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Benefits of therapeutic eye yoga
Does eye yoga help to overcome eye-related problems? Eye yoga supporters say yes, but the research on the effectiveness of this practice is mixed. There are some conditions eye yoga exercises appear to help, such as eye strain, while others, such as nearsightedness or dry eye, not so much. More research is needed to validate some of the claims of benefits, though more is currently available than I expected.
As I have terrible eye strain from working at a computer screen many hours each day, I decided to try it. Why not? With little to no risk involved and no cost, I had nothing to lose except a few minutes of my time.
What exactly is eye yoga?
Eye yoga exercises involve focusing on objects both close at hand and far away. This practice also involves palming, blinking, eye rolling and more. The purpose of these movements is two fold:
- First, small purposeful movements in any type of yoga practice calms you down. In other words, you can bring peace to your body through healthy stress coping mechanisms. This calmness is said to help decrease blood pressure, which is linked to glaucoma, anxiety and headache, all of which can aggravate eye strain and other optical conditions.
- Second, those who practice focus may see improvement in their brain’s response to the way it interprets what they see. Though you may not actually experience clearer vision, you likely will become more attentive to what you see. In one small study, participants stated they could see more clearly after performing eye yoga exercises, but no clinical improvement in eyesight was actually detected in the testing. Another study of sixty participants demonstrated an improvement in response time to identify objects after some simple eye exercises.
When is the best time to practice?
Morning, afternoon or evening – it’s all good. Eye yoga takes very little time, can leave you feeling refreshed for hours after and you can do it anywhere. I engage in my eye yoga exercises after sitting for awhile at my computer, and I try to remember to do it a few times per day. I feel so much better when I do.
Debbi Levy, Owner of Transformation Yoga in Dallas and certified yoga instructor (currently conducting classes on facebook), incorporates her eye yoga exercises into her usual yoga practice. She says,
“My favorite time to work with my eye muscles is during a seated twist. I take my gaze through stages as I twist slowly and try to tune in to the muscles of my eyes.”
For those of us who already have a yoga practice for our bodies, adding eye work sounds like a wonderful idea.
Eye yoga exercises that work
I chose the four eye yoga exercises below to try hoping to relieve my eye strain. Whenever I add something new to my routine and want it to become a habit, I like to start slowly and keep it easy. There are a number of others available, so find the ones you like and think you can incorporate into your day. I don’t know if the exercises below work for everyone, but they provided beneficial results for me.
This exercise is the most common one in an eye yoga practice. Rub your hands together for 10 to 15 seconds until they feel warm and energized. Close your eyes and rest your elbows on a table top. Gently place your hands over your eyes, with your fingertips resting on the forehead, palms cupped over your eyes to block out the light, and the heels of your hands resting on your cheeks. Don’t touch your eyeballs directly. Close your eyes, breathe deeply, and relax. Feel your eyes absorb the darkness and welcome the healing warmth and energy from your hands. This palming action feels soothing as it provides a break from visual stimulation. When ready, remove your hands and slowly open your eyes.
This eye yoga exercise trains eye muscles and improves your ability to focus. Sit up straight. Relax your body and breathe comfortably. Hold one arm out in front of you with a loose fist, your thumb pointing upwards. Focus on your thumb. Keep your eyes trained on it while you slowly move it toward your nose until you are unable to focus clearly on it. Pause for a breath or two, and then lengthen your arm back to its original outstretched position. Maintain focus on your thumb throughout this exercise. Repeat the motion several times.
Here’s another simple, but effective, exercise. Rest your gaze on a distant object; look out a window if you have one, if indoors. Place your arms by your side. Relax your eyes and face and focus on the object as clearly as possible, Breathe deeply, then slowly shift your gaze to another distant object around you. Drink in the image you see. Continue to let your eyes drift, pausing at objects located at various distances away from you. If you see something particularly pleasing, smile and enjoy the vision.
The bottom line
“Sometimes just the shift of our gaze upwards lifts our spirits and gives the eyes another focus besides straight ahead at a screen. It is more important than ever before to offer our eyes stretches, just as we do for the shoulders or the ankles. In this way we honor the divine way our bodies were created.”
orignally published 2/11/2021