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Nearsightedness, or myopia, makes it difficult to see objects far away and is often treated with prescription glasses or contact lenses. After noticing his patients’ myopia getting worse with treatment, an ophthalmologist called William Horatio Bates created methods to improve vision and reverse nearsightedness. His exercises were published in 1920 in a book titled “Perfect Vision Without Glasses.” According to The Myopic Manual, other ophthalmologists presented similar research at the time, and their findings, as well as Bates’, are still being supported by industry publications.

The Bate's Theory

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Bates believed poor eyesight was the result of tension. Anyone suffering from nearsightedness may understand the tendency to squint when looking at distances, straining to see. In his book, Bates uses the example of looking at the stars. You can look at the stars while relaxed, but if you try to count the stars, you introduce tension. Patients interested in improving nearsightedness must relearn how to see without mental tension, especially when looking at distances can improve eyesight. Decreasing mental tension when looking at objects improves blood circulation in the eyes.

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Palming is an exercise in relaxation. Place both palms over your eyes, fingers crossed at the forehead. Do not press on the eyeballs. The goal is to see blackness rather than streaks of color or gray for several minutes. It is important not to concentrate on seeing black, but allow your eyes to see the blackness in a relaxed state.

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Eyes naturally shift and swing from one point to another when looking at an object, looking from the top of the letter to the bottom subconsciously. A normal eye never attempts to prevent this shift, straining to see one point for longer than the eye naturally allows. After relaxing the eyes with palming, you can attempt to cause a shift in your eyesight by looking at a letter on the line. shift to another letter far enough away to make the first one out of your eyesight, and then shift back. Alternate looking at the two letters for several minutes. You can also do this by looking at a clock, then looking at a blank wall alternatively.

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Bates noted that the vision in patients wearing corrective lenses worsened over time. He recommended patients interested in improving their nearsightedness go without corrective lenses for an hour a day. Variants on this idea suggest wearing lower prescription lenses, or no lenses, when doing close work to not strain the eyes.

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Work to improve your vision by recreating the ophthalmologist’s test card at home. Print black letters on a white card. The first row of letters should be 35 inches. The second row of letters should be 1 ¾ inches. The following seven lines should be 1 1/4 inches, 7/8 inches, 11/16 inches, 1/2 inches, 3/8 inches, 1/4 inches, and the bottom row letters 3/16 inches tall.


Remember blackness from palming exercises. Black is the same color in all levels of light. Keeping a memory of total blackness trains your eyes to see the blackness of letters on an eye chart.