Better Eyesight Without Glasses For Me
by Jessica Pym
I am 12 years old and I noticed my eyesight getting worse as I started secondary school. I had an eye test at the local optician and he confirmed my short-sightedness. My mother, who had done some Bates exercises as a child and still has near perfect sight, got in touch with the Bates Society and was given a list of teachers. We selected Liz May as she lived nearby and sounded friendly!
My first lesson with Liz was for her to assess the state of my eyes and to introduce me to some of the Bates ideas. She asked me questions such as when had I first noticed that my eyesight had deteriorated. She was very friendly, which was a nice welcome to the method. She told me how to relax my eyes by giving me ‘palming’ exercises to do. I immediately understood the strain I’d been putting on my eyes by squinting - squinting was my main problem - and still is! When I told her I had been squinting she explained that I had to take steps to stop this as it was not helping my eyes in the long run, even though it helped me to see clearer at the time.
The next week she gave me a new exercise, ‘sunning’. I found this exercise very relaxing and helpful and I did it before my 'palming'. It was quite difficult at first to find time to do sunning and palming, but after a while it became a set routine which rarely slipped. I still do it every evening as it helps me to go to sleep in a relaxed mood. She then started introducing other exercises for me to do such as glasses with a card stuck down the middle of the nose which helped me to concentrate more on my periphery vision. Throughout these weeks I was just learning about my eyes and how they work, for example the glasses I described. I soon realised that my eyes enjoyed bright colours, especially fluorescent ones, as the card on the glasses was very bright.
There were some highlights in the weeks that followed, including the 3D books which my eyes really enjoyed and so did I and there was a sense of achievement when I first succeeded in seeing one of the pictures in 3D. The 3D is useful to find out whether you are using your eyes correctly or straining too hard to see something. I felt that I had taken the first step when I saw the 3D illustration. Another highlight was seeing the next line down on the eye chart. This really proved to me that it was working - better than glasses would have done. This gave me a boost of confidence and saw me through to the next highlight, the ‘wobbly board’, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I tried it before a skiing holiday and I think that it helped me a lot on the ski slopes and keeping balance! The wobbly board is a half a football-shaped piece of wood with flat slab placed on top. You have to balance on the flat slab whilst looking at an eye chart or dancing to music, watching television etc.
It helps you to balance and be aware of the whole of your body including your eyes.
The things I least enjoyed were the lessons where I had to stand up a lot of the time trying to see things, which I found very frustrating, but still very rewarding if I achieved it. Another difficulty which I faced, was at school. I could not see the whiteboard for some time and I still remember many a comment 'Well, why don’t you get glasses?' which was not very encouraging. Then, when I tried to explain to my school friends they were very scornful about it, possibly because they don’t know anything about what the Bates method has to offer or even because they were jealous.
I now can see better than I could when I started, though there is still work to do and I know it is a lifetime’s job. You have to fit the exercises and sunning and palming into your daily routine but anyone would be a fool not to if by doing this they can avoid wearing glasses. I still go for a lesson with Liz every few weeks to make sure I stay on track but I am sure that if I persevere I shall never have to wear glasses. Liz manages to make the lessons interesting and fun - have you every heard of an optician running round the room playing ball games with a patient? Bates method teachers do!