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The Bates Method
is not Eye Exercises

The Bates Method is not the same as eye exercises

It is a very common misconception about the Bates Method, but Dr. Bates did not actually teach 'eye exercises.' Yet most people think you have to do lots of eye exercises if you want to improve your vision. eye exercises

Do you immediately think of moving your eyes, as far as possible in all directions, doing large circular eye motions, and alternately looking near and far? That is the general concept of eye exercises.
This is fine if you start doing eye exercises when your vision is good; because, yes, if done with ease rather than strain, they will help keep your sharp focus.
But, if you have blurry vision, your eye muscles are under a chronic strain, and adding eye exercises on top of strained eye muscles is not a smart idea! Instead of improving your vision, you may find, like I did, that eye exercises do nothing for your vision at all, or that doing such eye 'push-ups' may even cause worse vision.

What strained eye muscles need, first and foremost, is relaxation. If you pull a muscle in your leg and want it to heal, do you first give your leg a rest or do you begin with a vigorous work-out? I bet squats will be off the menu for a while! After an initial rest period, you begin with gentle motions for that leg and build up from there. Your eye muscles need a similar approach. Rest comes first, gentle and natural motions are next, and after good vision has been restored you can get back to a 'full work-out' if you wish.

The fact is repeatedly emphasized that
the exercises of the eyes are not work or effort,
but rather that everything recommended
is to secure physiological rest of the eyes,
a condition which is found only with
central fixation and perfect vision.

William H. Bates, M.D., 1915

Dr. Bates never used the term Eye Exercises the way it is used these days, meaning a set of physical eye movements in order to ‘strengthen’ the eyes.

Bates preferred to not even let his patient know (especially if it was a child) that something was done with the aim of improving the sight. If something else could be thought about, so much the better. In the case of a child with strabismus, the child was told that swinging was "not for the eyes at all but just to see if it gave them a better color in their cheeks." This way the attention was diverted from the eyes and visual relaxation was achieved sooner. (Better Eyesight magazine, August 1924)

Dr. Bates' assistant Emily gave an example of a patient who had gone elsewhere for a course of “eye muscle exercises.” She mentioned that this person was not helped at all, and he later found out that the methods used were not the Bates Method. (Better Eyesight magazine, February 1928)

In general, Dr. Bates tended to use the term ‘relaxation exercise’ instead of ‘eye exercise’. In the few instances where he did refer to ‘muscular exercises’ he was talking about physical exercise of muscles other than the eyes.

Another term Dr. Bates used several times was ‘exercises in distant vision.’ This encompassed looking at the smallest letters that could be read easily on a familiar eye chart for half a minute daily with each eye separately. Developing the skill of staying relaxed with an eye chart at distance, by only looking at letters that can be read easily, was an important part of his method.

I think that, overall, the term ‘eye exercises’ in and of itself tends to create mental strain and therefore eye strain, and it is best avoided when you learn or teach how eyesight can be improved.


Three video clips on the topic of the Bates Method versus Eye exercises:
Bates Method versus Eye Exercises Video Clips- The Bates method versus eye exercises, part 1
- The Bates method versus eye exercises, part 2
- The Bates method is better than eye exercises
Each clip is less than 3 minutes long.

Bates was never tired of insisting on a fact which is now a commonplace of psychology, namely that vision is at least fifty per cent a mental process and that improvement in the mental state of patients suffering from defective vision was apt to result in improvement in their seeing and ultimately, through the effect of good functioning upon organic defect, in their eyes.  In this respect Bates Method differed radically from the methods of orthoptics, which ignore the mental side of seeing and seek to improve vision by the repetition of fatiguing exercises.  Being based on unsound principles, orthoptics do little or no good.  Being based on essentially sound principles, Bates Method is often very effective.
Aldous Huxley

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