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Teach Yourself Effective Techniques to Relieve Discomfort For Your Child's Eyes

Samantha is a perfectionist. The 8-year-old from White Plains, N.Y., loves to read books and isn't very interested in sports. For a long time, she was only seeing 20/100 visual acuity in both eyes and wearing prescription glasses. Samantha's nearsightedness, or myopia, continued to increase year after year, and so did her mother's worries.

Michael from New Paltz, N.Y., shares similarities with Samantha, but he also shares one critical difference. His eye doctor prescribed glasses – just like Samantha's. However, Michael received instructions for a special eye program, as well. The program included recommendations to look up from whatever he was reading every 10 minutes, to let his eyes relax into the distance, to palm his eyes every 20 minutes and to never wear distance glasses when reading. As a result, his prescription did not increase over the next four years.

"These two examples demonstrate that beyond the narrow physiological explanations of myopia in teens other factors cause the onset of this disorder and its progress," says Dr. Marc Grossman, a behavioral optometrist from Rye, N.Y. Aside from his degree in optometry, Dr. Grossman also has a degree in acupuncture and explores the influence of yoga practice on human vision.

The Basics of Nearsightedness

Most people who develop nearsightedness get it in the first 18 years of life. By 10 years old, only about 10 percent of people are nearsighted. By 15 years old, that number increases to 25 percent, and by 18 years old, 40 percent of the population in the United States is nearsighted. These figures seem to correspond with the increase in "near work" that is given during school years.

"Myopia in teens is a prime example of function affecting structure," says Dr. Grossman. "As we read more or do more homework or computer work, the muscles in our eye are called on to work overtime in order to focus at a near distance. As it does this for longer and longer periods of time, it finds it hard to then relax into a position which enables it to focus again at a distance."

Blurred sight at a distance is the primary symptom and complaint of nearsighted kids. Both eyes are usually involved, but one may be worse than the other. When worried parents attend the classical eye doctor's appointment, they'll probably be told that nothing can be done for their child's poor vision – except glasses or contact lenses. This solution, however, focuses on the immediate treatment of symptoms instead of on the cure.

More Than Anatomy

The conventional explanation of myopia is an excessive muscular tension of the eye that leads to an excessive curvature of the cornea. In such cases, the image accommodates just short of the retina, and the vision is blurred. Dr. Grossman finds this explanation too simplistic, narrow and limited. In his opinion, there is also a clear mind-body connection to the onset of myopia in adolescence.

According to Dr. Grossman, nearsightedness could be one way that teens cut themselves off from the outside world. The nearsighted teen can exist in unconscious thoughts. "[It's] no wonder that myopia tends to start in the early teens," says Dr. Grossman. "The myopic child usually goes through a shy stage, withdrawing because of fear of entering and being rejected by relationships."

The good news is that much can be done to fix this shortsightedness before introducing artificial lenses to the child. "Prescribing lenses right at the beginning of myopia gives the child something to hide behind, and then they get used to the distance lenses, and then they usually get worse again within one to two years," says Dr. Grossman. "If prescribed, they should usually only be given for distance and not used for near work."

The Cure

Ancient Eastern cultures developed some intriguing, vital techniques to improve human vision by addressing the cause of the disorder. They wisely understood that the common phenomenon of myopia in teenagers is related to unconscious muscular tension in and around the eyes, as well as to emotional aspects. Many schools in China and India start the day with 15 minutes of eye exercises. Here are several effective techniques to relieve the disorder in children. Some of them are based on yoga methods.

  • Relaxation and Palming: According to the yogis, the main key to improved eyesight lies in relieving mental strain. Show your kids the effective technique of palming for half an hour during the day. This gives the mind and the eyes a break and relieves muscular rigidity. Palming is done by covering closed eyes with cupped, warm palms and letting the darkness soothe the strain. When an adequate degree of relaxation is attained, your child will notice an increased clarity. In the beginning, this achievement will last only a few seconds.
  • Breathing: Did you know that human eyes use a third as much oxygen as the human heart? Shallow, weak breathing harms their function and leads to poor vision, as well. Expose your child to the method of alternate breathing. Inhale slowly and effortlessly through the left nostril. Hold the air for a few seconds, and then exhale it slowly through the right nostril. Change sides, and start inhaling from the right side. Ten cycles of this exercise should be practiced three times a day. This routine soaks the eyes with oxygen, a vital ingredient needed for health.
  • Exercises: Which muscles are never concentrated on in gym class, yet they work all the time? Classical physical training in Western schools neglects the eye muscles and ignores their being under constant strain. The yogis invented several beneficial exercises for the eye muscles. Advise your child to shut his or her eyes and roll the eyeballs around. This exercise should be practiced for one minute, alternating between clockwise and counterclockwise. Another beneficial exercise is moving the eyeballs slowly from one side to the other in several directions: vertical, horizontal and diagonal. These fairly simple exercises elongate and strengthen the muscles that adjust the lens of the eyes, making them supple and obedient.
  • Skying: Have your child gaze at the sky or stare at far horizons for several minutes during the day. This important technique trains the eye muscles to focus at long distances, and it also elongates them.

Applying the above mentioned yoga techniques could yield amazing results on the spot. After deep relaxation, nearsighted kids should notice how blurred text will appear gradually bright and sharp for a few seconds. Despite the fact that these achievements will revert to the abnormal sight after a few seconds, temporary improvements accumulate to permanent ones. Once your child's muscles start feeling the right amount of contraction needed for the accurate accommodation, they'll know where to aim and how to get there next time. A highly motivated child who practices these routines on a daily basis may be able to get rid of glasses after several weeks or at least stop the progress of their myopia.

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