Story at a Glance
Your vision is not compromised because of weak eye muscles. Rather they’re too tensed to work properly, so you have to relax them
When you’re stressed, the strain squeezes muscles around your eyeballs and contorts them. This reduces your visual acuity, as it alters where the field of vision "lands" on your retina
Far-sightedness, near-sightedness, astigmatism, cross-eye, glaucoma, cataracts, and other conditions can benefit from the Bates Method
The Bates Method teaches you to relax the muscles around your eyes, allowing your eye to move and function optimally
What is the Bates Method?
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to see clearly without glasses or contacts? According to Greg Marsh, a certified natural vision coach, clear vision is achievable by virtually everyone, even if you’re already wearing strong corrective lenses. He created the CD program Reclaim Your Eyesight Naturally, which teaches you how to retrain your eyes to relax, thereby allowing you to see more clearly. I first sought Greg out several years ago, at the suggestion of a man who, in his 70s, had excellent vision. After trying it out, I was hooked.
Greg got his first pair of glasses in third grade, and at every vision check, he needed stronger, thicker lenses. His life changed when, in his late 20s, he came across a book written by a teacher of Dr. Bates' vision program. "It just melted my heart, the stories about people improving their eyesight and getting their lives back," he says. "I started trying it on my own near-sightedness. I had some initial success and then kind of hit a plateau. That's when things got really interesting for me. I eventually did a formal training as a natural vision teacher. I bought every program I could find. I also did a lot of cross-training in various ways to use the mind. I went into martial arts, meditation, and all kinds of things. For many years, I just kept diving in every which way, and it just became irresistibly simple, interesting, and subtle."
A Technique So Effective, It Was Banned...
The method Greg teaches was initially conceived by Dr. William H. Bates, over 100 years ago. A board-certified ophthalmologist at the top of his field, Dr. Bates taught his method to many, and it was so effective that it ended up being banned in New York after the optometrists lobbied the local politicians!
In essence, it became a threat to the business model of optometrists. The prohibition on the Bates Method is still on the books in New York to this day. Whether or not it's actually prosecuted is another issue. "In the 1950s and the early 1960s, that's when all the state optometry boards were going after people," Greg says. "One of the Bates practitioners they went after was Clara Hackett, who had worked personally with Aldous Huxley, who's one of the more famous successors. He wrote the book The Art of Seeing. He was basically told, 'You're blind. Get onboard with Braille.' He got his vision back from working with the Bates Method. Clara Hackett was on trial because she didn't want to fold up and go home. All these people came in and testified. Aldous Huxley, the famous author of Brave New World, came in and testified. He was very popular, so the jury was kind of in awe. Apparently, during the break of the jury, all the jurors were palming. Then they knew the outcome was going to be good."
The Bates Method
So how does the Bates Method work? Greg explains:
"Basically, there are six muscles on the outside of your eye, and they're moving it around... Ideally, these muscles are easily following visual interests... The problem is – it could be for emotional reasons, physical stress, or whatever – you start to strain. Once you start to strain, your vision starts to go."
The action of straining essentially squeezes your eyeballs, contorting them. This makes your vision blurry, as it alters where the field of vision "lands" on your retina. Now you have three basic choices
Find out what's stressing you, making you strain. Let it go, relax, and get your vision back. Dr. Bates developed ingenious tools for doing just that
Get laser in-situ keratomileusis (LASIK), which permanently alters your focal length
Get corrective lenses. The problem with corrective lenses is that now you're creating permanent strain
The Bates Method isn't really an exercise; it's more of a mental approach. It's also worth noting that the Bates Method is clearly NOT a medical approach. You still need to see your regular eye doctor for checkups. Greg explains the theory upon which his program is based as follows:
"Dr. Bates' keyword is 'strain.' If you strain your eyes, strain your thoughts, and strain your vision, these muscles are going to start getting tight. The strain is the essence of everything.
Imagine you're on a tightrope, you're walking, and you're feeling your way forward. That's how the eyes want to work. If you get tense on a tightrope, you're dead, right? Instead of thinking of it as exercises, you have to go into it in a really subtle way; it's more like a meditation."
Basically, your vision is not compromised because of weak eye muscles. They’re strong enough. They’re just too tensed to work properly, so you have to relax them.
When people have a hard time seeing they typically will squint, which actually makes your vision worse. Squinting is one of the worst things you can do for your vision as it stresses your muscles. I find myself all day long paying attention to this as typical response is to contract your eye muscles and squint.
Another part of the process is "faith"—faith that your eyes "know what they're doing" and can see well. The problem is that once you start wearing corrective lenses, you're actually worsening your vision. This progressive worsening of your vision can lead to a defeatist mentality if you don't realize that what you're doing is creating the problem.
Be certain that you do the little experiment Greg discusses in the video by creating a pinhole with your hand and surprising yourself how clear your vision becomes without any corrective lenses. Just bend your finger to create a small pinhole between the skin folds. Now hold the pinhole in front of your eye, and notice how much more in focus everything is that you're looking at. As they say, seeing is believing and this will go a long way to convince you that you can actually see well without corrective lenses.
By wearing glasses, you're essentially retraining your eyes to strain in order to see all day long. Ideally, you'll want to remove your glasses whenever you can safely do so. Also make sure you have appropriate lighting, especially when reading. "The amount of light is huge," Greg notes. "While somebody is making the transition from needing glasses to not needing glasses, things like using more light really help, like if you're reading a book."
Common Vision Problems Caused by Excessive Eye Strain
The two most common eyesight conditions requiring glasses are: (1) myopia (near-sightedness, which usually appears in childhood or during teenage years) and (2) presbyopia (a type of farsightedness which leads to reading glasses at middle age). They both are very responsive to the Bates Method, and in fact the approach is nearly identical. If you have a mild prescription, you can simply go more and more frequently without glasses as you improve your eyesight. Of course, you should always wear glasses if they are required for driving, until you pass your vision test without them.
Especially with nearsightedness, stronger prescriptions tend to require more creativity and persistence, since the habits of staring and straining are more established. Also with high nearsightedness, you may need to progressively work your way down, which can be an expense for more pairs of glasses. But the visual clarity and relaxation you will feel all through your body and mind makes it deeply rewarding! The need for reading glasses is a common age-related problem, but according to Dr. Bates, loss of vision is not a “fact of life” at all. Even this he relates to eye strain.
“Most optometrists or ophthalmologists would say that the ciliary muscle around the lens is the cause—that it gets frozen. They’ll say, 'Well, gee, your lens has become impossibly hard and now it doesn’t move anymore,' Greg says.
The lens of your eye, which is behind your cornea, right behind the iris, thickens and thins continuously all day long as you focus on various things. It also grows as you age. Eye doctors will say that your lens has become too large and rigid, and can’t flex anymore. But according to Greg, the problem with that model is that most people who sincerely apply the Bates Method do reduce or eliminate their need for reading glasses. Once again Dr. Bates’ solution is to relax the eyes so the muscles can function naturally.
The Power of Your Mind
Astigmatism, cross-eye, glaucoma, cataracts, and other vision conditions can also benefit from the Bates Method. With regards to cross-eye, Greg notes that this problem is not really caused by too-short a muscle pulling the eye. Rather it’s that the muscle is chronically too tight, and if you relax it, your eye will typically go back to its normal position.
"I love working with people who have been diagnosed with glaucoma or cataract and who are open to natural approaches," he says. "One lady I worked with was about to get surgery for glaucoma. Her doctor told her she'd already lost 60 percent of her vision just in one eye. I had an amazing EFT session with her. I told her to palm 10 minutes at a time at least six times a day. Three or four days later, she let me know that her score dropped from 28 down to 12 on glaucoma in that eye. Her doctor said, 'Oh, wow. The medicine finally started to work.'"
Dr. Bates used to experiment with visualizations for patients with cataracts—a condition where the lens of your eye gets cloudy. One of Dr. Bates' patients who had cataracts was able to make her cataracts disappear through guided visualization alone. When she got stressed out again, the cataracts reappeared.
"I don't want to put anybody in a box and say, 'Oh, your thoughts are negative.' But if you're having negative thoughts, imagine you can feel how that manifests as, say, a cataract. Louise Hay, the guru of emotional reasons for disease, she would say the reason for cataract is the future looks dark. I can't tell you how many people have resonated with that. They've had a family member who died, a big business bust, or they just realized, 'Wow, I'm getting old. I haven't done everything I wanted.' That metaphor of 'the future looks dark.'
Now just imagine the crystalline structure of the eyes and how ever that magically transmutes into the cataract and the opacity. Now imagine changing that vibration and then just asking: 'How fast can I imagine and how fast can I allow for this change to take place?'"
Remember that the Bates Method is not a medical approach, and you must seek a licensed practitioner for any diagnosis, prescription, or treatment. The Bates Method is more like meditation or yoga. It can help you engage your mind and imagination, to relax your eyes, and bring about as much natural healing as possible.