Meir Schneider PhD, L.M.T.
Vision is a gift from nature. As many people experience visual deterioration, they accept it as a natural part of life; just like getting wrinkles, white hair, or becoming bald (if you are a Jewish man in his sixties like me). I invite you to challenge this assumption. Why have we evolved into a people who are so advanced, but cannot see as well as our ancestors? What has happened? Just imagine if our prehistoric cavemen ancestors needed glasses. As you read, I hope to unveil the truth about vision and what’s going on behind the lenses of the 75% of our adult population that wears them.
Today, people over a certain age are simply expected not to see well closeup. Oftentimes, when someone over the age of forty has their vision tested, the doctor will say, “What do you expect? You’re not twenty; your close vision is deteriorating.” They are then diagnosed with farsightedness, or presbyopia. When vision begins to worsen, reading glasses are immediately prescribed, leading to a stronger prescription year after year. Thinking nothing of it, they accept their fate and move on, until the next annual appointment; however, it does not have to be so.
Denise, a 72-year-old woman, has been doing my natural vision improvement eye exercises for many years. When she was asked by her eye doctor to read a test sheet, she could read the smallest print! He did not seem happy for her, but rather frustrated, stating, “How can a 72-year-old not need glasses?” Isn’t she the “right age to have them?” Aren’t people supposed to have arthritis because they are 50? Back pain because they are 25? Heart problems at 60? In the therapeutic massage world, we argue against this. We believe that people may tend to become stiff in their forties, but both arthritis and back pain can be prevented through movement, stretches, and massage. Unfortunately, the majority of people believe that the eyes and vision can never improve and only get worse with age. Why is it that we are so quick to assume farsightedness is inevitable?
Why Vision Declines
There are many reasons why vision may decline, from constant use of smartphones to restricted blood flow to the eyes as a result of tight neck muscles. Muscles have a tendency to become weaker around the age of forty; that is why it is important to exercise when we are younger, so that they will be fit later in life. In my sixties, I can testify that I am as fit as a twentyyear-old because of the exercises I have done. I can swim in a cold ocean and run for miles. If I had reached my age having sat in a chair my whole life, I would probably be arthritic. The same holds true for the eyes. In particular, presbyopia comes from stiffness of the lens and weakness of the muscles surrounding it (the ciliary muscles). These muscles allow us to view objects at varying distances. Just like other muscles in our body, exercising the eye muscles when we’re young can help preserve their strength over time.
I do not believe our vision declines due to the inherent fact of aging. Our modern lifestyles are drastically different than those of our ancestors and this leads to many vision problems. Today, we constantly look at things up close while reading, writing, and looking at computers. Consequently, we are putting our visual systems under assault. When we look up close, our ciliary muscles become convex so that our lens can function as a magnifying glass. When we look into the distance, they are stretched and the lens becomes flat, held by the suspensory ligament. Humans used to spend a lot of time looking far away; our existence depended on it. Farmers needed to look at cloud patterns to predict rain or drought, and hunters needed to look far to track game; as a result, their ciliary muscles were stretched often. When we do not look into the distance, we keep the ciliary muscles contracted, leading to continual stress and eventual weakness.
Secondly, we rarely engage our peripheral vision; we have little reason to. In the past, if we walked through the jungle and ignored our periphery, animals would eat us. Today, we can afford to ignore it. When looking at the computer, you look straight ahead without engaging your periphery. As long as there is no threat of a saber-toothed tiger, why bother? But, neglecting our peripheral vision leads to stress on our central vision, leading to eye weakness and farsightedness over time.
Our central peripheral vision is also very important. This is the part of our vision that helps us locate objects in a vast area before narrowing our focus on a visual target. For example, when you look through a telescope, you must first locate the object with your free eye in the broader sky before focusing the telescope on a smaller field. Or, when you read words on a page, you easily track them and the spaces between them. In doing so, you are using your central periphery. A strong central periphery helps to gain visual strength and clarity.
How Can “Natural Vision Improvement” Help?
Glasses may be used to cover the symptoms of strained vision and weak eye muscles, but that does not change the process of visual weakening; it only enables it, just as using a wheelchair will not make your legs stronger. As massage therapists know, when muscles are overworked, they can become weak. For modern people, there is no muscle more exhausted or overexerted than the ciliary muscles. Thus, to preserve our vision and prevent the onset of farsightedness as we age, we must find ways to stretch and relax these muscles. Natural Vision Improvement Therapy can help us do just that. With a few exercises, we can prevent the deterioration of vision. You can learn more about my natural vision improvement exercises later in this issue where I will explain a few to try at home.
A great way to relax the eyes and stretch the lens is to make it a point to look into the distance. When you stare at the computer for long periods of time, take breaks every twenty minutes to look at something far away. It takes a nearsighted eye about a minute and a half to adjust, and a farsighted eye about a minute, so if you look into the distance for 4 minutes, it will guarantee that your muscles are stretched and relaxed. In addition, when you are looking into the distance, wave your hands to the side of your head so they are only visible in your peripheral vision. Stimulating your periphery reduces strain on your central vision.
Make sure that when you are looking at your computer, do so with a soft gaze, and blinking gently and frequently. Also, enlarge the font so that you can see it without your glasses. For example, if it’s hard for you to read letters in font size 10, but you can read them comfortably in size 12, enlarge them so that you can read comfortably until you do more eye exercises and your vision becomes sharper.
There are also several lifestyle modifications that can be made to reduce dependence on reading glasses. If your close vision is just beginning to change, try to postpone wearing reading glasses as long as you can. If you already use them, try to wear them as little as possible. One way to do this is to read in the strong light of the sun. When we read in bright light, our pupils contract, and this helps to compensate for the weakness of the ciliary muscles. Using your pupillary strength, rather than your ciliary muscles, should help you read with less fatigue.
When you go to restaurants or other places that insist on using dim lighting for the sake of romance—which I’ve never understood since I prefer to see the face of the person I’m speaking with—try shining a small light on your menu so you can read it without your glasses. You can also have your date read it to you.
So, if you already wear reading glasses, I will not tell you to get rid of them abruptly. I realize that if you ask people to do what they don’t want to do, they might not listen to you. I would encourage you to read in the sunlight without glasses as much as possible, or read larger print independently of your glasses, so your prescription does not continue to increase.
Start Your Journey Now…
I have provided a few tools with which you can reduce or eliminate the need for glasses, but, ultimately, the work is yours. I overcame childhood blindness resulting from cataracts at birth and unsuccessful surgery. You can definitely overcome farsightedness. Through the practice of natural vision improvement exercises, you can help combat the myth that your vision will only get worse. Moreover, you can also help prevent cataracts, which I strongly believe results from the stiffness of the lens throughout the years. So why not take the time to relax your eyes? Why not preserve your vision? You can revolutionize your life if you do!
Meir Schneider, PhD, L.M.T. (www.self-healing.org), developed a holistic approach for prevention and rehabilitation of degenerative health conditions. He is the founder of the non-profit, School For Self-Healing in San Francisco and author of “Vision For Life: 10 Steps To Natural Vision Improvement”.