(The Gospel, according to Kate the webmaster…This is based on information I got from Tom Quackenbush in 1986, which worked fabulously for me, see my story under CaseHistories, the one about High Myope), and I have used with my students ever since, with very successful results – see case histories below).
Dr. Bates had two rules for improving your eyesight – practice the good habits of relaxed seeing (blinking, centralizing, and moving the eyes and head together) and Stay Out of Clarity With Artificial Lenses. If you are wearing glasses or contacts that give you full 20/20 clear vision, there is no room for improvement. The normal eye has fluctuations on a daily basis, depending on your own health, energy levels, blood sugar, stress or state of relaxation, etc. If you are doing vision improvement classes, lessons, studying on your own, you might need to get a pair of reduced lenses to give you room for improvement. Not a big reduction, just a little bit. You know how it is when you say to yourself, “I need a new prescription! Things are a little blurry…” it’s like that: you’ve been functioning ok, but things could be clearer. With vision improvement, it’s starting with a little blur, and letting it get clear.
FOR THE MYOPE (Near or Short Sighted)
If you are nearsighted (up-close vision is clear, but the distance is blurry), you need glasses for driving. I don’t know about countries other than the USA, and I don’t know about each state, but most states allow 20/40 vision. So therefore, 20/40 correction is legal and allowable.
If you need corrective lenses for the near range, say for desk work, computer use, cooking dinner, you should get an even more reduced prescription, because 20/40 glasses are too strong – they are correcting for the distance and cause strain when used for close range. Therefore, many students will also need a 20/80 (approximately) prescription. This reduction, (20/80) will be the equivalent of a 20/40 for the near range: not crystal clear. Do not use these glasses for driving!
The procedure of getting two sets of lenses is just for the first time – as the student’s vision improves, and the 20/40 lenses are now 20/20, the 20/80 lenses will now be correcting the student’s vision to 20/40. If a further pair of 20/80’s is needed, simply take the frames for the original 20/40’s and have new lenses (correcting to the new 20/80) put in.
FARSIGHTS (“Hyperopia” and/or “Presbyopia”)
This is described as having good vision in the distance, blurry up close. The Farsights must be willing to have less than crystal clear vision in the near range while wearing any corrective lenses, i.e., “reduced” glasses. For many farsights this means being willing to have less clarity in the close range while reading, sewing, etc. The student does not need full 20/20 type correction for reading and other activities up close. 20/40 is adequate vision. Also, bifocals, trifocals, and “half-size”, “Benjamin Franklin” type glasses are absolutely not recommended; single lens, full frames ONLY. Half-type frames and bifocals force the wearer to pull their head up and backward when they want to look through the lower part, normally the head would come down a little. Many bifocal wearers have acquired dreadful neck tension. Also, bifocals or half glasses defeat the purpose of the sketching with the “nose-feather”.
If the farsight needs corrective lenses for the distance, especially for driving, then they must get another full frame single lens (not bifocals) which will be less strong than the reading glasses. These should be 20/40 correction, the legal driving requirement.
Similar to the nearsight, this may be a little more expensive in the beginning, but not in the long term. As the vision improves, the reduced glasses used for reading become more clear. When they are close to clear the more reduced glasses used for the distance should be just right for reading. If necessary, new, more reduced lenses can be put into the first pair of frames, creating your new driving glasses.
“Dimestore” reading glasses aren’t the best choice. If choosing to use these, buy the best quality possible – some lenses aren’t ground very well, causing wave shapes, which can cause strain and vision problems.
IT IS EMPHASIZED AGAIN: NEVER WEAR CLEAR (20/20) CORRECTIONS; APPLY THE CORRECT HABITS OF VISION MORE AND MORE EACH DAY. WEAR GLASSES ONLY WHEN ESSENTIAL.
Read the general procedures above for nearsights and farsights. The optometrist can prescribe either one of two reductions depending on the amount of astigmatism. The rule is the same: NEVER see clearly out of glasses. No bifocals or half frames.
The main difference with astigmatic students is to realize that all distances are affected. Astigmatism is known to fluctuate not only in the amount, but also in the angle. There can be a lot of frequent fluctuations for some students, which can be very uncomfortable and distressing, making the wearing of one, fixed, strong prescription an even poorer solution.
The formula I have given my students to use for a reduction in astigmatism is this: if the correction is 1 diopter or less, drop it out completely. If it is more than 1, cut it in half. Give that a try, it might be too hard on your eyes/head/psyche at first, so if it doesn’t feel right in the eye doctor’s chair, don’t reduce it that much. It worked for me! I had about one diopter of astigmatism when I started my own vision improvement, and at first it was strange to see sidewalks “curl up at me”, but within a couple of weeks, they didn’t do that anymore. My astigmatism went away!
A student should be very aware that they are wearing reduced prescriptions when the first receive them. Since most of us have been given full clarity (20/20 or even stronger!) in the past, we should be able to tell when the reduced glasses are nearing clarity as the vision improves. Each student must continue to monitor their own progress, using the optometrist as necessary.
Some students ask about UV or scratch protection for the lenses – I don’t recommend it as it just costs more, and the lenses are only temporary. In the 20 years since I first started teaching this, it’s become almost impossible in some places to NOT get the UV or scratch protection, oh well….
During the first few weeks, the student will be remembering to take off the glasses when they are not essential. For most of us, we wore them full time, out of habit whether we needed them or not. We will be REVERSING this process, wearing them less and less, only when necessary. It has been noticed that the wearing of glasses can bring back the bad habits – i.e. staring and locking up the neck. Glasses are subconsciously associated with bad habits in that we got the glasses when we got blurry vision. Be sure to continue the good vision habits even (especially!) while wearing glasses. Bottom Line: as long as the student is relaxed, safe, legal and not straining or squinting — nothing can be better than using their own, uncorrected vision — no matter what the vision issue. (kate – modify wording on that last one?)
The harm of wearing any glasses at all will become very obvious the more the student improves their vision. Most eye doctors give their patients 20/20 or stronger corrections. This gives the already stressed visual system, especially the six extrinsic eyes muscles, no room to relax and return to clarity. In fact, 20/20 and stronger lenses usually make these muscles tighten up more and more. Most nearsights have gone back many times to get stronger, thicker, heavier lenses. Most farsights have been given single lenses, then bifocals, and then trifocals. What is the end of this path? Initially, the eyesight improvement student realizes that strong glasses are, at best, a crutch. As vision improves, the student will realize that glasses destroy vision over the years. This is what prompted Dr. Bates to research the true causes of blur, and then find the solutions, so that we can free ourselves from the need for corrective lenses.
Contacts don’t work well in this program – a pair of glasses can be put on and taken off 10 times in an hour, but that’s not feasible with contacts. Remember, wear the glasses when you need to, and don’t wear them when you don’t need to. In all my years, I’ve only had two students who improved at all with reduced contacts, and they were both meditators, and would palm for hours every day (without the contacts in).
With the Bates Method, we have an opportunity to replace these mechanical, artificial and harmful crutches with our own natural and joyful vision.
CASE HISTORIES, EXAMPLES of the importance of reduced lenses while doing natural vision improvement training.
I had one student, named Nikki, age about 22, who was up at -8 diopters in one eye, and -10 diopters in the other. This are thick lenses, also known as “Coke bottle bottoms”. She had worn glasses starting at 5, and did like the doctors always told her, wore her glasses all the time, and got new prescriptions when she needed. Where did it get her? She was visiting from NYC to San Francisco where I was teaching a class at the time, for exactly the 9 weeks of her visit. She decided she had nothing to lose, and signed up. She told her mother what she had done, who panicked and called the family ophthalmologist, who assumed she had signed up with some cult in California. He called Nikki and said “There is no way some meaningless movements can improve your eyesight, and if you don’t wear full strength lenses, you risk going blind! If you have had ANY improvement by the time you get back here, I will eat my hat!” (remember this line!) Nikki didn’t drive a car. She took busses everywhere, and therefore figured out that she didn’t need 20/40 lenses even, and just got the 20/80’s. (She was also on vacation, not working….) After one week, she went back to the optometrist I use in San Francisco, and she had dropped a couple of diopters! By the time she went back to NYC, she was seeing 20/25 with her second set of reduced 20/80’s, and was measured for a new pair at -6.5 in one eye, -4.5 in the other. She said “I’m shopping for a big jar of mustard to give to my eye doctor to eat with his hat!”
One student had a job putting mobile houses on foundations. She HAD to see clearly in the distance. She was Very Reluctant to get reduced lenses, but she was also very motivated, because she was up at -11 and was getting visual anomalies in one eye, where there was a “bubble” in the middle of one eye. As she explained it, “If I look down the block to wear the train tracks cross the street, it’s like the metal rail bulges out about 6 inches (this was a street on a hill, and you could look down from about 20 feet above), and the eye doctors don’t have an explanation”. My own personal theory was that her eye was so compressed at the back, that she was getting “wrinkles”. She took my class, and after 2 or 3 weeks was very disappointed because she had experienced no improvement, but all the other students had. She finally realized that the 20/30 contacts she had were holding her back, and she got glasses, and wore the 20/80’s as much as possible, or not at all and within 2 more weeks had dropped 4 or 5 diopters! And the bubble in the train track went away, or as she said “The train tracks got straightened out!”
I’ve had many more cases where someone went from “Big Blur” to “Medium Blur” in 2 or 3 weeks. That includes farsights as well. One student of mine had gotten glasses as a child, and got progressively stronger lenses, but they were correcting for farsightedness, not the usual “progressive myopia (nearsightedness). She was wearing contacts of +11 ! She came to an intro talk I gave just before Memorial Day weekend and took to heart all the info she had learned. She had a very supportive boyfriend who said “Don’t wear your contacts over this weekend – I’ll do all the driving and reading you need”. So she did – and when she started the weekend, even the moon was blurry (if you go far enough in either direction, you go blind). By the end of the weekend, the moon was clear! So she signed up for my class, and I sent her off to my local supportive optometrist. He called me in a panic saying “Kate! I can’t prescribe weaker glasses for her, they will be too thick, she HAS to get contacts!” We went around and a around, and finally settled on a prescription of greatly reduced contacts that she could wear to drive with (+6) and then a +2 pair of glasses to read with (she had already improved that much!) The contact lenses had to be special ordered, (PLUS 6 is very unusual), but when they arrived, they were the wrong one, MINUS 6 had arrived. By then, the students eyes had improved so much, she needed a +4 prescription! In only two weeks!
I cannot emphasize enough the importance of reduced lenses. One student of mine had been driving 2 hours one way to go see a different teacher, he would experience all kinds of improvement during the class, then put his driving contacts back in, drive 2 hours home and couldn’t figure out why after 6 weeks he wasn’t any better. He took one lesson from me, got to a supportive optometrist, and immediately experienced better vision that stayed with him from week to week, not just during the class. You’ve got to get reduced lenses! It’s half of the process.
I understand about not wanting to wear thick glasses. Use that dislike to take them off as much as possible and to remind yourself to blink more! If it’s only for a month or two (for example), would it really be so bad?
Believe it or not, it’s NOT the computer that is causing you blurry vision or eyestrain (not to mention headaches, stiff neck or shoulders, etc), it’s HOW you use your body in front of the computer. If you hold yourself in an awkward position, or stare at a fixed distance, stress can happen on the body and the eyes themselves. Kate Keilman (the current webmaster) had her best improvement while actually working on a computer programming contract with very stressful deadlines, working many hours a day, and weekends. What she learned about relaxing her eyes she applied to her whole body – relax, move, take deep breaths, move the whole head to look down the hallway.
Martin Sussman of the Cambridge Institute for Better Vision has a book called “Total Health at the Computer” – “In this user-friendly guide, you will learn how to prevent, reduce or eliminate the 40 most commonly experienced symptoms of Computer Stress Syndrome. Wrist, hand, arm, neck and back pains of all kinds are covered. So are vision problems – including eyestrain, blurred vision, headaches and deteriorating eyesight.” See page on Books and Tapes…)
If you have a PC and need reminders to roll your shoulders, shake out your wrists, and stretch something, Stress Away Software is the answer! This program will pop up every 20 minutes or so (you can set the timing) with user friendly pictures and text with 25 different activities for head, shoulders, wrists, and especially your eyes! Designed by a computer programming Bates Instructor, this is a very useful program for anyone doing much computer work. Currently for Windows only, but Macintosh and Linux versions coming soon!
Sounds like something that might kill you? Just the opposite – glasses that will reduce those headaches! If you are nearsighted (your best vision is up close, things in the distance are blurry) and you wear glasses or contacts, they are correcting for the distance. A computer screen is typically a foot or two (maybe three) away from your face, making your regular lenses TOO STRONG! Get a pair of glasses that are a weaker prescription (maybe your last pair before you got new ones). If you are serious about reducing eyestrain, we (I/Kate, that is) recommends scrapping the contacts and going to glasses – you can take off glasses when not needed, giving your eyes a real rest (see page on Reduced Lenses). Many eye doctors are now prescribing an intermediate prescription just for computer work, sometimes called terminal glasses. Many people have tried them, and say they help reduce eyestrain, headaches and overall tension.
If you are farsighted (distance vision is ok, but up close is blurry), glasses you have for reading might be too strong also – many times people will hold a book or newspaper closer than the computer monitor is located. So ask your eye doctor to prescribe not for the usual reading distance, but a little further away (or if you are buying the reading glasses in the dime store, get a pair that give you enough correction, but not crystal clear at the distance of your computer screen).