The Bates method for restoring vision

The Bates method for restoring vision

Have you ever heard of the Bates method? This is the author’s method of a famous American ophthalmologist, which allows you to restore vision without medication and wearing glasses. According to William Horatio Bates, spectacle correction of myopia not only does not help to correct myopia, hyperopia and astigmatism, but also worsens visual acuity. We talk about why the Bates method does not work, which exercises can be really effective, and which, on the contrary, are harmful.

More about theory

At the beginning of the 20th century, Bates put forward his own assumption about why refractive errors develop and came up with a method for completely restoring vision. The doctor believed that glasses did not help – after all, diopters had to be changed to stronger ones over time – and vision directly depended on the transverse and longitudinal eye muscles and their tone. According to Bates, it is they that contribute to the change in the shape of the eye and are responsible for the ability to focus on objects located at different distances.

The doctor was convinced that when the muscles are relaxed, the eye has the shape of a ball. When a person looks at objects up close, the transverse muscles tense up, and the longitudinal muscles relax – because of this, the eye stretches and takes on an oval shape. When the eyes focus on something in the distance, the transverse muscles relax and the eye returns to its spherical shape.

So, Bates concluded that the cause of refractive errors (myopia, hyperopia, presbyopia) is overstrain of the transverse and longitudinal muscles of the eyes. In addition, he believed that the tone of the eye muscles had an effect on the mental state. That is why his technique was aimed at relaxing the eye muscles in order to improve visual function, as well as relieve stress.

It is noteworthy that William Bates did not see the point in complete vision correction with glasses – an improvement of 1-1.5 diopters is enough. Ideally, he generally advised to refuse glasses.

Disadvantages of the method

Everything described, unfortunately, contradicts the principles of modern evidence-based medicine (EBM, evidence-based medicine ). In other words, the effect of Bates gymnastics has not been proven and is not recognized by the ophthalmological and optometric communities. In the end , Bates’ ideas about the work of the eyes are not true. It is difficult to blame him, because the technique is already more than a hundred years old. At the time of Bates, it was not possible to conduct such surveys as are available today, he relied only on his assumptions (which, of course, is unscientific).

To date, there is no evidence that it corrects vision:

  • We do not have data on the visual acuity of the subjects, as well as ultrasound images (ultrasound of the eyes) before and after exercise;
  • Apparently, the experiments were carried out under different lighting conditions, and sometimes in the open air;
  • It is not known how the psychological state of the participants was assessed;
  • There are no criteria for the effectiveness of exercises on reading unfamiliar text;
  • Statistical analysis was not applied.

Benefits of the Bates Method

But for some, exercise really helps!

Yes, the psychological factor takes place at least due to the placebo effect. Besides, someone’s positive personal reason is not an argument. After all, when we decide on treatment, we want to know the chances of success in percentage terms. But despite the fact that the method is not able to restore vision, you can perform such gymnastics to train the eye muscles. Exercise in and of itself isn’t all that bad. William Bates did not invent them personally, but borrowed what was already known, in particular from yoga practice.

Bates gymnastics is recommended to start with palming (from the English palm – palm). This exercise can be repeated several times a day to reduce eye strain.

What do we have to do?

  • First, wash your hands with soap and water to avoid introducing a bacterial or viral infection into your eyes;
  • Now take a comfortable position, try to relax, breathe evenly and calmly;
  • Close your eyes with your palms so that light does not penetrate through your fingers – complete darkness is necessary;
  • But at the same time, you should not press your fingers on the eyelids and eyeballs;
  • Hands should be warm, heating promotes even greater relaxation;
  • Hold your hands over your eyes for 3-5 minutes until it is completely dark before your eyes.


Now you can start the main exercises:

  • Warm up. Several times slowly and smoothly move your eyes up and down, then right and left;
  • Move your gaze diagonally. For example, look to the upper right corner of the room, and then to the lower left. During this exercise, you need to concentrate. Try to imagine how you literally draw these lines. After several repetitions , blink for 10-15 seconds;
  • By the same principle, we “draw” a rectangle. After completing the first rectangle, start the second, but in the opposite direction. Repeat a couple of times, blink again;
  • Turn on your fantasy and imagine that your face is a dial, and arrows are attached to the bridge of your nose. Move your eyes first clockwise and then against it, keeping your eyes on each number. After that, rest again;
  • Draw a serpentine line along the floor line. Blink and repeat the same on the other side;
  • Draw a figure eight with your eyes: the usual one, lying on its side like a sign of infinity, located diagonally;
  • Now we draw a spiral, starting from the center until the last circle is as close as possible to the fields of view;
  • Imagine that you are winding coils of rope around a pipe with your eyes. Make five turns in both directions;
  • The last exercise is to slowly spin an imaginary globe, focusing on the equator.

❗️ Ophthalmologists do not recommend doing these exercises too often. Once a day is more than enough to train the eye muscles.

Who shouldn’t do the Bates exercises?

Although the technique is preventive in nature, it is better to consult an ophthalmologist about its use. If your doctor decides that nothing threatens the health of your eyes, you can start training. But even healthy people should not repeat the exercises more than three times a day.

What are the contraindications to exercise?

  • Exacerbations of viral or bacterial eye infections (conjunctivitis, blepharitis, herpetic keratitis);
  • Retinal detachment;
  • Severe visual impairment;
  • Chronic diseases of the vessels of the eyes;
  • Glaucoma, increased ophthalmotonus (intraocular pressure).

Why is Bates’ gymnastics effective?

The method is widely used for preventive purposes. It is not scientifically proven that it allows you to restore vision, but nevertheless, these simple exercises train the eye muscles well and help to relax the eyes, for example, after a day of work spent at the computer. And yet, if you want to see better, it would be more correct to turn to specialists: an ophthalmologist or an optometrist . They will diagnose your vision, find out the cause of its deterioration, and recommend ways that will really allow you to see better.

Today, there are several methods of vision correction, thanks to which the world can become clear immediately after the procedure. Among them:

  • LASIK. The purpose of the operation is to correct the shape of the deep layers of the cornea. To do this, the upper layer of the shell is cut off with a blade and bent. Then the lens is evaporated using a special laser, and the “lid” of the cornea is returned to its place;
  • FemtoLASIK is performed according to the same principle, only the incision is also made with a laser.

The names of procedures for laser vision correction can be listed endlessly, because there are just a lot of analogues to these techniques. All of them are minimally invasive and are performed on an outpatient basis, that is, the patient goes home for rehabilitation on the same day. And most importantly, such correction methods work exactly: more than 90% of patients gain 100% vision.

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