Yoga for the Eyes?
I know you’re skeptical. How exactly does one do yoga with their eyes? Sounds painful! But the idea may not be as far fetched as it sounds. In fact, you may find that when you extend your practice to even the tiniest organs of your body, it can expand in untold ways. Yoga for the eyes! The ears! The throat, the toes! It’s all possible. And the reason it’s possible, is because yoga is about bringing consciousness and awareness to undiscovered parts of ourselves. And when we look at it that way, the possibilities are endless.
Okay – But Why?
The truth is that smart phones are having disastrous effects on our eyes.According to YourSightMatters.com, our modern obsession with screens has led to 1 in 4 eye patients reporting eye strain, blurred vision, dizziness, muscle tension and tiredness.
You may have heard of repetitive strain injuries before – injuries that occur whenwe consistently move our bodies in the same patterns. In layman’s terms, when we make the same, repetitive demands on our muscles and joints again and again, it creates friction between the tissues. With friction comes inflammation and pain, and it can reinforce less-than-ideal movement patterns. In addition, when we fail to move our bodies in diverse ways, certain muscles get overworked, and others may weaken or atrophy.
In the case of the eyes, our habit of staring at screens trains our eyes to see up close but not far away. Think about your day. You wake up, lean over and look at your phone. If you have as little self control as I do, you may scroll through Instagram, taking in images with your sleepy, still-waking-up eyes. Then you read the back of a cereal box, stare at the sink as you brush your teeth, and off you go, into a world of computer screens, smart phones and ever-smaller print. The eyes likely won’t get a reprieve until you pour yourself back into bed at night.
The Remedy: Yoga!
If repetitive demands on the eyes are causing our vision to falter, it would make sense that bringing movement diversity and relaxation to the eye would be the remedy. And, well, it is!
We spend so much time looking at things up close, eyes strained, and withtension in our neck and shoulders. To undo this pattern, we want to do the opposite: look far away, move the eyes in varying directions, while in a relaxed state. It’s like a vinyasa sequence for the eyes! Not only will this begin to work the muscles that have gotten lazy, but by moving the tissues of our eyes and the structures that surround them, we invite blood, oxygen and nutrients into the tissues. Blood flow is key for the healthy functioning of everything in our bodies, including our eyes.
How to Yoga With Your Eyes:
Try the mindfulness exercise and “vinyasa” sequence below. You can do them both in one sitting, or practice different aspects on different days. The work is about consistency and care, not perfection. Any eye love is better than none at all!
Relaxing Eye Meditation
Find a comfortable seated or lying down position. Remove your glasses or lenses. Bolster yourself in any way that feels supported and relaxing. Take the initial few breaths to settle in, and let the entire body relax. Take a full breath in, and with the exhale release any remaining tension you feel in your body.
Bring your awareness to rest on your shoulders. Take a moment to notice what sensations arise. Where you find a place of tension, imagine the breath entering it with an inhale, and with the exhale, allow yourself to release and relax that spot. Continue to do this for 5-10 breaths, or until you feel that your shoulders are relaxed.
Next, bring your awareness to your neck. For 5-10 breathes, do the same work. Use the inhales to penetrate places of contraction or strain, and use the exhales to coax yourself to relax and surrender to the pull of gravity.
Bring the awareness to rest on your face. Continue the exercise for 5-10 breaths.
And finally, bring the awareness to rest on your eyes. You can continue this technique as long as you’d like. Try to find the most minute areas of tension. You may be surprised at what you find!
When you’re done, let your awareness broaden back out to the whole body. Allow the eyes to rest for as long as feels right.
Eye “Vinyasa” Sequence
While it’s very unlikely that practicing “eye yoga” will let you ditch your glasses entirely, after doing these exercises for a few days, you may notice that your eyes generally feel better, more mobile, and have less strain. I suggest doing each exercise for 10-15 reps, or until you feel fatigued.
- Up + Down
- Side to Side
- Figure 8
- Third Eye
- Freestyle! (Choose your own eye-dventure. Puns)!
When you’ve completed the exercises, bring your palms together and rub until you create a significant amount of heat. Quickly place your hot palms over your open eyes, sealing out the light, and hold until they become cool.
Off the Mat and Into the World
In addition to the exercises above, the following are things you can do in your daily life to reduce eye strain.
- Take time to look far away, and try to focus. For example, when you walk down the street, look as far as you can see, rather than at the sidewalk or passersby.
- Look at trees! Go out into nature. Look at a vista! Watch birds and clouds pass overhead.
- Follow the 20/20/20 rule. Eye doctors suggest looking away from your screen every 20 minutes for 20 seconds while looking at least 20 feet away.
Good luck! Let us know how the practice goes!