Eye Yoga

My eyesight has always been suboptimal.  I received my first pair of glasses at the age of five after my first eye exam in kindergarten, when the eye exam attendant rhetorically exclaimed to my mother “how could you not know he can’t see out of his right eye?”

My problem is that my left eye is spectacular and regularly performs better than 20/20.  My right eye, however, does not.  It constantly skirts the fringes of legally blind, offering me unique visual experience in contrast to my normal-sighted friends.

For many complicated reasons, for the majority of the past decade I have eschewed corrective eyewear in favor of my natural vision.  With both eyes open, as they normally are, my vision is normal:

room

However, with just my right eye, there is marked blurriness accompanied by a superimposed dynamic darkness:

roomblur

(dramatic reinterpretation)

My explanation for the darkness has to do with suppression.  Because visual perception is the result of two independent but overlapping eyes, the brain must do much editing to sew together two different visual images into one cohesive perception.

One of the facets of this process is suppression, in which the visual signal from one eye is suppressed from the overall visual image.  This is a normal process, occurring in everyone.  One example of this phenomenon is when one eye is closed while one eye remains open.  What happens is not a combination of the two visual inputs–the inside of an eyelid and a normal visual scene–but a suppression of the visual signal from the eye transmitting darkness.

What I believe happens to my vision when I close my left (good) eye is a failure of suppression.  Because my left eye has been conditioned to be the primary contributor of my visual perception, my right visual signal exists in a permanent semi-suppressed state.  My left visual signal is rarely suppressed.  The darkness I experience when looking with my right eye is the superimposition of the visual signal from my left eye , the inside of my eyelid, onto the blurry visual signal of my right eye.

Recently, a friend who’s aware of my eyesight, gave me a book titled Eye Yoga by Dr. Jane Battenberg and Martha Rigney.  The book contains a series of ocular movements and exercises that purport to improve one’s vision.  Jane Battenberg has received a Master’s of Arts in an unspecified field and a Diploma of Clinical Hypnotherapy.  Neither in the book nor on her website does Battenberg mention what institution awarded her these diplomas.  Martha Rigney is a self-described alternative healer and vision improvement educator.

Given the lack of formal study surrounding exercises, I was dubious of their efficacy.  Especially because the back of the book prominently promises that “simple eye exercises can reawaken deep brain capacities.”  Does deep brain mean subcortical?  Is it deep like the wisdom of an ancient sage?  The phrase is, sadly, never explained. Yet throughout the book, there are plenty more examples of neurobabble.

Despite my misgivings, however, it does seem intuitively plausible that practicing eye movements and strengthening the muscles of the eye may help one’s vision, so I decided to give it a shot.

OBSERVATION

My right has 1) poor clarity of vision and 2) a suppressed visual signal.

HYPOTHESIS

Exercising my eyes via the exercises in Eye Yoga will improve the suppressed visual signal of my right eye and possibly improve its overall clarity .

METHODS

The book includes a far sight and near sight eye chart for testing purposes:



Distance Eye Chart Near Eye Chart

These were my metrics.  Before I began the eye yoga, I took a baseline test.

For two weeks, I performed  the exercises, as detailed in the book, daily for 30 minutes.  The exercises included slowly moving my eyes in clockwise and counterclockwise circles, “eye push-ups” consisting of tracking an object moving directly at and away from myself, “V-in and V-out” which consisted of forming a V shape with the index and middle finger and switching focus from beyond to before the V, and several others.

DATA

Near sight test were performed at a distance of approximately 0.5 meters, or the distance between my lap and my head.  Far sight tests were performed at a distance of 12 Zach feet  (1 Zach foot is the distance from a Zach heel to a Zach toe, approximately 0.75 imperial feet).  Testing was limited to avoid a testing effect confound.

  • 2013/02/20, baseline test:  Far — left:  5 lines;  right:  1 line.  Near — left:  10 lines;  right:  1 line
  • 2013/02/25, ASDF test:  Far — left:  5 lines;  right:  1 line.  Near — left:  10 lines;  right:  1 line
  • 2013/03/06, final test:  Far — left:  5 lines;  right:  1 line.   Near — left:  11 lines;  right:  2(ish) lines

 

CONCLUSION

At the end of the two week testing training period, my scores on the near sight eye chart marginally improved, left greater than right eye.  This was the opposite effect I was intending.  However, because the increase was subtle and more subjective than I would like at the limits of one’s vision, I can’t rule out a testing effect having occurred, familiarizing me with the eye charts and enabling my reading of them.

What I can say definitively is that the exercises became much easier to perform and that the prominence of my right visual field increased during these exercises.  Overall, however, I have not noticed any effect in my day to day life.  This does not mean that the Eye Yoga exercises are bunk; it only means that these exercises had no significant impact on myself.

The target demographic of the book and program appears to be elderly people who experience age-related eyesight impairment, not congenital impairment.  I assume this because:  a) the multiple anecdotes and testimonials in the book almost exclusively featuring older people and  b) the picture guides of the exercises also selectively feature white-haired individuals.  It is quite possible that the exercises in the book do benefit people suffering from that condition and not mine.

Overall, the claim that “simple eye exercises can reawaken deep brain capacities” is not debunked, though it is defamed.

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