete blackness is exactly what Bates theorized would enable the eye to improve its ability focus. The key is to relax to see better – not try harder or rely on an aid, like glasses.

Bates also attribute presbyopia or “old sight” to the same lack of being able to relax the eyes. He feels that “the truth about presbyopia is that it is not ‘a normal result of growing old,’ because it can both be prevented and eliminated. It is not caused by a hardening of the lens but by a strain to see at near-point (which he refers to as close up)…. It has been shown that when the eyes strain to see at the near point, the focus is always pushed farther away than it was before…when a person with presbyopia rests his eyes by closing or palming them, he always becomes able, for a few moments at least, to read fine print at 6 inches. 5.

In the last chapter of the book, XXIV – The Fundamental Principles of Treatment, Bates sums up his findings by saying “the object of all methods used in the treatment of imperfect sight without glasses is to secure rest or relaxation, first of the mind and then of the eyes. Rest always improves vision.” 6.

So, whether you have perfect vision or wear glasses, you owe it to yourself to try a sleep mask and let your eyes take a Yoga Break while you sleep. And who knows, maybe you too will relax your eyes to better vision!

The preceding is a compilation of the author’s interpretation of William Bates book, The Bates Method for Better Eyesight Without Glasses and his own experiences. It is not meant to diagnose or suggest a treatment for any vision condition. A sleep mask is not a medical device and may or may not have any benefit and should not be worn while operating a motor vehicle. Persons that sleepwalk & live in penthouse apartments should continue to wear voice activated parachutes to bed. Now go back to sleep & rest your eyes!

1. The Bates Method for Better Eyesight without Glasses, William Bates. 1940 ~ Pg. 44-45. 2. The Bates Method for Better Eyesight without Glasses, William Bates. 1940 ~ Pg. 45 3. The Bates Method for Better Eyesight without Glasses, William Bates. 1940 ~ Pg. 46-47. 4. The Bates Method for Better Eyesight without Glasses, William Bates. 1940 ~ Pg. 64. 5. The Bates Method for Better Eyesight without Glasses, William Bates. 1940 ~ Pg. 137-138. 6. The Bates Method for Better Eyesight without Glasses, William Bates. 1940 ~ Pg. 193.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. TOTAL HEALTH does not prescribe or recommend products, but shares product details & key factors that determine why we stock our particular products.
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