Posted: November 20, 2003
By Kristin Barendsen
Embattled eyesight guru answers back
To hear John Slavicek tell it, he's a misunderstood man with an honorable mission: to help blind people regain their sight.
To hear some of his students tell it, he's a flaky nonscientist who exaggerates his success.
Slavicek is the author of Yoga for the Eyes, a self-published manual about the method he developed to help visually impaired people see better. Slavicek says his method improves eyesight in three days and that it has launched an "anti-blindness movement" in Prague that is "ending the legal blindness of more and more persons with each passing day."
In the late 1960s, Slavicek, who had worn eyeglasses for years, started reading extensively about vision therapy. He came upon ancient yogic eye exercises, visualizations recommended by the channeled entity Seth, and the Bates Method, a century-old system developed by American ophthalmologist William H. Bates.
Slavicek borrowed pieces from each discipline to make his own eye cure. "Within six days, or about two hours of exercises," he says, "my vision was completely normal." He says the method also cured him and others of chronic headaches. "This was totally unexpected and miraculous."
According to Slavicek, his system is superior to that of Bates because it gets results much more quickly. While famed Bates teacher Meir Schneider cured himself of blindness in 18 months of practice, Slavicek claims his method can achieve similar results in eight hours.
One believer is Inka Krikavova, who says her eyesight was getting worse until she talked to neighbor Slavicek. After trying "Johnny's yoga" for three or four days, she says her sight improved markedly. "Before, I needed glasses to read the papers, and now I don't. When people practice and concentrate, it helps, and the treatment is free of pain. To sacrifice 10 or 15 minutes [a day] is really worth it; the result is very good," she says.
Elise Peharova provides another testimonial, albeit a less-dramatic one. Peharova, who has been legally blind for a decade from glaucoma, was walking with a friend in central Prague when Slavicek approached her and asked if he could help. Peharova had heard of Slavicek's work and says she gratefully accepted. While previously she could see only light, after doing the exercises for a couple of weeks, she says, "I could see my refrigerator; it was white. Then I could see the green flowers. I could see the pavement." After about four months of practice, however, Peharova suffered a stroke, stopped doing the exercises and lost the sight she had gained.
In February 2000, Slavicek approached the large-print and Braille magazine Zora and asked if legally blind staff members would be willing to participate in an experiment. Three volunteers practiced the exercises for six weeks.
Slavicek describes one volunteer as his "star pupil." After about 10 hours of practice, "She could see perfectly - it was unbelievable!" he exclaims with a sweeping gesture. "I saw her read a wall calendar from across the room; I saw her make coffee and put in cream and sugar without using her eyeglasses."
The subject, who did not want her name used in this article, remembers the experience a bit differently. She says her vision improved "only a little. I thought it was better, but it was only subjective. The doctor said the diagnosis isn't better. Now I don't try." She says she has taught the method to some friends, but she would not estimate how many and doesn't know if their vision improved.
Another participant in Slavicek's experiment was Joseph Cerha, director of Tyfloservis, a Prague-based rehabilitation organization for blind people. "I think that Yoga for the Eyes could be very useful for the rehabilitation of blind people because it can relieve tension," Cerha says. "But Mr. Slavicek doesn't know very well the pathology of vision. He says his results are objective, but he made up the results to try to persuade people. He is using the good will of people with vision problems. He crosses the border of ethics." Shortly after the experiments, Tyfloservis cut off communication with Slavicek.
"They are protecting themselves," Slavicek responds. "Think about it: What would you do if you were blind all your life and suddenly you could see? You wouldn't want to tell anybody. You would lose your pension and all your benefits. And you wouldn't have the skills to get a job in this economy."
Slavicek says there is an "underground sight-restoring movement in Prague. The system is being taught forward by the people I taught. What I would like to know is, how many of the blind have regained their sight - 10? 50? 100?" When pressed, he admits his information is based on rumors passed on by a blind friend.
To further spread the word, in June 2001 Slavicek took his book to the Health Ministry, which translated it into Czech so it could be evaluated by an ophthalmologist. The ophthalmologist "rejects the book and does not recommend its further publishing," says a ministry official who asked not to be named. She adds that to include yoga for the eyes in clinical practice "would require proper clinical testing of the method. The Health Ministry should be initiating this testing, not Mr. Slavicek himself."
Slavicek also sent the book to the World Health Organization and St. Erik's Eye Foundation in Sweden, which responded that since he had not conducted double-blind experiments, they were not interested.
As if to counter any suspicion that he is a con man, Slavicek says, "It's not about money," pointing out that he has only recently begun selling the English-language book at www.yogafocus.net. Although the official price is $29.95 (839 Kc), Slavicek will offer it to Prague locals for 400 Kc.
Slavicek was born in Prague to Czech parents and emigrated to the United States when he was 6 months old. Now he divides his time among Prague, Sweden and Spain. He is the author of eight books about bankruptcy, including The Simplified Guide to Personal Bankruptcy and takes credit for inspiring what he calls the American bankruptcy movement.
At 68, Slavicek is retired but is working on a new book, Free Food From the Sun. "I found the secret of manna," he says, twice. "You can live without eating. You look into the sun for an hour, and you're not hungry. It's nothing spiritual, just a technique."
When asked whether that might not be damaging to the eyes, he responds, "Well, you work up to it. Start with five minutes today, 10 minutes tomorrow."
- Ingrid Ludvikova contributed to this report.
Kristin Barendsen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
the SlaviCek method at a glance
Step Four of Six: "Healing Tears"
Source: Adapted from Yoga for the Eyes by John J. Slavicek, 2003
By Kristin Barendsen