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Bates Method Reviewed

The Origins

William H. Bates, M.D. was the founder of an approach to eye and vision care now taking his name: The Bates Method. He lived 1860-1931.

The Debate

There is much debate (some quite heated) as to the effectiveness of the program. Advocates on both sides tend to dig in, with eye care specialists, scientists, and vision professionals on one side and Bates enthusiasts on the other.

The Middle Ground

Middle ground is probably the best on this debate. Parts of the Bates Method are of great value, but should not be used without question. The other side of the debate is that neither should we have an unquestioning attitude to modern eye and vision solutions like glasses, contact lenses, and surgery. There is a time and place for all things, but nothing should be used without question.

The Eye Care Industry

The nett weight of our research suggests there is a vital role to be played by optometrists, and vision specialists. However, there is also too much blind acceptance (pardon our pun) of the solutions offered. Natural means of vision health should be the first, but make sure you know you are addressing the right issues with the best solutions.

The Bates Fans

The Bates Method has many followers, and some of the relaxation techniques like palming, sunning, tromboning and eye rotation are beneficial. You will find many testimonies online from people enthusiastic about their effectiveness. Please be aware that every part of the Bates Method is available Free online. The negative side of the Bates Method is a lack of depth when it comes to the muscles, suspensory ligaments, synchronization, and neural patterns and habits of many refractive or vision errors.

The Power and Motivation of Both Industries!

There is a significant home grown industry promoting Eye Exercises. It is of concern that so much of what is being promoted contains very basic exercises. Many of which, while excellent for general well being of the eye and health, do not deal adequately with underlying vision issues.

The Solution

It can be very difficult to sift out the facts from fiction! We suggest three simple steps:

First, know what vision issues you are dealing with. Don’t hesitate or be ashamed to have your eye and vision health checked.

Second, try to understand how your eyes work, and the causes of your problem/s. We have a lot of easy to understand material on this site. Remember, if you don’t know why your vision is poor, how can you seek the right solution. Eye exercises may help, and the Bates Method may help, but if you are suffering from macular degeneration, for example, they will not.

Third, Once you know the causes, find  exercises, or treatment or both which deal specifically with your problem.

The Verdict on Bates

The negative side: Extract from Wikipedia (under Bates Method):

Although some people believe that they have been helped by following Bates’ principles, his techniques have not been shown to objectively improve eyesight,and his main physiological proposition – that the eyeball changes shape to maintain focus – is demonstratively false. In Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science, mathematical journalist Martin Gardner characterized Bates’ book as “a fantastic compendium of wildly exaggerated case records, unwarranted inferences, and anatomical ignorance”.Gardner suggested that Bates’ techniques may seem to work, to a limited extent, due to the eyes adjusting to seeing without glasses when they are put aside.

Critics of the Bates method not only deny its efficacy, but go on to cite potential negative consequences for those who attempt to follow it, namely that they might overexpose their eyes to sunlight, put themselves and others at risk by not wearing their corrective lenses while driving, or neglect conventional eye care, possibly allowing serious conditions to develop.

The Positive side:

In spite of this negative view, on the basis level, there are many techniques from Bates which we believe are beneficial, particularly with regards to relaxation and simple exercises. For specific comment on some of the techniques used by Bates see our Review of Eye Exercises.


There are a eye exercise programs with greater depth available today. Unlike the array of free material websites and YouTube, you may have to pay for them. The Eye Gym is obviously our favorite, though we have researched and tried many many others and evaluated how they measure up to good vision principles. The Eye Gym, while a very easy and fun program to use,  is a program with depth, and it deals with visual accommodation/focus clarity, and eye synchronization.


Copyright, Chris Barrett, B.A.,Th. 2009


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