eir Schneider was born with cataracts covering both eyes. Multiple surgeries left him nearly blind.
But now at 65, after years of what Schneider calls regular eye exercises and training, his sight is good enough to read, write and even drive.
“My experience is unique because I took low vision and made it weak but workable,” says Schneider, author of Vision for Life: 10 Steps to Natural Eyesight Improvement (North Atlantic). At his School of Self-Healing in San Francisco, he teaches others (including, he says, some ophthalmologists) how to improve sight, in addition to presenting self-healing approaches to other ailments. Schneider also conducts workshops throughout the world.
The World Health Organization says more than 1.3 billion people across the globe suffer from astigmatism, nearsightedness, farsightedness and other vision-related conditions. For them, Schneider’s system could be good news.
“I believe people can be through with their glasses and not need them,” Schneider, now a PhD, says. “People rely on their glasses instead of working to strengthen their eyes. That’s a Band-Aid, a remedial approach. Glasses make see you better, but they don’t fix the problem.”
Instead, Schneider says when people learn to properly relax and strengthen their eyes by performing regular exercises, their vision can improve.
A few small studies, like one published in the journal PLOS ONE in 2013, indicate eye exercises may help improve letter recognition, although the study was inconclusive on whether the exercises were effective for patients with eye-related disorders. An Australian study suggests that exposure to sunlight, rather than sitting indoors studying or playing video games, could prevent children from becoming short-sighted. More research is needed.
Some eye doctors are skeptical. “From the time we are born to the time of our death we lose eye power,” says Nashville ophthalmologist Rebecca Taylor, MD, a spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. “Everybody is on their own trajectory, but nothing will delay it. And as far as any ability to improve visual acuity naturally, there just isn’t good data to support it.” Taylor says corrective lenses are the only answer.
But optometrist Marc Grossman, OD, author of the self-published Natural Eye Care: Your Guide to Healthy Vision and Healing, says that people “need to become active participants in their own vision care.”
Both Grossman and Schneider recommend several exercises:
Palming: Take two deep breaths, lean forward and place your elbows on a table. Close your eyes and put the palm of your left hand over your left eye, so the palm is over your eye but not touching it. You can still blink. Then place your right hand over your right eye, reaching the fingers over the fingers of your left hand, with your head resting in your palms. Do this for three minutes at a time throughout the day to relax your eyes.
Trace a figure eight: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees bent slightly and imagine the figure eight, laying on its side, about 10 feet in front of you. Let your eyes trace the lines of that shape, without moving your head, one way and then the other. Be sure to breathe and blink.
Shift your focus:Look up frequently from the computer or the work and gaze out at a distant horizon many times through the day, to rest the eyes.
Because most people now live indoors and only use their short-area vision, “the modern eye is very stressed,” Schneider says. “When you talk to farmers, their vision is better. In general, the muscles of the lens tend to contract when something is close, and that puts a strain on the muscles and creates problems within the eye.”