Holistic Health: The Quest for Vision

By Lucy Beale

Many of us can improve our eyesight. Here’s one woman’s personal journey from myopia and astigmatism to seeing clearly again.
by Lucy Beale

I’ve always hated wearing eyeglasses. Since my first pair at age 5, glasses felt like a screen that closed me off from the outside world. My vision was worse at every annual eye exam. Over time, of course, I adjusted; like everyone else, I assumed I was powerless to do anything about it.

Then, about 10 years ago, my eye doc told me I needed reading glasses. I cried. I already wore trifocals when I wasn’t wearing $350/pair contact lenses with a minus 13 diopter rating and an extreme correction for astigmatism.

Reading glasses were the final straw. Emotionally I couldn’t go there. As a public speaker, my vanity wouldn’t permit me to pop on reading glasses to see my notes on stage. I refused to change my chosen self-image. I asked for a way to improve my vision, not another set of glasses.

The eye doc said there was nothing he could do.

But it just didn’t seem like a reasonable answer to me. If one could improve posture, or health, or muscle tone, why couldn’t a person improve his or her vision? After all, eyes were connected to muscles. I started asking around to my “alternative” friends. At the time I lived in Colorado, and after a couple months of asking, someone suggest that I go see Cleve. So I did.

Dr. Cleve Armstrong, a behavioral optometrist in the Denver/Boulder area, had exactly the information I wanted. He knows how to make

eyes better, and we’re not talking surgery. Within four months of following his suggestions, I was out of trifocals, down to -8 diopter regular disposable contacts. The astigmatism was-poof-gone. I no longer needed reading glasses, but used a pair of regular glasses-no bifocals or trifocals-for nighttime reading after I took my contacts out for the evening.

I was astounded. I was in charge of my vision.

Some of the benefits were tangible. I could see well enough at night to get out of bed for water or to check on temperature settings without needing glasses. My disposable contact lenses cost only $50/year.

I had more clarity about life. My creativity strengthened. Since then, I’ve authored nine books on weight loss and wellness, including three cookbooks. After 15 years of being uncomfortably single, I met and married the love of my life. I started oil painting and won third place at the Utah State Fair in 2006. Were these due to having better vision? I suspect there’s a link. I’m far more social now, perhaps because I see the world around me with less effort than before. In a sense I took my blinders off and saw myself and my environment with more clarity.

Now you may be wondering what in the world happened in those four months. Let me tell you, nothing magical at all. Dr. Armstrong simply taught me how to use my body and muscles differently. With a couple lifestyle changes added in. Upon embarking on my vision project, I wrote an affirmation, “I can see clearly now. My natural vision is 20-20.” It was my way of formally asking for what I wanted.

I’ll tell you some of the exercises I used, but you’ll want to consult with an optometrist, preferably one who specializes in vision therapy. (www.bettervision.com/SRL4.html provides state-by-state lists of behavioral optometrists but none are listed for Utah yet.) Dr. Armstrong slowly decreased my prescription as I progressed to encourage my eyes to make the improvements. Since moving to Utah, I’ve been working with Dr. Tina Martin in Midvale who has studied with Dr. Armstrong and my vision continues to improve. Today I wear contacts with a correction of -5.50 diopters in one eye, -6.0 in the other. The exercises assigned to me may or may not work precisely for you, based on your vision and emotional and physical needs.

Muscle tension, poor posture, muscular misalignments, repetitive movements and stress are some causes of poor vision. Also, limiting your eyes limits your vision. When I’m writing a book, I spend countless hours looking at the computer screen, about 16-18 inches from my eyes. At those times, my eyes spend days at one focal length. This inhibits the natural movement of my eyes to focusing near, then far. This is true for folks who work at computers for hours, but also for anyone who logs lots of screen time on video games, watching television, reading books, or doing close-in handwork.

In Dr. Armstrong’s words, stay loose. As a way to start loosening up my muscles, I used Pilates and yoga stretches almost daily. An excellent book that contains hundreds of stretches for specific muscle groups is “Stretching,” by Bob Anderson. You’ll need to learn the correct way to stretch, so buy some books or take some classes.(See sidebar for excercises related to vision.)

At times I would do a new stretch and find that it vastly improved my vision on the spot. I figure that part of my body was just waiting for me to find it and let it release and relax. What was most amazing was the vision improvement was permanent.

Other ways to stretch and realign your body are with cranio-sacral massage, foot reflexology, chiroprac­tic adjustments and body rolling as described in the book, “The Ultimate Body Rolling Workout,” by Yamuna Zake. Feldenkrais, Rolfing and structural integration are helpful, too.

Next comes focusing exercises for the eyes. They are easy to do and easy to incorporate into daily life (for instance, while waiting at traffic lights). Focus at a car or building or sign in the distance, then focus at the dials on your dash board. Read the license plate in front of your car clearly, then quickly look at your dashboard and focus on one letter or number clearly. Do this repeatedly to encourage your eyes to adapt quickly between far and near.

To stretch your eyes: Without moving your head, look up, then to the side, then down, then to the other side, making a circle with your eyeballs. Do this three times in one direction, then reverse the direction for three circles.

For another stretching exercise, called “temple eyes”: Look hard to the left, then straight ahead, then to the right, then straight ahead and so on as you stretch the muscles at the sides of your eyes.

When your eyes feel tired from any activity, switch focal lengths. After reading or screen time, look up and out the window. Do the same for any close-in work. Your eyes will regain the ability to focus at all distances and in the available light, be it bright or shadowy.

On my visit to Dr. Armstrong about two years ago, he looked in my eyes and observed that my body was flooded with toxins that had not been there previously. He saw what I didn’t want to see: My hobby of oil painting wasn’t beneficial to my health in general, and my vision in particular. I already knew that simply opening a tube of paint or a jar of solvent stung my eyes and made my skin itch.

I left with new assignments: Stop painting with oils (I now paint with watercolors), do 30 seconds of jumping jacks hourly to pump toxins out of my lymph nodes along with 30 seconds of sitting pushups. It’s impossible to adequately describe in writing what a sitting pushup is, but it helps move lymph fluid from underarm nodes. Upon doing some additional research, I added hot baths with Epson salts and homeopathic drops for petrochemical detoxification. Again my vision improved.

I don’t suppose vision improvement is for everyone. I wanted freedom after decades of feeling imprisoned and constrained. But if it sounds like it’s for you, go for it. You’ll love your new freedoms and your new experience of life.

Lucy Beale is a nationally recognized wellness coach and the author of several health-related “Idiot’s Guide” books. She lives in Sandy, Utah. www.Lucybeale.com; lucybeale-weight-loss.blogspot.com

This article was originally published on January 30, 2009.