Bates Method in a Nutshell
The Basics of Better Eyesight:
Instructions on how to improve your vision with
simple eye exercises and visual habits
Written by Alex Eulenberg in 1995, based on Better Eyesight Without Glasses by
William H. Bates (New York: Henry Holt, 1981), Chapter 24,
"Fundamental Principles of Treatment", pp. 193-200.
Last revision, May 18, 2009.
The means to better vision is through relaxing the eyes. Rest makes
vision better, strain or effort makes vision worse. There are several
ways to rest the eyes.
- Close your eyes. While doing this, think of something
- Cover your eyes. Called "palming". If you cover your eyes
so as to exclude all light, the eyes will be able to achieve a greater
degree of relaxation. Cover both eyes with the palms of your hands,
your fingers crossed on your forehead. Note: in order to be
successful, you must be able to relax while palming. Some people
cannot do this, and palming becomes counterproductive. The blacker the
field you see, the more relaxed you are. But if you "try" to see
black, this may cause more strain. Don't try to see black: it is
better to imagine a concrete, familiar object or scene.
- Observe the swing of things. As you move your gaze from one
point to another, things seen should move in the opposite
direction. For example, if you look at the upper left corner of the
letter "H" and then shift your gaze to the lower left corner, the "H"
should appear to move, or "swing" up. If it doesn't, this is a sign of
strain. There are a variety of exercises to practice the swing. You
can gently swing your whole body to the left and to the right, and
watch a distant tree swing to the right and to the left, you can move
just your head, or just your eyes. The better the vision, the shorter
the swing can be made to be.
- Use your imagination. By seeing things with your mind's
eye, and remember them in precise detail, you increase your ability to
see actual objects better. The perfect memory of any sensation can be
produced only when one is free of strain. It also helps, when
practicing with a test card, to imagine that the part of a letter that
one is looking at is blacker than the rest of the letter, or to
imagine a small letter within a small black spot of a letter. In this
way you direct your mind to appreciating finer and finer detail.
- Catch those flashes. When your eyes finally achieve a state
of relaxation through swinging or palming, you will see a "clear
flash"; paradoxically, the sight of everything in focus is such a
surprise that it causes strain, and the blur returns. So before the
clear picture blurs out, close your eyes and remember the image in its
full sharpness and clarity.
- Keep your vision centered. When you regard an object, only
one small part should be seen best. This is because only the center of
the retina -- the fovea -- has the best vision for detail. Farther
away from the fovea, the retinal receptors get progressively less able
to pick up fine detail. Therefore, trying to catch all the detail with
all of your retina at once causes strain because it cannot be done!
To be able to see all the details of an image,
put each detail into the center of your visual field,
where it can be seen best, one at a time.
Allow each detail to become less clear as you move away from it and center in on the next detail.
- Enjoy the sun. Get out into the open and enjoy every sunny
day. It is especially relaxing and stimulating to the eyes if you
close your eyes and let the sun shine onto your lids as you sway back
- Practice with a test card. Keep an eye chart on the wall. To practice, stand from
10 to 20 feet away, and read the smallest line that you can without
straining. Then look at one of the letters on that line and close your
eyes. Remember that letter -- go over every detail in your mind; shift
from part to part, from curve to corner and so on. When you open your
eyes, you will see not only that letter better, but also the one below
it. If you find yourself staring at the letters, which results in the
line becoming blurred as soon as it comes into focus, it is best to
close the eyes before this can happen. When you open them, shift to
another letter on the same line. If you close your eyes for each
letter, you will become able to read the whole line. Practice every
day for five minutes or more and keep a record of your progress.