As requested by +K.B. Burnfield

On the weekend, I posted a status update on improvements in my eyesight, and it turned out to raise more interest than expected. See here for full details:
But before telling you the exercises, I think it’s important to provide some understanding on what they try to achieve. Let’s start with two (not so) random observations:

  1. Mountain climbers with glasses, who lose their glasses near the start of their journey, return with better eyesight than when they left.
  2. Far fewer native americans need glasses – even in old age – and they can see better than people with perfect vision.

How is this possible?

Eyes require three pairs of muscles: one to move them from side to side, one to move them up and down, and one to ‘squeeze’ the eyeball. This last muscle works in conjunction with the lens to allow your eye to focus. Nothing new so far.

Here’s the controversial part: Eye muscles, like all other muscles, are subject to strain. If you constantly use contacts or glasses, your eye muscles lose their ability to contract or relax, resulting in eye strain. Over years, this builds up into rather stiff muscle fibres – keeping the eye in a permanently squashed shape. But, just as you can ‘relearn’ how to move your arm after having it broken and in a cast, you can ‘relearn’ how to use your eyes – again, by training the muscles over time. It requires daily repetition, if not multiple times a day, and not giving up. If possible, put away your glasses or contact lenses, or wear ones with a lower power. During exercises, you should not have any glasses or contacts on at all.

Now, on to the exercises
These are based on native american exercises. Don’t ask me to quote sources or how much they have been adapted; my neighbour has that information, I don’t (and am too lazy to go literature-digging myself).

Palming is the most important exercise, because it allows your eye muscles to relax. You should do palming after every exercise. Rub your palms together so that they are warm. Close your eyes, and place your palms over your eyes, letting the warmth sooth your eyes. Hold for two minutes. Then lift your head backwards, take a deep breath, and when you exhale, open your eyes, blinking rapidly.

Set One
The point of these exercises is to get you used to using your muscles again. In particular glasses wearers are used to looking through the center of their glasses, and not through the sides – so this will start to move those muscles again as well.

  1. Up-and-down – Without moving your head, look as far up as you can, and then as far down as you can. Repeat three times. Now do some palming.
  2. Side-to-side – Without moving your head, look as far to the left as you can, and then as far to the right as you can. Repeat three times. Palming.
  3. Circles – Without moving your head, move your eyes clockwise in a circle, then counterclockwise in a circle. Repeat three times. Again, palming.

You may notice that you can see clearer for a short second after palming – this is your eyes improving. The time for which you can see clearer will increase over time.

Set Two
After a few weeks, when you feel comfortable with Set One, move on to Set Two. With time, try to increase the speed, so that you get more repetitions into the same practice time.

  1. Up-and-down zigzags – Like in set one, only this time create a zig-zag with your eyes by starting at the top left, and going up and down as far as you can, moving slightly to the right each time. Repeat three times, and then palming.
  2. Side-to-side zigzags – Like in set one, analog to the previous zigzags, but horizontally instead of vertically. Repeat three times, and then palming.
  3. Spiral – Move your eyes in a circle, starting from outside and curling in, then from inside and curling out. Repeat three times, and then palming.
  4. Figure-Eight – Move your eyes in a figure eight. You can make figure eights, or infinity signs. Repeat three times, and then palming.

Set Three
This is not a replacement set like the previous one, but rather an extension. We now focus on the ‘ eye squashing’ muscles, and on your ability to perceive movement.

  1. Zoom circle – Stand at the edge of a wide, open space. A large field works best. Trace a large circle on the ground, starting from the ground in front of you, going as far left as the open space, as far ahead as the horizon, and as far right as your open space. Repeat three times, and then palming.
  2. Source of light – Stand facing the sun (or a lightbulb, or candle, if you have no sun). Close your eyes so that you are ‘looking’ in the direction of the sun. Allow yourself to relax, and sway gently from the hips upwards, rotating lightly to the left, then right. You should ‘see’ the sun pendling from the right to the left of your field of vision, if you do this correctly, warming and relaxing your eyes. After a minute or two, go into palming. Do not come out of palming until the last ‘blue sunspots’ have dissappeared, and all you can see is black.

Set Four
Again, an extension to the previous exercises. Be warned: do not try these at the beginning unless you want a big headache – that is why they are here at the end. They will put strain on your eye muscles!

  1. Pirate eye – Blindfold one eye, and go about your daily business. After 15 minutes, go to palming, and then repeat immediately with the other eye. With time, you can increase from 15 minutes to longer periods. (Tip: Pirate patches are expensive. Cheap sports glasses with removable lens work just as well, and aren’t such an eyesore – just cover one of the removable lenses with black felt.)
  2. The Butterfly – Imagine a butterfly flying towards you from the horizon. Follow it with your eyes. Reach out and catch it on your index finger, and bring it to your nose. Now release it, watching it fly back into the distance. Repeat. After this, palming.

2 Replies to “Eye exercises”

  1. Thanks, Sophie. As one of many who's close up vision is getting worse as I get older I'm really interested but mostly because of your personal results.

    In Palming, I've read a few different things. Mostly the ideal seems to be to create a 'cup' around your eyes blocking out light enough to where you could comfortably blink your eyes. Is that what you do or actually place the palms against the eyelids?

    Do you open your eyes under the palms?

  2. +K.B. Burnfield I keep my eyes closed and my palm against my eyelids, but not pressing. I do have to break off palming relatively early though, due to various kiddie interruptions.

    I will also admit to having stopped for a day or two once or twice when particularly busy; I have noticed that the 'pause' causes my vision to start to degrade. I find that excercising once a day is enough to prevent this degredation; more than once results contributes towards recovery.

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