Exercising your body makes it stronger. So can exercising your eyes make your vision stronger, too? Unfortunately, there is no evidence that eye exercises improve vision. Your need for glasses is based on the shape of your eye, the size of your pupil, and the ability to shift focus, which declines as we age.
Still, like many alternative remedies, natural vision correction has supporters among some practitioners of holistic medicine and their patients. If you are looking into natural vision correction, here's some background to help you understand the issue.
Quick! Put your hands on your head. Are your glasses there? Grab your neck — are they dangling there? Now, hold your electric bill four feet from your face and try to read it....
Welcome to the midlife version of Simon Says, a nearly universal condition known as presbyopia, which translates roughly to "elderly eye" (as if crow's feet weren't enough). It usually starts in your early 40s, as the lens of the eye stiffens, losing its ability to focus and making it difficult to see objects...
The origin of natural vision correction dates back more than 90 years to William H. Bates, MD. He was an ophthalmologist who wrote Perfect Sight Without Glasses. Bates felt so strongly that wearing eyeglasses over the long term made vision worse that he kept an anvil in his office to smash patients' lenses on it. He called his idea the Bates Method. It promoted relaxation as the solution to poor vision. Still used today, techniques include palming or covering your eyes with your hands, sitting in the sun or in front of a lamp with your eyes closed, doing eye exercises, swaying, and looking for certain colors.
Decades later, eye care professionals such as Marc R. Grossman, OD, LAc, a holistic eye doctor in New Paltz, N.Y., say the Bates method went too far, too fast, but they continue to look beyond glasses for natural ways to fix vision.
"The Bates Method tells people to get rid of their glasses and that doesn't work. You have to give people a slightly weaker prescription so they can work into it gradually. Most people's eyes get worse little by little, so their eyes have to get better little by little," says Grossman.
Exercise for Eyes?
A big part of Grossman's therapy is eye exercise. "The goal is to make the eye muscles more flexible," he says. "Your dentist tells you to brush your teeth to keep them healthy, but your eye doctor doesn't tell you how to keep your eyes healthy." In addition to general eye exercises, Grossman recommends other exercises, depending on your eye condition. One exercise intended to slow the rate of myopia (nearsightedness) involves tracing an imaginary horizontal figure eight with your eyes.
Other vision correction methods that Grossman uses may seem like child's play. "Magic Eye 3-D pictures have been very helpful in improving eyesight as part of a program," he says, having written two Magic Eye 3-D books. "You have to really relax your mind and eyes to look at the images."