Friday, January 1, 2010

1. Sunning

The Idea: Photophobia (literally “fear of light”) is the eyes’ inability to deal with bright light and fluctuations in lighting (like going from a brightly lit space to a dark space or vice-versa). While mainstream western optometry recommends the aversionary tactics of "avoiding sunlight, closing the eyes, wearing dark glasses, or darkening the room" as temporary home remedies to photophobia, a more holistic method of self-healing is described here based on building up tolerance to sunlight rather than evading it.

Set Up: As the name implies, Sunning is best done using the sun, though a flood lamp or bright incandescent bulb can also be used.

How To:
• Step 1: Stand in a spot directly facing the sun, preferably in mid-morning of late afternoon when the sun is not too high in the sky, (this s to avoid neck strain). If using an electric light, place the lamp about 5 feet in front of you with the bulb a few inches above the height of the eyes.
• Step 2: Close the eyes and look at the sun. You will see sunlight in both eyes. Keeping the eyes closed, shift your weight to your left foot and swing your head gently to the left so that sunlight is visible only in the right eye. Next, shift your weight to your right foot, coming back though center, and then swinging your head gently to the right so that sunlight is visible only in the left eye. Keep moving the head slowly from side to side with the weight of the body, breathing deeply and relaxing facial muscles, shoulders, and the rest of the body. Do this for 2 to 10 minutes.
• Step 3: Turn around, facing away from the sun. Look around. What do you see?
• Step 4: Repeat Steps 1 through 3. Do you see things differently after Sunning a second time?

What’s Going On: Several things are happening through the practice of Sunning.
• First, as the head moves from side to side, the pupils are taking turns dilating and contracting. This regulates the shape of the pupils and exercises the eyes’ ability to do adjust to light and darkness.
• Second, the cone cells in the retina are also stimulated, sharpening central vision, day vision and color vision.
• Third, the sun’s heat warms the muscles and blood vessels around the eyes. This improves the flow of oxygen to the eyes, as well as the ability of the eye muscles to regulate eye movement and focal abilities.

Testimonial: I suffered from intense photophobia for over a decade and wore dark glasses most of the time—outside during the day, whether the sun was out or not, and even inside if a space was brightly lit. One summer I threw away my sunglasses and went on a cross-country trip where I practiced a battery of eye exercises called “The Bates Method,” Sunning being my favorite. Each time I Sunned I noticed an immediate temporary improvement in my vision with a gradual lasting improvement with regular practice. After two months I didn’t need my sunglasses anymore and other aspects of my vision had also improved.

More Info:
• Many people who practice and teach Sunning cite Dr. William H. Bates as its originator, though humans and other animals have used the sun both intentionally and instinctually long before Bates’ recommendation of “closed-eyelids sunning” in the 1920s.
Meir Schneider’s Miracle Eyesight Method audiobook (published by Sounds True, 1996) gives an excellent follow-along tutorial on Sunning.
• Thomas R. Quackenbush’s paraphrasal of Bates is also a good one in his textbook Relearning to See (North Atlantic Books, 1997, pp. 229-231), appearing alongside his brief description of syntonics, or “healing with light.”
• I first learned Sunning from an awesome natural vision therapist named Rosemary Gordon. If you're ever in New England, pay her a visit!


  1. I have suffered with photophobia for the past several years... not sure why it came on... but, the sunning thing really works. Every morning I do it on my back deck and feel better immediately. Also, do some deep breathing at the same time...

  2. I'm so happy to hear it! Sunning really helped me with my photophobia too, reducing the need for sunglasses and sharpening my vision. Thanks for posting—and for breathing!