How to Remove Tension From the Eyes and Elsewhere

This article from Dr. Bates' Better Eyesight Magazine was originally titled "Tension"*. Note Dr. Bates' interest and excitement about F.M. Alexander's approach to finding elusive tension and then releasing it, with sometime stunning improvements in digestion or other health issues.

Several years after Dr. Bates' death, Aldous Huxley revisited this connection between F.M. Alexander's work and the Bates Method. Huxley reversed his blindness through working with Bates Method teacher Margaret Corbett along with personal work with F.M. Alexander. Huxley touches on this Bates-Alexander synthesis in his book, "The Art of Seeing". This combination of the Alexander Technique and Bates Method resurfaced again in the 1990's (and continues to evolve) through Peter Grunwald in New Zealand, and his "Eyebody" Method.

This article conveys a sense of why people who improve their eyesight naturally also tend to become, happier, less stressed, and generally healthier. - g.m.

How to Remove Tension From the Eyes and Elsewhere*
By W. H. Bates, M.D.


    The tension of the muscles and nerves of the human eye is a very important subject for various reasons.  Perhaps the most important of all is the fact that it occurs so frequently and so universally.  When a person has near-sightedness, eye tension can always be demonstrated, because when the eye tension is relieved and corrected, the near-sightedness is cured.  All persons who have astigmatism have eye tension.  When the eye tension is relieved, the astigmatism disappears.  Patients with cataract, diseases of the optic nerve or diseases of the retina are suffering from tension.  When the tension is relieved, the eye disease disappears.

    In some cases, it is more difficult to relieve the tension than in others.  No matter whether it is difficult or not, there can be no cure of the eye disease unless the tension is corrected.  This tension, besides affecting the eyeball, is also manifest or can be demonstrated in any or in all parts of the body.  A person who has glaucoma is under, not only tension of the eyes, but a tension or an unusual contraction of the muscles of the arm, the hand, or all the muscles.

    Tension of the internal muscles is always present when a patient has a disease of the chest, and it can be demonstrated that he is also suffering from tension, not only of the chest, but also of other muscles and nerves in other parts of thy body.  There is a tension that contracts the bronchial tubes which interferes with the proper circulation of air into the lungs and out of the lungs. People with pneumonia, tuberculosis of the lungs, or tuberculosis of any part of the body are all suffering from eye tension, and when the eye tension is relieved, the tension in other parts of the body is also relieved.  It is an interesting fact that all diseases of the eyes and all diseases of the body are generally associated with eye tension.

    A very remarkable case of tension was that of an opera singer who suddenly lost her ability to sing.  Specialists on the throat examined her very carefully and they were united in the statement that she had paralysis of the muscles on the left side of her larynx.  In connection with this paralysis there was a tumor grown on the left vocal cord.  Her symptoms of paralysis were caused by tension, because when the tension was relieved, the paralysis of the vocal cord was also relieved and cured.  The tumor which had grown on the left vocal cord disappeared.

    There are two things about this case which can be discussed; one is that the paralysis was caused by tension and the other that the tumor of the vocal cord was also caused by tension.  When we analyze her case and try to give an explanation of what the tension accomplished, we will probably say a good many things which are not so.  It is exceedingly difficult, as I have said a great many times, to answer the question, “Why?”

    We may have cases of eye diseases in which it is difficult to relieve the tension, but it may be easy to relieve the tension in the muscles of the stomach or in the various groups of muscles in the arm, or hand, and when such tension is relieved, that of the eye muscles is relieved, and in this way, the disease of the eye, no matter what it may, be can always be relieved or cured.  This is a very important fact, because when understood and practiced, some very severe forms of diseases of the eyes can thus be cured, and in no other way so well.

    The question that comes up more prominently than any other is:  What can the patient do to bring about relaxation of any group of muscles?  A man, by the name of F.M. Alexander, of London, England has accomplished a great deal in the cure of all kinds of diseases.  He says that all diseases of the body are caused by tension.  They can all be cured by the relaxation of the   tension.  He has offered many methods of bringing about relaxation in the most interesting, although seemingly incredible way and the most successful is to bring about relaxation by having the patient state that it is desired.

    For example, a patient sitting in a chair or lying down on the floor, whichever is easier, says:  “I desire relaxation of the muscles of my neck, so that my head can be lifted forwards and upwards.”  This is sometimes repeated one hundred to a thousand times.  Mr. Alexander has always succeeded in having the patient bring about relaxation of the muscles of the neck by this method.

    Mr. Alexander goes further and brings about relaxation of the muscles of the chest, both outside and inside, by having the patient say:  “I wish my shoulder to relax and to move downwards and backwards.  I wish my chest to relax and to move backwards.  I wish my whole body to relax and move backwards.  I wish my foot to move backwards without effort, without strain of any muscles of the body.”

    It has been a great shock to many orthodox physicians to observe the cures that Alexander has made.  Epilepsy, considered by the medical profession to be incurable, has been cured by relaxation, without the use of any other form of treatment.  Of course, rheumatism responds perhaps more quickly to relaxation than a great many other diseases, but there are cases of so-called rheumatism affecting the shoulder in which all parts of the joint become immovable.
    One patient was afflicted with Parkinson’s disease; all the joints of the body became so fastened together, so immovable, that the patient was unable to produce any voluntary movement of the hand or the arm.  As time passed, the voluntary and the involuntary muscles gradually became useless from tension.  Mr. Alexander had the patient relax those muscles which she could relax most readily.  When this was done, the more difficult muscles became relaxed, until finally she was cured completely by the relaxation of tension.