You can reduce your dependency on glasses or contacts, and avoid invasive laser surgery with these natural vision therapy exercises

Natural Vision Therapy first rose to prominence in 1937 when Dr. William Bates, an American ophthalmologist, published Better Eyesight Without Glasses.

Though it remains controversial in the ophthalmic community, his studies resonated with physical therapists, psychologists, and NLP practitioners who have applied his theories with great success and function under the moniker of "vision educators." They guide patients through a series of exercises and relaxation techniques aimed at regaining flexibility in the muscles surrounding the eye and retraining the brain to properly process images.

Meir Schneider, a well-known vision educator based in San Francisco, practised the Bates Method up to 13 hours a day and successfully cured himself of congenital blindness. His latest book Vision for Life: Ten Steps to Natural Eyesight Improvement documents his successful blend of Dr. Bates exercises with his own physical therapy methods.  

How the Bates Method Works

Natural vision therapy is not a quick fix. It should be considered a lifestyle shift, similar to incorporating yoga and exercise into your physical health regimen. As in Schneider’s case, with consistent practice and patience, these exercises can bring relief to even severe refractions (the medical term for eyes that don’t focus properly).

A principle of eye therapy is to regularly reduce the built-up tension in our eyes from strain due to squinting, stress, and too much close work or screen time. Relaxed eyes  should be able to see clearly, both near and far, without any effort.

The exercises and relaxation techniques work in tandem to reduce the tension in the muscles surrounding the eyes and use the plasticity of the brain to rewire it to process clear visual details.

An Exercise to Start Improving Your Vision Naturally

One of the simplest and most powerful exercises is called palming. It is a technique aimed at relaxing the optic nerve and releasing any toxicity and strain that may have built up in that area. According to Schneider, this exercise must be done for at least 8 minutes to fully allow your optic nerve to relax. You can do it several times a day, and for longer stretches if you have time.

  1. Clear space and time: Find a space and time where you won’t be disturbed for 8 minutes. Take a deep breath and let yourself be in the moment.
  2. Warm up your hands: Start by giving your hands a short massage to warm them up. You can do this by rubbing them together as if you’re washing them and opening and closing them to give your fingers a stretch.
  3. Cup your eyes: Once your hands are warm, place them over your eyes in a cup shape, but don’t lean on your hands or put pressure on your eyes themselves. You can prop your arms up on cushions on a table to avoid leaning forward.
  4. See black: Now let your eyes enjoy the darkness created by your palms. Imagine a black screen before you. Black is the colour that allows the optic nerve to fully relax. Imagine the walls being painted black. Imagine the sky as black as night. Imagine black letters being written in black ink or black charcoal colouring a black canvas. Keep thinking of black, black, black for the entire 8 minutes. Have fun with it and let your imagination run wild.
  5. Relax your eyes: Feel your eye muscles soften and let go. When the 8 minutes are up, gently remove your hands from your eyes.
  6. Feel the rejuvenation: Blink several times to allow your eyes to readjust to the room. Look around and enjoy the brightness and rejuvenation your eyes will feel.
  7. Repeat daily: Practise this exercise regularly and consistently in order to achieve vision improvements.

For more exercises and information about natural vision therapy, see the Canadian Association of Vision Educators.