Surprising Exercises To Help Your Eyes
by Carol Milano
Yoga, tai chi, meditation and stretching exercises make people
feel better--but will they help you SEE better?
Deborah Banker, MD, a busy ophthalmologist in Malibu CA, is sure they
can. Dr. Banker, who's studied yoga and oriental medicine, explains, "The
more tension on the muscles around your eyes, the more they push on your
eye and the worse your vision gets." She checks each patient's vision
to see which type of exercise to "prescribe" to lessen tension.
Dr. Banker's approach is unusual in Western medicine, but experts in complementary
and alternative care see its logic.
Physical and visual balance are related because 20% of visual fibers go
to an area of the brain connected to the base of the spine, reports Gerald
E. Wintrob, OD, MA, a holistic optometrist in Brooklyn NY. His vision
therapy for patients includes balance exercises. "Yoga is breathing
and balance. You can relax your eye through yoga alone, but you need vision
therapy for a deeper, more profound level of relaxation. The two work
together well." Dr. Wintrob's own eyesight improved measurably through
yoga and meditation.
"Stress can theoretically affect the physiology of all tissues, including
the retina and optic nerve, which are exquisitely sensitive to inflammation
and poor oxygen supply," says Richard Glickman-Simon, MD, Director,
Complementary and Alternative Medicine Curriculum, Tufts University School
"Aerobic exercises increase oxygen flow to all tissues. Meditative
exercises have the added benefit of widespread muscular relaxation. Although
this could conceivably impact eye function, a direct connection between
exercise and eye health has yet to be firmly established," he adds.
Energy pathways from the heart, bladder, stomach and gall bladder all
connect to the eye, notes Louis Kiwala, a doctor of Oriental Medicine.
"Meditation or tai chi may improveenergy flow to any part of the
body with a blockage or imbalance. Therefore, a specific eye problem caused
by poor circulation may be alleviated by an exercise that improves circulation
to that region." The Director of New York Center for Acupuncture
& Alternative Medicine is not familiar with the practice of improving
eyesight through exercise.
Lee Duffner, MD, Miami ophthalmologist and spokesperson for the American
Academy of Ophthalmology, says, "Patients have told me that when
they do tai chi or yoga, they feel so much better afterwards, in general,
that their eyes feel better, too. Tai chi gives you better control over
all your muscles (possibly including ocular muscles), but I'm not aware
of any specific benefit to the eyes."
Tai chi students see surroundings without looking at any particular object.
"The more they learn to scan with a soft focus--taking in a new scene
in relaxed, tranquil fashion-- the more their vision improves," declares
Ken Cohen, MA, author of "The Way of Qigong: The Art and Science
of ChineseEnergy Healing" (Ballantine Books, 1999). "State of
mind affects the immune system, the release of free radicals, and amount
of stress hormones in the blood, which can contribute to problems like
macular degeneration. Learning to relax the eye improves oxygen delivery
and vision," confirms the noted authority on Oriental Medicine.
RESOURCES FOR READER
If you'd like to find a qualified professional who can recommend fitness
exercises to help your eyes, check:
College of Optometrists In Vision Development: www.covd.org
(Rosenthal Center for Complementary & Alternative Medicine has state-by-state
listings of reputable educational institutions.)
Many of these articles
appear on the publication's website, which are often password-protected
or members-only. For your convenience, I've gathered them on my own