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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About ten months ago, I posted here regarding my struggles with glasses, and astigmatism.
I was, and still am working with a behavioral optometrist. Since that last post, I am free of any myopic correction, but that pesky astigmatism is still with me. It is now – 1.00 Cylinder per eye, but the optometrist has me wearing a spherical equivalent of -.50 instead of the cylinder correction. I wear this correction full time from the time I wake up in the morning, until I go to bed. When I check my vision on a Snellen chart I have just a tad less than 20/20 with the glasses on, and 20/80 without them. He wants me to wear them for near work, and when on the computer, however for very small print he has given me the same prescription with a + 1.00 bifocal. If I attempt to do near work with out the glasses, or in the case of small print, without the bifocal, my uncorrected Snellen gets to worse than 20/100. He also gave me a second pair of glasses with a spherical equivalent of – .25 with the +1.00 bifocal. This prescription is somewhat OK in the morning, but as the day goes on my vision is blurred, and I need to revert to the – .50 glasses. We had hoped that this would be my final prescription.
The optometrist has said that perhaps I have reached the point that the spherical equivalent of -.50 with the bifocal is what I will have to wear from here on out. He said that the astigmatism seems to not improve from this point, and that I am tolerating the minus myopic lenses quite well, and is fairly certain that there will be no increase in the astigmatism, or any return of the myopia.
Considering the many varied prescriptions that I have needed in the past, this
20/80 vision corrected to near 20/20 with these glasses is as welcome change.
Hi Dale. I remarked on another of your replies about this, so I’ll say it again. I’m glad you’ve found an optometrist you trust to help you with your prescriptions, and please do not discount the wisdom from your own visual system. If your eyes are getting tired, you do not need different glasses, to me, you need a rest! I’d encourage you not to think that prescription glasses are your cross to bear for the rest of your life. I believe vision can improve at any stage, as can whole-body alignment and flexibility and ease.
As always, Nancy, your essay is clear and so informative! This is the best explanation of astigmatism I have ever heard . Thank you so much!
Thanks Gwen! I appreciate your reading this, and especially that you commented. I sure wish I’d known this information decades ago, as I too thought astigmatism made me a special case (in addition to my very high myopia), so it would be difficult if not impossible to correct my vision. Not a healing optimistic attitude! 🙂
Hi again Nancy,
This is a very good article.
As I had mentioned in a post to one of your other subjects, for many years I had severe distance blur after reading.
I was prescribed plus reading glasses, but they did not help at all. I went to several different optometrists, but did not tell them that glasses had been prescribed, each time came away with a different reading prescription.
I had an eye chart at home, and knew that my left eye was not as sharp as my right.
I went to still another optometrist, and he prescribed a bifocal with + 1.00 and a cylinder of -.50 for my left eye, and + 1.00 and a cylinder of -.75 ,and a bifocal add of + 1.25 for each eye. I will never forget the intense clarity that that prescription gave me for distance. As I drove home with the glasses on, I was amazed at how clear peoples faces were on the sidewalk. However if i read with the glasses, I got an instant headache. I never did really wear them very often, and when I did it was primarially for distance. Eventually I gave up wearing them,and went without glasses for many years, until I was diagnosed with adult onset myopia, and given minus power glasses.
I think back on how sharp my right eye was without glasses when reading my home eye chart, and yet was prescribed a stronger cylinder correction for that eye. That was most likely the reason for the headache when using the glasses for reading.
Hi Dale! Not to take away from the traditional eye doctor education, but sometimes we have to learn enough ourselves to be able to progress, despite medical expertise. Headaches and eye strain are your visual system telling you loudly that a certain correction isn’t right for you. Your eyes will see the best they can by adapting to whatever prescription you put in front of them, even if it’s not optimal. I know some eye doctors think they’re helping by reducing astigmatism correction (CYL) then compensating by increasing the myopia prescription (SPH), and to me this is not good. I’d rather see the CYL lowered or eliminated as I said in the article, to let the body and eyes come back into better alignment, then the SPH lowered. A recent client of mine with a high SPH and just a little CYL got a new pair of glasses with no CYL at all, and said her head felt less torqued which made perfect sense to me. Do what you can without glasses, and keep your awareness tuned up. Notice, notice, notice! Thanks for commenting.
How can I get tips to get rid of astigmatism
Shawke, there are tips in this article. Reduce or eliminate the CYL portion of your prescription under an eye doctor’s guidance, do eye circles or the Tibetan wheel gently and notice which angles are more challenging, do relaxing practices, go without your glasses and enjoy exploring everything you see. Pay attention to your body alignment too. Good luck! 🙂
I have been working with a behavioral optometrist to try to reduce my adult onset myopia.
At my first apoinment he found that my myopia prescription was correct at -2.25 for each eye, but that I had developed about -1.25 astigmatism in each eye, which of course gave me somewhat blurred vision at both far,and near.
Since the goal is to get me into weaker glasses, I was concerned that he recommended that instead of wearing a -1.25 cylinder correction for each eye, he will give me an extra -.75 myopic correction which makes it -3.00. He referred to this practice as a spherical equivalent. I have been wearing this for a few months now, and doing eye exercises both with, and without glasses.
At my last meeting with him a week ago,his findings are, that my myopia has improved by -.50 in each eye,but the astigmatism remains the same. His plan is for me to always wear the current glasses for near work, which I do a lot of, but to continue the exercises, and only wear the glasses for driving, or if my eyes feel fatigued. I concur with this, because with out glasses close work is very blurred,and my eyes feel strained.
At my next appointment he hopes to reduce the total prescription, but mentioned that I most likely will need to wear glasses for near work, and that the spherical equivalent seems to benefit me, although the astigmatism remains, at least for now.
When I first got the glasses with the extra myopic correction it was like seeing in high definition, but distant objects seemed very small.
I hope that this information may enlighten you.
can there be any magic ….
Bhakti, human sight and the brain is like magic to me. 🙂 And when we change our habits, our body and brain and energy respond beautifully. Just give it a try, experimenting with no agenda. You might surprise yourself.
This is the third article you suggested I read per our discussion of your “Periferal Awareness” article (updated 5/5/18). See my post in that “Peripheral Awareness” discussion explaining why it’s taken me until now to come here and read this.
A fascinating perspective. I’ve mentioned to you before that I had no vision problems until a devastating failed attempt at law school, after which I needed prescription reading glasses – and each time I saw another optician the Astigmatism prescription would be different: Sometimes it was the right eye only. Other times the Left eye. Sometimes both eyes were affected, and other times neither eye was affected. Very confusing, but now I see the possibility for skeletal and perhaps psychological cause and effect.
I have a minor spinal scoliosis and notice that my neck has a slight “bow” noticeable on the left side when I face myself in a mirrow. Also, my left shoulder/scapula mechanism has been slightly “out of place” all my adult life. Now I’m wondering if structural/skeletal/posture issues might be a factor.
I very much appreciate you suggesting this article and the other two – and I appreciate ALL the times you’ve reached out to help me improve my situation via these discussions.
This is another area of awareness, to me. When I work out as I start getting tired at the end of a set, I can feel myself wanting to twist so the stronger leg or shoulder or whatever is favored. I tell myself things like “stand equally on both feet” constantly to keep balanced. I use vertical markers to check my alignment, not obsessively, just noticing so I can correct if I see I’m off. “The unexamined life isn’t worth living” (Plato). Be all you can be!
Thanks for futher insights. I agree, and am glad to see you quote Plato. I think of and apply that concept often, and as you may agree, daring to examine your self, your motives, your life can provide real clarity, and can steer important decisions in altruistic directions…that sometimes are not so helpful in terms of financial solvency. Ask me how I know… =]
But yes, in The Grand Scheme of Things honest self awareness is priceless.
One of my favorite teachers is often saying “Abundance is a vibration, not a dollar amount in your bank account.” 🙂 An abundance of clear sight, and other good things, to you, Tom.
Too right! Thank you, Nancy. And I would wish the same to you, but the things you say and do pretty clearly indicate that you’ve already got the concept firmly in hand/mind/heart/whereever(!). =D
Let’s hope you’re right. I can always use the reminder. 🙂 The concepts I write about are often exactly what I need to hear again myself.
I think it is not always safe to see.
8888, I agree it may not feel safe to see, or may not actually be safe. And the solution is not to blur out the scene! Maybe it’s to leave, or get help to handle what’s facing you, or something else. The visual system is meant to see clearly and easily if it’s functioning right.
some people have tons of problems.. then your simple techniques are just not enough. jjust scratching the iceberg..
888, I agree some people have big problems. High anxiety or anger/frustration or depression can’t always be helped with simple vision practices like resting the eyes when they’ve been overworked. If your vision problems started from not wanting to see some aspect of your life, energy work or journaling or relaxation practices like massage or even talking with a counselor may be necessary, to support the vision work. I’ve found a lot of benefit from meditation and EFT (tapping) myself.
Hello Lakshmi, and good for you for looking for a healthy solution for your son. And good for him for listening to his eyes and rejecting the glasses, which may be too strong for him. (Note I am not an eye doctor so cannot legally prescribe glasses for anyone.) If he can see 20/20 with his right eye, he doesn’t need glasses for that eye, it sounds like. The left cylinder measurement isn’t that high, but he may want a tiny bit of correction there for when he feels stressed. Or not. I’d prefer that he not become dependent on glasses, and I also don’t want him straining to see. Yes, have him spend time outside without any glasses, doing things which require both eyes like throwing and catching a ball. Vision varies, especially since he’s so young and hasn’t been wearing glasses much, so don’t worry too much if one stressful situation makes his vision seem worse — it will rebound when he relaxes. Getting him involved in some sport he enjoys where he can have fun and forget about his eyes (like Dr. Bates advised) might be a big help. Good luck!
My 4 year old started with astigmatism : R cyl -0.75 , L cyl-2.5. Wore glasses until 6 months ago( he was 9 then) he said they hurt his eyes.
He is now nearly 10 and has R cyl-0.75 L cyl -1.75. He refuses to wear glasses. I see he has 20/20 in R but 20/50 in Left. Going by your example, is it the best way to continue not wearing glasses but introduce him to relaxation and distance viewing?
I have theory…one can be stuck in an emotional state… e.g. you are afraid …you try to close your eyes but it is repressed.. This repressed trying to close the eyes I think may contribute to astigmatism…
8888, yes, and I think this “not wanting to see” can contribute to many other eye problems besides astigmatism. There are probably as many ways to interfere with our eyes’ natural function as there are people! 🙂 We need to believe it is safe, and even fun, to see.
not just wanting to see… the action of closing the eyes. which is repressed but affects the vision
Annie, thanks so much! You made my day.
thank you Nancy for the light you put on astigmatism. As I do not suffer from this (so thankful for that), I am grateful for your explanations and your thoughts. The way you write is just perfect, your ideas are simply put and easy to understand. All the best. Annie