Meir Schneider was born blind. Surgeries on his eyes did not help him, and he lived for seventeen years unable to see. At the age of 17 he became aware of the Bates vision exercises and practiced them without pause, until gradually his eyesight began to improve. Today his vision is normal enough that he holds a California driver’s license and can drive and is self-sufficient. But he didn’t stop with healing himself, he founded and now runs a school of self-healing in San Francisco, helping others with their visual problems, and other conditions such as muscular dystrophy.

I was very grateful he agreed to an interview and that I can share the following information with you.

Jake Richardson: Your personal story is so dramatic. Looking back, what was it that as a child caused you to persevere so strongly towards healing your eyes?

Meir Schneider: In the first two pages of my book, "Movement for Self-Healing", I describe the love of my grandmother, which made a very big difference to me in my life. She used to lie with me in hospital beds, and supported me through five surgeries. Both my parents were deaf and my connection with my grandmother was significant. My grandmother made me feel that I’m worthwhile. And that feeling gave me the tenacity to work on my eyes 13 hours a day. There is nothing like the love of a parental figure to make someone move forward.

I noticed on Amazon.com that your video Yoga for Your Eyes has more than 10 positive or very positive user reviews. What is it that people who practice your techniques or exercises can achieve for their eyesight?

My reviews are positive because A. people who practice my exercises see an immediate improvement or experience improvement over time, B. people naturally intuit that the body can heal itself, and C. people see that I practice what I preach- I am always working on and improving my eyes myself. I stand fast that vision can improve when the total medical establishment stands against it.

What a person can achieve for their eyesight is very individualistic. We’re all hypnotized that vision cannot improve by the medical profession. All our beliefs regarding the rigidity of the eyes are founded on the opinions of two 19th century physicists, Hermann Ludwig Ferdinand von Helmholtz and James W. Kalat from Austria. I know for sure that the eye can change its shape. It is difficult to say that everyone can have 20/20 vision, but everyone can improve their vision, some much better than others. A perfect example of a successful improvement in vision without the client reaching 20/20 [vision] is the story of a toddler boy I recently worked with who was born with cataracts in his left eye. The doctor discovered cataracts in his eye, blood clots and glaucoma.

The doctor said to give up on the eye because it’s shrinking, and because the bones around the eye would potentially grow in a way that would squeeze down on the shrinking eye, the doctor suggested to put in a glass eye. His parents, however, did not want him to have surgery. I worked with the boy, beginning with light stimulation. Then, we did sunning and palming. Just yesterday, I received a phone call that his eye is growing now! We hope it will not be necessary to remove his eye anymore because his eye now has a sense of sight and it is not shrinking.

A common view is that healing is something outside of ourselves. It’s a medical establishment with professionals, hospitals, drugs, etc. and no internal resources. How important is it to the healing process that we are aware that the body can heal itself to some extent and that self-care is involved?

That is a very crucial question and there is no time when it is more crucial than now. Usually when someone enters a debate, the most marginal question is the most important question. In the debate of the medical crisis of our country, everybody agrees that this country, the richest country that ever was in human history, has a medical expense that is 1/6th of the national gross. The reason is that we go to doctors after the ailment has happened, and we don’t work on making the body more vital and more alive. Doctors, in a way, discourage us from tapping into the resources of the body. So, the foremost important thing for us to know as a nation is that we need new experts in working with people who can teach what their body can do for them. This is what I do at the School for Self-Healing-I train people to learn the healing resources in their own body.

We have 600 muscles in the body; most people only use 50 of them, and they don’t even know it. The connective tissue thus hardens around the muscles we always use. Why do we use only 50 out of them? Many motions the body can do, we do not do them in modern times; we have no kinesthetic awareness of these motions. Arthur Rubinstein, the great pianist, must have had much more subtle and deep control of his fingers that the rest of us do, but we can at least significantly develop and increase our control of our fingers and of our toes. In all my workshops, when I teach people to use their toes independently, they frown because they never knew they could do it, but armless people can do this. So what we have to do, first of all, is understand that we need to have awareness from within, to what exists in our body.

It’s unacceptable that one out of every four people in this country have arthritis, that eight out of 10 people have back pain, and that 180 million people wear glasses. This is totally unacceptable and where we really need to start is to have a whole movement of rediscovering our resources. Then we need medicine maybe 1/20th or less of the time than we need it now. We still will be tested, but we will need the doctors’ help much less and we’ll take care of ourselves much more. They tell me at my age that we need to go to a physical every single year, but I didn’t go to a physical for seven years and found that my physical was exactly the same at the end of the seven years. My physical is my ability to run and my ability to bike, and more than that my ability to feel and my ability to move, and to have better awareness of myself. That’s my real physical.

So, the answer is absolutely — it is absolutely important to the healing process that we are aware that the body can heal itself and that self-care is involved. Not only do we not know our resources, but we don’t have the right teachers for this and this is why the School for Self-Healing exists, to train people to learn what their resources really are.

Is the basic premise of your work with eyes that eyesight is influenced significantly by the muscles around the eye? And that changing the strength and habitual movements of those muscles improves eyesight?

The basic premise of my work, The Meir Schneider Self-Healing Method Through Bodywork and Movement, is that most people are born with healthy eyes and most visual habits really create a disturbance to the function and thus the structure of the eyes. The vision exercises taught in Self-Healing teaches healthy eye habits that counter the unhealthy visual habits of our culture.

Our lifestyle requires us to look at computers and read, and we don’t look enough at the distance. We can learn to compensate for this by looking eight minutes, two times to three times each day, at a distance, and surely, but slowly, our lenses would begin to regain their flexibility. Our lenses would convex when we look from near and flatten when we look from far. The muscles around our lenses, the ciliary muscles, would constrict when we look from near, and would really relax and expand when we look from far.

Our ancestors’ survival depended on their peripheral vision; they needed to sense an animal approaching before it saw them. Our near-sighted lifestyle of reading and computer work does not encourage us to pay attention to our peripheral vision. We thus need to learn to pay attention to our periphery to keep it alive. We tend to wear sunglasses, obstructing ourselves from seeing strong sunlight, when actually our pupils need the sunlight to exercise its function of shrinking and constricting fully.

We do not have an in interest in details. For example, when we read, we read for content and do not notice the curves of the letters. We do not enjoy the intricacies of a beautiful flower. This loss of interest in details disengages the macula, whose function is to look from detail to detail. This disinterest is responsible for macular degeneration.

We can counter this by keeping an interest in details- by looking at flowers, looking at the clouds, looking at the curves and landscapes in the distance. Most people have a dominant eye and do not work equally with both eyes. We can practice balancing the use of the two eyes through eye-teaming exercises and waking up the less dominant eye. Unhealthy visual habits leads to degeneration of the eyes and healthy visual habits are healing for the eyes.

The best example I have is a lady who came to me with one legally blind eye and another eye that only sees color and light. We discovered that when she relaxed, she was no longer legally blind and could see an extra line on the chart. This surprised her and her mother because when they went to the best doctors in Canada, she could never see the 20/100 line, the second line on the chart. I sat her in a dark room and patched vigorously, with two eye patches and construction tape, her seeing eye. I flashed a light on and off to stimulate her blind eye, and she was able to recognize the light. Then she was able to recognize features and figures and me. After five minutes, she was able to describe what was in the room.

No doctor tried flashing a light in front of her eye for five minutes in a dark room. But, I know that it takes three minutes for the brain to wake up and use a lazy eye. So, I flashed the light for at least five minutes. Because she started to use her lazy eye, started to consciously look with it, her vision improved. Her vision in that eye was still poor, but it wasn’t blind. The eye could see features and figures and even large letters, which is immensely significant for being a lazy eye for 18 years of her life. When she came to me, the vision in her strong eye was 20/200; when she relaxed, her vision in that eye improved to 20/100 (40% of normal vision); and, after practicing eye-teaming exercises, improved to an incredible 20/60 (70% of normal vision). We have a latent ability in the body that most people are not aware of and we can wake-up this latent potential with my Self-Healing Method.

People in modern societies tend to spend a lot of time looking at various screens: computer, cellphone, mobile devices, TV screens. How can your exercises benefit eyes that are reading electronic media every day?

Well, we need to blink a lot, we need to look away a lot, we need to massage our eyes a lot, and we need to palm for 6 minutes at a time. Palming is the exercise of rubbing our palms together and then putting them around our eye orbits. In short, we need to take breaks and pay attention to the periphery, and we need to look at the distance every day for eight minutes before we look at the computer.

Are you working on developing new exercises or insights for self-healing and eyesight?

All the time, everyday, in every way. Even though my method is very developed, every single time that I work with a new client, especially a client with a great challenge, I learn its limitations and am challenged to invent something new for the person I’m working with. The result of this is that the moment of innovation leads to a very dynamic relationship between me and my clients. It leads to a real connection. As a result of that, I have more material to give to others.

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This story was written by Jake Richardson. It originally appeared on Care2.com and is used here with permission. Visit Care2.com to discover more than 5,000 ways to enhance your life — from holistic health and wellness to pets and family life, the experts at Care2.com share great tips for living a healthier, happier and more sustainable lifestyle.