Have you ever awoken in the morning with a painful cramp in your lower leg? When you arise, is your back so stiff you have trouble bending over? It might take you quite awhile after being up and around to get the kinks out. You’d think that your muscles would be most relaxed while sleeping, but they seem to tense up instead.
If you’ve ever had an injury where a limb has been immobilized for a few weeks – whether in a sling or a cast – the situation is even worse than sleeping overnight. After I had dislocated my shoulder several years ago, it took a couple of months of physical rehab therapy to be able to raise my arm higher than shoulder level and up over my head. It probably took at least five years where the muscles felt as though they had fully recovered from the strain and tension and the full range of motion was restored.
According to Dr. Bates, strain is the culprit behind blurred vision. The onset of blurred vision such as myopia is most likely a continual mental strain of some sort, whether in the classroom or as a result of some other stressors in life. Once eyeglasses are prescribed and worn all the time during the day, muscular tension gets locked in to a greater degree, as if wearing a sling or cast. Once the strain has developed to a high level, it’s no easy task to reverse it.
Muscular strain seems to have its own agenda, being very resistant to easing up by such notions as “mind over matter” or “make your own reality.” Trigger points are usually the cause of muscle aches and pains and they’re very stubborn knots. Author Clair Davies, who was an expert on trigger point therapy, put it this way: “Nothing subtle will do. Trigger points don’t respond to positive thinking, biofeedback, meditation, and progressive relaxation. Even physical methods can fail if they’re too broadly applied.”
Bates commented on why sleep doesn’t relax eyestrain and improve one’s vision. “The eyes are rarely, if ever, completely relaxed in sleep, and if they are under a strain when the subject is awake, that strain will certainly be continued during sleep, to a greater or less degree, just as a strain of other parts of the body is continued.” He even discovered that some people who had normal vision when awake would produce various types of refractive errors when they were asleep.
Palming and meditation certainly provide a peaceful respite, but neither technique has ever given me flashes of near perfect vision. My flashes only occur either 1) spontaneously with oppositional movement – when I’m going about daily activities and not doing any specific technique; or 2) when I bring on flashes using self-massage, focusing on releasing trigger points in my temple, cheek and jaw areas. (Trigger point therapy also works wonders for those nasty nocturnal calf cramps that sometimes occur!)
What is pure relaxation of the body? Is it static relaxation, which is complete and utter stillness? Such a definition sounds more like rigor mortis. The relaxation that Bates meant was dynamic relaxation. Life is movement. All the senses involve movement, and healthy, clear vision requires continuous, relaxed movement. That’s the paradox. Bates stated, “When a person has normal sight the eye is at rest, and when the eye is at rest, strange to say, it is always moving to avoid the stare.”
Bates, William H. The Cure of Imperfect Sight by Treatment Without Glasses. New York: Central Fixation Publishing, 1920.
———. “Common Sense.” Better Eyesight, June 1923.
Davies, Clair. The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook. Oakland: New Harbinger Publications, 2001.
Doug is a retired civil engineer who improved his vision and wrote Restoring Your Eyesight: A Taoist Approach, a book about blending the Bates Method with the ancient principles of Taoism. He also contributes articles on vision improvement for New Dawn Magazine.