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A skeptic asks...
#1
I have a few other questions regarding vision improvement, but after some consideration I thought i'd better ask them here as they are more from a skeptical perspective.

(Let me just preface all of the following by saying that I'm actively using the Bates method myself at this time. I'm 100% committed to this work; I'm not going to eg. do five minutes of palming for a couple of days and then declare the method a bust when my eyes don't improve.)

I'm of the strong opinion that the scientific method is the best tool ever devised for examining the physical world around us; that when it comes to matters of health and medicine, investigation by applying the scientific method through standardised trials and studies is far and away the superiour way to analyse the effectiveness of a treatment; and that if a particular treatment goes against generally agreed-upon theories of physiology it's very likely to be a dud. I'm therefore highly dubious when I encounter any person, method or substance purporting or purported to cure what ostensibly cannot be cured, as the Bates method does. I've looked at the evidence, and it does seem to be stacked in favour of conventional treatment such as lenses, surgery etc. There are some very interesting anecdotes from successful users, but as the saying goes, "the plural of 'anecdote' is not 'data'".

I have reservations about the ability of the Bates method to cure my condition: severe myopia. My problem is not down to memory, strain, or a faliure of the visual imagination. As I understand it, I am myopic either because the corneae of my eyes are too convex or my eyes themselves are too long. I don't see any realistic way to correct this simply through excercise & visualisation.

On visualisation, which seems to be one of the keystones of teh Bates method, I am skeptical since I already have quite advanced visualisation skills. I maintain a number of meditative practices that involve very complex visualisations; I aquired these at a young age, and use them almost daily. Yet my sight remains poor.

On palming: I have to say, I love palming. Visualising _nothing_ is a very interesting technique. Very challenging at first, after so long learning to tune in to the images one sees with one's eyes closed, but well worth it. Even if I ultimately have to give up I will keep palming because it is just wonderful. Soothes the eyes, soothes the nerves, helps one sleep. I couldn't even tell you how long or how often I engage in palming, because I do it every time I think of it. Taking a half-hour break from work? Palming. Web page won't load? Palming. Ad break on telly? Palming. However, I do not believe that the images & colours one sees with one's eyes closed are down to bad vision. Everyone gets them. I had them before my eyes failed. They're not down to "strain" or poor visual habits, they're down to the brain throwing up random input and the rods & cones in the eyes firing spontaneously. Palming is an excellent aid to relaxation and a sterling addition to my meditative toolkit, but I honestly don't see how it can change the shape of my corneae or my eyes.

On swinging, figure-eights, hot-dogging etc.: these are a little more promising, since the give the muscles the eye uses to focus a nice workout. I can see how they might create some small improvement in the eye's ability to focus. But I do mean a _small_ improvement, not the difference between 20/60 and 20/20.

On the "glasses are responsible for poor vision" topic: as I mentioned elsewhere, I fear I must beg to differ. I wasn't rushed off to the optician at the first sign of short sight. In fact my household was passionately resistant to the idea tha I might be becoming myopic. If I said I couldn't see something, it was because I was lazy, stupid, not paying attention, being difficult, or lying to create trouble. Even though by the age of 8 my eyesight was so bad I couldn't see the TV properly unless I was literally inches away, I didn't get glasses. I didn't even get an eye test until I was 11. After getting glasses my eyesight did not deteriorate much at all; in fact, after a couple of years it had pretty much stabilised. I therefore get rather exasperated when I hear about how kids get glasses foisted upon them and that's why their sight gets worse, since my own experience completely contradicts this.
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#2
Dear Mordant,

Subject: What Dr. Bates actually said about "critical" prevention at the "funcational myopia" stage.

I also, was a "skeptic" of Bates 1913 study -- that claimed REASONABLE success. I am still of the opinion, that if a NEW study, not under the "thumb" of very biased ODs and MDs, and conducted in a truly OPEN scientific manner -- would succeed.

The problem? The minus lens and bias to use it (because it "works"), simply over-powers our ability to organize and conduct a true scientific protocol as you suggest. I regret this -- but the fact no attempt was ever made to even ATTEMPT a 1913 study, says volumes about our bias against new ideas in science and engnieering. But a few supportive comments of my own:

Mordant> I'm of the strong opinion that the scientific method is the best tool ever devised for examining the physical world around us;

Otis> Agreed. When that is doen, the Helmholtz theory FAILS, and the concept of Bates (prevention) could succeed.

Mordant> ....that when it comes to matters of health and medicine, investigation by applying the scientific method through standardised trials and studies is far and away the superiour way to analyse the effectiveness of a treatment;

Otis> Try not to suck in medical people (although great in medicine) into a true scientific/prevention effort. This is EXACTLY the problem that Dr. Bate had -- very biased peopole against his goal of true prevention.

Engineering/Science supports prevention. STandard practice with the iminus lens -- does not. But you can not "convince" the majority-opinion MD of this perspective. That is why I call Dr. Bates preventive method -- the second-opinion.

Please continueyour research.

BEST<

Otis
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#3
Taking glasses off alone (or not wearing them to begin with) isn't enough to keep you from straining, but it helps. As simply as I can put it, if your eyes & brain & entire visual system are relaxed, you will see well. If you're straining, you will see blur. When I started taking off my very strong contact lenses & slowly reducing my prescription, I was still straining in a big way: absence of glasses does not mean no strain! I'd probably have improved a lot faster if i was more relaxed back then. If I may say so, if someone called me stupid or lazy, especially if I was a powerless child, this would give me strain for sure.

The mental control you've attained in meditation could be a help or hindrance here. How about trying a full commitment to the Bates method for a little while & see how it goes, putting aside all your admitted skepticism? The best scientists from history have used their imagination as much as their logic.
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#4
Thanks for the encouraging words. I'm pretty good at politely asking my skepticism to take a back seat while I try something outside what is accepted by the mainstream. I will allow myself to be convinced of the effectiveness of things that science cannot (yet) explain if my own experience tells me they work. For a bit of context: I'm a Reiki master, a polytheistic pagan and a practicing magician. I had to be dragged kicking and screaming into all of those, but in the end I just couldn't argue with the weight of my own experience anymore. I sometimes self-describe as a skeptic who got mugged by the extraordinary.

What often happens to me with regard to unproven or not-well-accepted methods is that I need a bit of a toehold somewhere to get me started. I often find that the language used to describe things can be a huge barrier.

For example, I was initially quite violently opposed to the idea of Reiki--indeed, anything referred to as "energy healing." My background is in physics & electronics. If someone says the word "energy" to me, it has a very specific meaning. My model of "energy" cannot slosh around inside people, shoot out of hands, or pass through empty space. The very idea of people going around claiming such a thing made me angry. So with that one word, "Energy," I was completely shut out of even considering Reiki as a possibility.

Then one day I was visiting my (then) course leader's office. Now bear in mind that I was studying electronics in the engineering department of a university, and he was the head of an electronic engineering course. I happened to notice some odd symbols on the wall and asked about them. When he told me they were Reiki symbols, and that he himself was a Reiki master, I nearly flipped my lid! It was all I could do not to yell at him. As it was I subjected him to sort of polite rant. How could he, a scientist, give credence to such a ridiculous idea? Energy--choke--laws of physics--sputter--inverse square law!

His response was to reassure me that of course whatever "energy" was involved, it was not what a physicist would mean by energy. And then he said "I think whatever is happening happens instantaneously."

And with that one word, "instantaneously", I was free. I had my toehold. Why? Well, like "energy," the word "instantaneously" has a very specific meaning in physics. It doesn't just mean "really fast." It means "taking literally no time at all." Something that happens instantaneously happens outside of Time. When T is taken out of the equation, all kinds of extraordinary things are possible. And so I was able to go on and experiment, and found that Reiki had some kind of effect.

Now one might say that if I can accept something as out-there as Reiki, why not also accept the Bates method? On the face of it, it's far less counter-rational. Thing is, it doesn't work like that. I can't just accept every odd idea that comes my way just because one other odd idea turned out to have something in it.

So I guess what I'm looking for with regards to the Bates method is my toehold. I've made a start--I can see how muscular exercises might help the eye to focus somewhat better, and how certain of the techniques could perhaps help the brain establish new neural pathways, the better to process what information the eyes can relay. Enough that I feel okay about stepping up and giving Bates my best shot. If anyone has anymore toeholds to offer, though, that would be a help.
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#5
The slight toehold for now might be the brief clear flashes you mentioned in another thread: you are capable of clear vision! Note that you didn't see these until you took off your glasses. I was a math major but took a lot of physics in college & had a computer career so I was trained in thinking that way too. People like Greg Braden & other "hard" scientists are starting to knit together biology & physics with "softer" ideas like seeing auras or emotional energy, & then there's neuro-plasticity: we can change the brain! Check out my blog for some of what I've been reading lately by Dr. Sarno. Lately I'm reading about NLP which I haven't written about yet. This is fascinating stuff & makes me think almost nothing about the body is fixed, if we're really all energy.
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#6
Mordant,

A few things.

You say your problem doesn't come down to strain, and then you say that palming soothes the eyes. What do you think is being soothed, or why do you think the eyes need soothing like that after normal use? Do you think people with normal vision feel the need to soothe their eyes? Why would palming calm your nerves if the way you're using your eyes isn't putting you on edge?

You say swinging or figure 8's give the eye muscles needed to focus a nice workout, and in your last post refer to muscular exercises. But these are done without large eye movements and by mostly just moving the head or body. Although we call them exercises, "exercising" the eyes in the sense of a muscular workout isn't part of it and isn't recommended. And further, why do you say that these are the eye muscles needed to focus? We use our recti muscles to point our eyes around. Conventional wisdom says the ciliary muscle controls focus and Bates suggests that the oblique muscles can/do control focus (I believe they both may be partially right).

Your own experience does sound like glasses didn't make your vision worse. People react differently. If everyone reacted the same, this would all be a much simpler problem. Most people who get glasses at a young age end up needing stronger and stronger ones, for whatever reason. If minus-lens glasses prescribed at full strength as determined by regular visits to the optometrist don't cause myopia to worsen in everybody, then it may not be the glasses, exactly, that directly causes it. But there are many factors and ideas to consider that such a conclusion depends on, which is why speculation about this can be never-ending. Such as, is there a variance in the eyes between individuals such that some people's eyes are able to stabilize at a long-term refractive error higher than others, ie: some people wearing glasses simply hit their limit of myopia? And what factors could influence this? I mean these as rhetorical questions to provoke thought and to make a general point. I'm not really interested in going into those types of discussions again, because they aren't of primary importance to me.

But I do believe glasses have a long-term effect towards hindering people's ability to effectively use their eyes to focus properly without glasses, the same as any body part would become dependent on an artificial device to do its work in its adaptation to the radically different environment imposed by the device. In any case, glasses seem to hinder people, in one way or another, in improving their vision back to normal. And it's easy to see why they could upset the delicate balance of maintaining/regaining clear vision, given the effects of the flattened depth of field, the enlargement/shrinking of the image with plus/minus lenses respectively, the compensation of refractive error, and other changes or confusion to the visual environment such as what happens when you look to the side and how your eyes must produce additional power to focus for the near point while wearing distance glasses.

How strong are your glasses?

Dave
Site Administrator

"Half of our funny, heathen lives, we are bent double to gather things we have tossed away." - George Meredith
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#7
I could not tell you how strong my glasses are, as I don't have my prescription handy. Very strong, I would say. I can't read the largest letter on the optician's eyechart unaided, though I am just on the edge of being able to do so.

David Wrote:You say your problem doesn't come down to strain, and then you say that palming soothes the eyes.

To clarify a bit: Whilst my internal jury is still out on the idea that eyestrain could create myopia in a previously normal set of peepers, I certainly do get eyestrain. I don't really blink enough (something the Bates method is helping me to address) and I tend to get some dryness in my eyes. If I am under bright lighting for too long (say in a supermarket, for example) I get symptoms of strain: a hot, gritty feeling in the eyes themselves and a nagging hedache. I don't think my myopia is worsened by this strain, but it's certainly uncomfortable, and if not dealt with it leads to problems. When my eyes are too dry I get eczema and rosacea in them, which in turn makes them prone to infection. Anything that addresses eye-strain therefore is very beneficial to me over and above any effect it might have on my short sight. If all the Bates method could offer me was relief from those conditions, it's still a real treasure.

David Wrote:Why would palming calm your nerves if the way you're using your eyes isn't putting you on edge?

Well, besides physical strain on the eyes, the processing of visual information requires resources from the brain. If you cut down the amout of information the brain has to process, you cut down on stressors. Think of the way you might close your eyes to better enjoy a piece of music. Palming also involves a relaxing visualisation: you can't visualise velvety-black nothingness unless you are quieting your mind. Another simple but crucial element is that if you're palming, you're not doing anything else--you're taking time out to engage in self-care and self-compassion. That's always a good thing.

David Wrote:You say swinging or figure 8's give the eye muscles needed to focus a nice workout, and in your last post refer to muscular exercises.

Sorry, I was a bit unclear there. Swinging, to my mind, would seem to encourage the eye to change focus fairly rapidly whilst taking away the opportunity for strain to develop, thus supporting the health of the muscles used to focus. Figure-8s involve small, gentle movements of the eyes themselves, again avoiding strain, which would improve the limberness and strength of muscles used to focus. I'm going on intuition here, but also it seems reasonable to surmise that because the extra-ocular muscles are being worked out, the eye as a system would be better supplied with blood and thus benefit. I've also seen it suggested that the extra-ocular muscles can change the shape of the eye, thus helping it to focus; although contentious, this seems fairly plausible to me.

David Wrote:it's easy to see why they [glasses] could upset the delicate balance of maintaining/regaining clear vision, given the effects of the flattened depth of field, the enlargement/shrinking of the image with plus/minus lenses respectively, the compensation of refractive error, and other changes or confusion to the visual environment

That all makes a certain amount of sense to me. Once I grew accustomed to navigating the world without glasses, I noticed that my depth perception is much better; I can judge speed and distance with greater facility. Then there's the other effects you mention: the shrinking of the visual image when I put my glasses on, the great reduction in my peripheral vision, and the way that objects at the outside edge of my glasses look curved and distorted.

I've always been aware of these effects, but considered them a necessary evil when compared against the problems that short sight created for me. I very much want the Bates method to work on my myopia, since going around with those ruddy coke-bottle-bottoms wired to my face is a thundering nuisance on all levels.
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#8
My Reply to Mordant's Skepticism:
The only reason to be skeptical of the optometric/ophthalmologic/hard-science view of how vision works is the experience of 20/20 clear vision ‘flashes’ or events or whatever you want to call them. If you haven’t experienced it, you have every reason to doubt the veracity of the Bates or any other natural vision-improvement methods. The flash is the toehold.

I thought of another 'toehold' for you regarding natural vision improvement: the speed of light, the speed of sensation, and the speed of thought. They're all interconnected in our experience of the world, and affect our experience of vision. Beyond that individual experience, they affect our ability to communicate with each other.

In ancient days, as evidenced in some Cro-Magnon cave drawings as well as in writings of ancient Egyptians and Greeks, human vision was thought of as an interactive process – that not only was the light entering the eyes important, but the light leaving them as well! Why would they have thought that?

Suppose each of my eyes has two very fine imaginary paintbrush-like mechanisms or somethings, which not only soak up color-drenched light photons/waves, but also simultaneously (re-)apply that light to the outside world. It’s very easy to blur/smear/smudge that paint job before it dries at the speed of light/thought/sound. If the paintbrushes aren’t correctly aligned/oriented then too much or too little will be applied; if they don’t move correctly across the plane of vision or they do not move uniformly and in unison, the light paintjob will smear/blur/smudge. If they’re left too long on one point of the visual area, too much light-paint is applied/soaked up, equaling blur/smear/smudge. If they’re lifted too quickly, too little is applied/soaked up. You get the idea.

Now suppose that, as a child, when you were just learning to draw/paint/see the outside world with your still-developing paintbrush-like eyes, the instructions you were constantly getting were mostly vague things like, “Look Out!” "Look at You!", “Look Both Ways!” “Ooh, Look at That!” “Did you See That?” “Stop Crying!” “Be Still!” “Quit Moving!” “Quit Bugging Me!” “Oh, Grow Up!”, “Hurry Up!”, etcetera. And to make matters worse, the outside world is usually either moving way too fast for you, or throwing way too much glaring reflections back at you. Don’t look now, but here comes Myopia.

The Bates methods help to interrupt the complicated experience of visual interaction with the outside world, so we can gain a toehold of control over it all. The toehold for most of us is a flash of clear vision. That momentary toehold of clear vision told my consciousness something: I might be able to train or retrain my visual system.

But why should I care, given the incredible effectiveness of lenses, and now lasik, to fixate my eyesight at something like telescopic/microscopic visual acutiy? I care because it tells me that there is (probably) something else going on. Something better than the 'magic' of lens-assisted clear vision. Why would I climb a mountain? Because it's there.

If I had never experienced a clear vision event or flash, I would not be skeptical of the optometric version of vision as a fixed, robotic event. But having once experienced a flash, I knew that the optometric theory had to be wrong or at least incomplete. I tried to figure out how it happened, and then tried to make it happen again, and again, and again. It became an addiction – but an addiction the way needing to eat and breathe and think are addictions.

Sure, I wish real scientists were investigating this. Most of them are not. Most of them have never had a clear vision event because most of them have been wearing their glasses like good little boys and girls ever since they were children. And as adults they’ve been way too busy inventing tiny improvements to things like cellphones or computer chips or software, or reinventing other wheels like Blu-ray video, etcetera, to start doubting the basics of what they've been taught. They have lost sight of what’s important – they have Imagination Blindness.
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#9
JMartinC4 Wrote:If you haven’t experienced it, you have every reason to doubt the veracity of the Bates or any other natural vision-improvement methods.

I think this personal experience element really is key. When I started Bates, I hadn't had any of those tantalising little clear flashes. However I did have personal experience of using various kinds of techniques to overcome or improve certain other conditions, with differing degress of success: asthma, epilepsy, and chronic major depressive disorder. If I hadn't had those experiences, it is highly doubtful I'd have looked twice at Bates.

JMartinC4 Wrote:Most of them [scientists] have never had a clear vision event because most of them have been wearing their glasses like good little boys and girls ever since they were children.

I hope you won't take this the wrong way, but this "glasses since childhood, followed by deteriorating prescriptions" model is one of the things that presses my inner skeptic's alert button. There are plenty of exceptions to that rule, and I'm one of them.
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#10
First of all, I want to apologize because I feel like I am joining this conversation a few months late, but since I just discovered this web site I guess you'll have to bear with me.

Mordant, I would agree with you that the best way to discover if something is true or false is to use the scientific method. I know when I first got into the Bates method I used something very similar to the scientific method, because let's face it, none of us want to be tricked into spending a lot of time and money on improving our vision if it really doesn't work. I believe that we are all scientists in a way, so I took the scientific method and put the Bates' method to the test, and you will probably want to do this testing yourself because I don't want you to take my word that your vision can improve I want you to test it for yourself. I did something similar to this:

1. ASK A QUESTION. Can Dr. Bates' work improve my vision?

2. DO BACKGROUND RESEARCH. Start researching the Bates method. Read Perfect Sight Without Glasses, the Better Eyesight magazines, Relearning to See, etc. You may even want to read counter arguments against Dr. Bates' work just to see what the other side is saying (remember you're a scientist so you need to look at all sides). Ask people who have used the Bates method if it worked for them and what results they got. You may also want to hire a vision teacher.

3. CONSTRUCT A HYPOTHESIS. If I use the Bates method, then my vision will improve.

4. TEST YOUR HYPOTHESIS BY DOING EXPERIMENTS. For me, this is where the Bates method got interesting. Dr. Bates taught that if we stare and strain that our vision will become worse, so get a Snellen Chart or if you don't have one open up a book and stare at the page very intently. Notice what happens to your vision. Notice how your eyes feel after staring and straining. When I first got into the Bates method I could tell that my vision became worse when staring or straining but for the life of me I couldn't get any clear flashes when "relaxing" (I put that in parenthesis because I wasn't really relaxing I only thought I was relaxing). I remember reading The Fundamental Principle at the beginning of Dr. Bates' book and feeling very frustrated because I would close my eyes for a few minutes and try to remember something perfectly (take my words literally) and when I opened my eyes nothing happened. No clear flash, no improved vision, just the same old blur. I wasn't skeptical of the Bates method because my husband had improved his vision with it; I was just couldn't figure out why it wasn't working for me. Then I hired a vision teacher. I remember one day he taught me how to palm and said that we were going on a vision walk and I would be expected to use my memory and imagination and tell about the things we saw while going on a vision walk. I became so involved in what we were imagining that I completely forgot about my eyes. When we were done he had me open my eyes and look at the Snellen Card. I couldn't believe what I saw-the picture was so clear! He said that I had probably cut my prescription in half that day, so I gone from a -6.50 to about a -3.00 in 15 minutes using my memory and imagination. I would have to agree with what the previous posters have said--that the toehold is the clear flash. Until you experience that, using your memory to improve your vision sounds like a childish game. Another thing I would like to point out about my clear flash was that when I was looking at the card and the card was very clear I wasn't so much impressed with how much clearer things had become as I was with how my face felt. I could not believe how relaxed my face was, it was like someone had lifted a twenty pound weight off of my eyes that I didn't even realize was there. At that moment I understood what Bates meant when he said that people in blur only think they are relaxed, but when they improve their vision they realize that they were not perfectly relaxed before but had just learned to ignore the discomfort. I had spent so many years in strong glasses that I had forgotten what it was like to be relaxed. I found it interesting when reading your first post that you said words like "challenging" and "complex" to describe how you imagined things. Are you getting clearer flashes after palming? How clear your vision is after palming is a good indication of how well you relaxed. You said you were very nearsighted, so I would really recommend a vision teacher. I did not get any results with Dr. Bates' work until I hired a vision teacher. Now, these are my experiments with the Bates method, you will want to do your own experiments because the best way to prove to yourself that this works is to actually experience it.

5. ANALYZE YOUR DATA AND DRAW A CONCLUSION. You will want to analyze your data and verify it for yourself, but for me, I came to the conclusion that the Bates method does improve people's vision and it can improve my vision.

6. COMMUNICATE YOUR RESULTS. That's why I'm posting this here and giving you my results. I believe that the most important thing in life is not what we learn, but what we teach.

I hope this information was helpful for you, or for anyone else who is just reading and lurking.
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#11
Hi Learning2C,

Thanks for posting these well thought out comments. I've had good success with Bates so far and come back to this forum now and then to keep learning as well as helping people. This post is the most interesting, on-topic, helpful post I've read in a really really long time on any category of this forum. Thanks so much! I hope you keep posting here, maybe you can have a good influence on the Bates Method category forum.

cheers,
Sorrisi
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#12
Thanks for the comment Sorrisiblue. I really appreciate it. I am hoping to be a good influence on helping others to improve their vision, and I am also hoping that this forum will be a good influence on me to continue with practicing even when I have days where I feel like 20/20 vision is so far away. I have learned so much from all of you already.
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#13
Cut .75 inch deep notches of 15deg, 30deg, and 45deg into a 16oz styrofoam cup, cutting across the diameter. Add an inch of water for ballast. Insert an unlabeled CD, shiny surface up, into the notches. Position it so that the overhead or surounding light source is reflected into it and bounced back at your face/eyes. On the opposite wall post a Snellen chart on top of a world map (e.g., Hammond or National Geographic) or other material with small print. Now palm (Bates Method) for five minutes. When you look up, maintain your postion with the light reflected across your eyes/face, and swing/shift (Bates Method) while looking at the chart/map. Repeat. Make a second device and position the two of them at left and right. Repeat the Bates methods. This will gradually realign your visual positioning (similar to the way braces or Invisalign realign teeth) and also train you to position yourself within ambient glare points, and reduce your nearsightedness, helping you develop clearer normal vision. For another exercise, stand in front of a window facing a mirror, hold the styrofoam cup(s) in your outstretched arm/hand(s) so that the light is reflected back at your eyes/face. Now swing/shift in various ways (Dance!) so that while you move, the reflected light is kept on your eyes/face. Look into the distance. Realign your vision. Use head roll/wobble to adjust for astigmatism. You are relearning to see into the distance.


Learning2C Wrote:Thanks for the comment Sorrisiblue. I really appreciate it. I am hoping to be a good influence on helping others to improve their vision, and I am also hoping that this forum will be a good influence on me to continue with practicing even when I have days where I feel like 20/20 vision is so far away. I have learned so much from all of you already.
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