by: Abraham, Elizabeth

Elizabeth Abraham teaches a holistic approach to vision improvement which uses the principles of the Bates Method for Better Eyesight, all kinds of relaxercises for the eyes, body work, diet and stress management. She is a Trager practitioner and therapeutic movement teacher. She studied with Meir Schneider at the Center for Self Healing in San Francisco and at the School for Perfect Eyesight in Pondicherry, India. Her students range in age from eight to 80 years old and have demonstrated that it is never too late to begin the process of improving your eyesight.

I started wearing glasses when I was twelve, and wore them until I was 30, hating every moment of it. Then I started wearing contact lenses, and after about 14 years I developed an intolerance to contact lenses. I was near-sighted, so I could see close objects very well, but not at a distance. I had read The Bates Method for Better Eyesight Without Glasses, by Dr. William Bates years before, and couldn't get anywhere with it at all. I couldn't understand what the exercises were all about and I couldn't make any of the necessary changes in my life. My real process of starting to change my eyes happened after I read Meir Schneider's book Self Healing: My Life and Vision. Meir was born blind, had five cataract operations before he was seven and still he couldn't see. A friend told him about the Bates exercises. Within six months he was able to see his face in the mirror, and now he has a driver's license. So he has a permanent blind certificate as well as a driver's license. I thought that if he can do it, surely I, with mere nearsightedness could learn to see. I certainly wasn't going back to glasses again. When I started, my eyesight was 20/400. When I went for my last checkup, I was 20/50, so I am still not completely clear. 20/40 is legal for driving with an unrestricted driver's license.


I thought that improving my eyes was a matter of doing eye exercises, and a lot of my students come to me asking for exercises to strengthen their eyes, as if they were going to do some push-ups for their eyes and their eyes were going to get better. It is not that simple. When I went down to California to work with Meyer, I realized that it wasn't just a matter of doing eye exercises, that my tight neck and shoulders, my tight jaw, my habitual method of rushing around, and doing things really fast, and my high level of anxiety were all keeping my eyes in the state they were in. It was a holding state. When you are under a lot of stress, you hold your breath, you tighten up, your eyes are fixed and bugging out of their orbits in order to either fight whatever is happening, or run from it. For most of us, a full blown stress response doesn't happen very often, but on a lower level we are under stress all the time. So a lot of the time, we are holding our breath, and our muscles tighten up without even realizing it. The eye muscles tighten up; the back muscles and the stomach muscles tighten; some people get stomach cramps and ulcers.


So the first thing is to bring awareness to our eyes and awareness to our breathing, because if you breathe more deeply, then you can help your eyes. Breathing is very important in relaxation. What we really need is relaxation for the eyes. If you have ever tried to relax, you probably know it is pretty hard to do. You can't try to relax. We are used to trying, to pushing ourselves, to try and try again. So when we come to vision improvement, we try to relax, we try to improve our vision, we try to do our exercises, and it just doesn't work. Relaxation comes when we let go of trying. It just comes.


One of the keys to relaxation is our breath. We breathe very shallowly when we are in that state of perpetual trying. We are using less than one-third of our lung capacity. Relaxation comes with deepening the breath, with stopping a little bit of the agitation. For me that was not easy. Dr. Bates talks about relaxing the muscles around the eyes and allowing the eyes to come into a natural state. He says that the anxiety which keeps us from relaxing originates in our minds. Just stop for a moment, close your eyes, take a couple of deep breaths, and notice how your eyes feel. If you sit like this for any length of time, pretty soon thoughts come into your mind. Thoughts keep us in the past worrying about things we haven't done, things we regret, or in the future, worrying about things that are going to happen, wondering about things, excited about things. When our minds are constantly agitated, constantly engaged in the past or future, and we are restless and craving for things we don't have, that can transfer into the muscles around our eyes. We are very, very seldom actually in the present moment. Relaxation comes in the space between thoughts. Relaxation comes when we are quiet in our minds as well as in our bodies. We don't actually even have to be quiet in our bodies to be quiet in our mind. We can be engaged in all kinds of activities and still be quiet in our minds, by being really really present. This is one of the things it is necessary to do.


We have specific things we can do for the relaxation of the eyes, and I don't call them exercises, I call them relaxercises. The main exercise or relaxercise is called palming, where you just put your hands over your eyes. It should be in a dark room with your elbows supported on a table. Close your eyes and imagine that the breath is coming right to the muscles of your eyes and allow some of the stress around your eyes to go. We can experiment right now with a very simple technique, and that is just closing your eyes. Every time we blink for instance, there is a moment of rest. But one of the things that happens when we are under stress is that we stop blinking. Close your eyes and see if there is any feeling of strain, any tightness in your forehead. Now, with your eyes closed, imagine you are outside and looking at a beautiful scene, maybe down at the seashore where you can look way out to the horizon, way far out. You want to take a few deep breaths because the air is fresh and it is really beautiful and you are just feeling so good. So breathe. As you breathe deeper, you bring more oxygen to your eyes. As you look out into the distance, even in your imagination, the light rays come into your eyes parallel and your eyes can relax. Imagine you are looking into the distance, you are breathing deeply, and you are just letting go of some of that tension around your eyes. On an out-breath, open your eyes again and look around, moving your whole head as if you are drawing what you see around you. We habitually hold our head and neck very still, and this contributes to the stress around our eyes. Healthy eyes move all the time. Watch your children's eyes. Somebody with poor vision is very stuck in their body posture and their head posture and in their eyes. They are very still. So we want to initiate movement.

Take a moment. Feel any tightening around your eyes. Notice your breathing. Get up and stretch right up to the ceiling and yawn. Yawning is the best exercise. It releases the jaw muscles. When you release your jaw muscles, then you release the energy up into your eyes. Yawn and move your jaw around, turn your upper body around a little, move your shoulders and hips. Sit down again and move your ankles in circles. Now close your eyes again and see how your eyes are feeling and notice your breathing. Is it a little easier? Movement makes a big difference. Our bodies are designed to move, and we stop movement when we get stressed. Practice moving your eyes. For instance, watch moving objects. Things are moving around us most of the time, squirrels, cars, children, clouds, trees, but most of us are oblivious to the movement. We are just lost in our own thoughts. Notice the movement, because when you are consciously watching a moving object, you can't be fixating, or staring.

There are eye exercises where you look up and down, and that is all right if your eye muscles are relaxed and working normally, but if they are under strain, then those yoga exercises, looking up and down are going to further strain your eyes. Furthermore, when we look up and down and to the side, we usually don't do it gently. We look up or down as far as we possibly can, and exaggerate those movements. What we want is to let go of the tension through resting and relaxing the eyes, and then we can do those moving exercises.


There is another eye movement called cicadic movement. It is made by those same muscles, but it is a tiny vibrating movement. It happens so fast that it appears you are looking at a whole object, but your eyes are moving 70 to 100 times per second all over. When there is tension in the eye, the cicadic movement starts to slow down, and your eyes try to see too much at once, so that your eyes aren't dancing any more. If you look at a young child or an adult with very good eyes, their eyes appear to sparkle. People who are sick have dull and listless eyes because they are not moving like that any more. Our eyes are designed to move, and tension slows them down and we fall into staring. There are two kinds of staring, one is like straining to see, over-focussing, bugging your eyes out. The other is the kind of spaced-out staring, like a blank. That is very stressful for your eyes because they are not moving.


Changing focus is called accommodation. The traditional view is that the muscles hold the lens in place, and the changing of the shape of the lens enables you to see both near and far. It is true that the muscles are not as flexible when we are in our sixties. But Dr. Bates found out that it wasn't really the lense in the first place that was the cause of accommodation. It's the whole shape of the eye-ball that changes. According to Dr. Bates, the way you change focus is that the oblique muscles tighten around the eye ball a little, enough to squeeze it into a more elongated length, and that is the position for near seeing. When you look far away, the oblique muscles let go and the rectus muscles pull and flatten the eye ball a little for distance vision. It's the same way binoculars work. But when we are trying to see, straining to see, then the muscles aren't letting go and you aren't seeing properly.


Our glasses become a crutch for us. We put them on first thing in the morning, we take them off last thing at night. It is very rare that we think, do I really need my glasses right now? So glasses perpetuate the strain around our eyes. The glasses are holding your eyes in that particular place you were when you were being tested.


Eating a healthy balanced diet is very important to your eyes. Your eyes are directly connected to the liver meridian and when the liver gets toxic and the colon is toxic, this affects the eyes. If you want healthy eyes, you must cleanse your body and heal your diet. Bilberry, free radical scavengers, vitamin C, vitamin A, gingko biloba and pycnogenol are good for your eyes. Certain Chinese herbs help detoxify your liver and this also helps your eyes. There is a direct connection between the liver and the eyes.


Fluorescent lighting is harmful for your eyes. The best kind of lighting is full-spectrum lighting, preferably incandescent full-spectrum lighting. Full spectrum lighting is also available in tubes which fit your fluorescent fixtures.


Don't have your screen too bright. If there is a lot of glare it is bad for the eyes. I have spent a lot of time at a computer recently, and I had a blue background with white letters. Somebody told me to change it to black, and it has made an incredible difference. Don't have the background too bright and minimize the glare on the screen.


The theory that stress causes the problem of poor eyesight was one of the discoveries made by Dr. William Bates. When you are feeling well, when you are relaxed and happy, you can see better. When you are depressed, you don't see as well. Stress is one factor. The way we use our eyes is another. For some reason, if we don't see well, we peer, we strain, we stick our head forward, we strain our eyes, our neck, we hold our breath, that is all part of the strain pattern. If you do that for any length of time, those muscles around your eyes are going to get into a perpetual holding or a perpetual spasm of straining. And eventually you will need glasses.

For many of us having our eyes tested is a very stressful thing, and our eyes are in the worse shape that they ever are if stress is part of what causes the problem in our eyes. The doctor writes a prescription, and we put that prescription in front of our eyes, and sometimes we see better, and sometimes we see worse. This is one of the things that Dr. Bates found out. Dr. William Bates was the first ophthalmologist who really discovered the whole idea that vision can improve. The traditional view was that once your eyesight is gone, there is nothing you can do about it. Your ophthalmologist will say that's just the way it is. They will say if you are near sighted, it is because your eyeballs are too long, and if you are far-sighted, well you are over forty, what do you expect. But we all know people over 40 who don't wear glasses

These principles improve the general health of the eyes. There are specific things you can do for different problems, for glaucoma, cataracts, macular degeneration, for all kinds of pathologies. I work with my clients with specific herbs or exercises or specific techniques, but the first place to start is to get more circulation into your eyes, to get your eyes more relaxed, to get your eyes moving. So whatever your condition is, these basic principles will apply.

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Elizabeth Abraham has a clinic at 339 Bloor St. W., Ste. 212, 416-599-9202.

Article Information
Volume 19 Issue 6

Recommended Books

The Bates Method, A complete Guide to improving Eyesight - naturally

Self Healing: My Life and Vision

Handbook of Self Healing

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