Eye exercises were probably one of the first things that I learned in my beginning yoga classes at age 11 with my ballet/yoga teacher. I never questioned why do we do them, I just did as was instructed. Since I am now releasing a 20 minute video practice on neck and eye exercises, I thought to do some research and see what the state of our eyes are these days, how the yoga exercises could help, and what the science says.
What I found is, that there is not enough scientific evidence that shows that eye exercises will improve eyesight, as is often the claim, or slow the progression of glaucoma, help with dry eye, rebuild ocular strength after cataract surgery, or decrease dark circles under the eyes. There is reason to believe however, that eye yoga and other eye exercises might help with eye strain by decreasing stress and improving focus.
In today’s world of technology many are suffering from Computer Vision Syndrome. CVS is similar to carpal tunnel syndrome and other repetitive motion injuries. It happens because your eyes follow the same path over and over. Some of the effects of this could be: blurred vision, double vision, dry, red eyes, eye irritation, headaches, neck or back pain.
Eye strain is related to stress, so practicing eye yoga may work in two ways: by actually stimulating and strengthening the 12 muscles (6 in each) that move your eyes, and by bringing down stress levels helping you to remain centered and focused. I notice that I get very relaxed when I do the eye movements along with a complete breath and correct posture.
Another study that I found looked at the differences in eye movement range based on age and gaze directions. The eye movements that we do in TriYoga include up and down, side to side, diagonal, circles and distance/up close. In addition, the first eye movement that you learn when you come into a TriYoga class is the Inner Eye Gaze. If you come to my classes, you have heard me explain how to lift the eyes in and up to rest at the space between the eyebrows and 3-4 finger widths in from the front of the forehead, without strain. This study showed that the angle that most quickly decreased with age was the upward movement. Much more so than horizontal or downward. This is right in line with what I’m always saying in class, to lift, extend (in all directions) as with aging the force of gravity (if we don’t do anything about it) will begin to pull everything down, and this includes our eyes! Eventually this body will return to the earth, but let’s not allow that to happen while we are still living!
In TriYoga we practice our eye exercises by first making sure our seated posture is correctly aligned. We teach to come into a hip opening posture such as butterfly or tortoise with prop support, but one could also sit on a chair. Just don’t slump down. Sit toward the front of a firm chair, two feet on the floor with knees over the ankles, thighs parallel to the floor, shoulders over the hips, ears over the shoulders. Take a moment to connect to the breath and then when you begin the movements, just like we do in all the other postures and flows, allow the breath to guide. Practice with my new video to learn the sequence for neck and eyes, and then do daily. Remember to take breaks during your computer time for the exercises.
And even better ~ go out to nature. Look up, down, side to side, and out into the distance and then get down on the ground and look closely at a flower. Watch the ocean, a sunrise, a sunset. Close your eyes, gently cup your hands over them and feel the healing energy. When you release the hands and open your eyes enjoy the relaxation around your eyes and face and the calm energy that arises.
I hope you enjoyed this article. Feel free to share your comments. Now off to rest my eyes!