In the following sections, I am going to describe some simple and highly enjoyable techniques for stabilizing and improving your vision. These are adapted from the techniques outlined by William Bates. As you approach the task of adopting these as part of your lifestyle, remember that there are three stages. In the first stage, your task will be to learn the techniques. There are a number of ways to help yourself do this. You might record the instructions on a tape recorder as you read through them. Speak slowly, and then play the tape back for yourself as you use the techniques. Since these techniques are good for a variety of eye problems as well as for general eye health, ask a family member or friend to do them with you. Then you can read the instructions to each other, doubling the effect of your effort.
The next state of involvement with the techniques is the initial period of rapid progress. Your poor eyes have been starved, in a sense, for the type of relaxation and stimulation these techniques provide. Naturally, they are apt to respond rapidly during the first few months of workouts. After this, you will probably reach a plateau where you can maintain the gains you achieved, but do not see much more improvement. This is a good time to stabilize your ongoing program and work it into your life on a daily basis. After a time at the plateau stage, you will most likely reach a point where you find yourself making noticeable progress again. Remember, just like exercising and relaxing the body, these techniques are meant to become part of your life forever!
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The Bates exercises and ARMD
Traditional Bates exercises form a sound basis for working with retinal damage especially of the kind found in ARMD. The combination of stimulation and relaxation in sunning and palming complement the stimulation and movement found in the practices of swinging and shifting. It very commonly happens that one eye is affected earlier or to a greater extent than the other. Loss of sight in one eye of course can be an even greater cause of strain than the loss of acuity per se, especially if the dominant eye is most affected
The adaptations of Dr Bates’ approach which I have developed address the problems of unequal binocular vision. Besides ARMD, these have proved useful in many cases of other conditions such as amblyopia (uniocular and binocular), cataract, strabismus, and all forms of refractive error.
Eye relaxation and focusing exercises
I am indebted for some of the following information to Peter Mansfield, one of Europe’s most distinguished Bates Vision Teachers. Peter is Secretary of the Bates Association for Vision Education and Director of the School of Vision Education in England, and teaches privately in Brighton and London. His blog, The Bates Method, (1992) is published in the USA by Charles Tuttle and in England by Random House. His new blog, Seeing: A Handblog of Vision Education, is planned for publication in 2000.
Do all the following exercises without wearing your glasses or sunglasses, in good light. Your glasses or contact lenses prevent your eyes from reaching their capacity by bringing things to them. The purpose of the techniques described below is to enhance your eyes’ ability to see. At first you may feel anxious without your glasses, especially if you are in the habit of wearing them all the time. Be sure that you feel safe and secure and are not required to do anything like drive or cook or watch over a young child while you are doing your vision training techniques; this will reduce your anxiety. All three exercises – palming, sunning, and swinging – should be done for 10 to 15 minutes twice a day or more frequently if your doctor advises it.