Quite a few people have listened to me introduce the topic of natural vision improvement, then interrupted me to proclaim (sometimes almost proudly) that since they have astigmatism, this would never work for them. This tells me 2 things: they don’t really understand the concepts behind natural vision improvement, and they don’t really know what astigmatism is.
Astigmatism is near-sightedness, but in only one angle of your 360-degree circular visual field. If you already have a near-sighted prescription (which will be shown by a negative value for SPH), with astigmatism you are even more near-sighted in one particular angle. An astigmatism correction in your prescription will be CYL, with an associated angle value (indicated by AXIS). Say it’s 180. This means looking horizontally (at 180 degrees) through your glasses, your prescription has a greater minus lens correction than it does if you look vertically, or on a slant.
Like any other prescription, an astigmatism correction in your glasses will train your eyes and mind to obey the lenses, and you may be uncomfortable when you take them off and try to see without this restriction. When I studied with a behavioral optometrist and observed him with patients hoping to lower the strength of their glasses, he often completely removed their astigmatism correction if it was lower than 2. He said if it was more than 2, eliminating it would cause too much disruption to their nervous system. So in that case he reduced it by 1.5 or 1.75 to start, to ease them gently toward seeing more naturally. Please work with an eye doctor if you are attempting to reduce your own prescription, and don’t try to self-prescribe. You must be safe and legal when driving a vehicle, for example, for your own protection and to safeguard others.
Since an astigmatism correction is a stronger correction in just one angle, it is often associated with a twisted body posture, a tilted head, one shoulder higher, or carrying more weight on one leg than the other. Did the head tilt cause the astigmatism, or vice versa? I can’t say, but I do believe that leaving that CYL correction in your glasses and looking through that all the time will just reinforce the imbalance. To me it feels like having a weight strapped to one leg. At some point your body will compensate by becoming lop-sided trying to keep a proper alignment.
A famous study of concert violinists in the vision improvement literature shows how astigmatism can be introduced, then removed, by the way you use your body and eyes. Many of them developed astigmatism from tilting their head to play their violin for hours every night during concert season. Yet during vacation, those who didn’t get glasses for astigmatism saw this condition corrected, just by using their eyes normally and having straight posture!
As a child I had a high myopia prescription, as well as a correction for astigmatism on top of that. I clearly remember getting a new pair of stronger glasses, and almost getting dizzy when I put them on. The walls seemed to be curving around me as I walked down a hallway, somewhat like looking in a fun-house mirror. What was supposed to be straight was bent! I’m sure now this was from an increase in my CYL correction. The eye doctor said “Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it” and my obedient eyes did, my posture twisting even more to fit this new pattern.
How does myopia develop in the first place? I’ve often thought it was the body’s attempt not to see something troubling or scary by blurring it out. If so, I’ve wondered if astigmatism is additional blur in that area of looking where a person was regularly traumatized, say up and to the left because that’s where your mother stood when she was screaming at you as a child. This is just a theory and nearly impossible to prove, but could lead to some interesting avenues of personal exploration.
One final point: a key principle of vision improvement is that vision varies, with your mood, your energy level, how hungry or thirsty or tired you are. Yet glasses lock you into that particular prescription, so even if your vision wants to improve, strong glasses will hold it back at the level it was when they were prescribed. Astigmatism varies too, in angle as well as strength. I well remember trying to guess the “right answer” to which line was darker in an eye exam, when they all looked the same to me. Go with the weakest prescription which lets you see safely, doing without your glasses when you can, and your eyes will be much better off.
Neither your vision, your posture, or your attitude needs to be restricted or twisted. Visualize seeing that full rich circular view equally clearly in each angle, that sumptuous visual banquet of all those colors and depth and clarity constantly being presented to you. Help yourself! Fill your plate to overflowing! I am so grateful, daily, for the wondrous gift of my eyesight.
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