Sore and tired eyes from too much screen time? Needing to wear glasses to read now that you’ve been eyeing that screen on and off for the last few years? Sure signs that the eyes need some yoga! Although optometrists might say there’s nothing that can be done to improve eyesight, yogis know that strengthening and relaxing the eye muscles helps to improve our vision. Of course there are some conditions that don’t respond but the ones that come from looking at the screen for days, months, years on end will probably respond to some eye yoga.
When we want to focus on an object, small muscles around the pupil either contract or release depending on the distance of the object from us, just like the lens of a camera needs to be adjusted to focus. When we stare at the screen without remittance these muscles don’t move and so blood flow to and from our eyes gets limited and the muscles not only get tired and strained but gradually lose the ability to adjust and focus at different distances.
Interestingly the most successful yoga for the eyes is simply relaxation. The logic behind this is that vision receives 40% of the brain’s attention. The eyes are supplied with four dedicated cranial nerves plus two vision related cranial nerves. Compare this to other functions like the heart and digestion which receive only one cranial nerve each. Therefore the brain is extremely busy processing and directing our vision which incidentally is why we close our eyes and cut out the visual activity in order to sleep. So just like an athlete or body builder needs to give his muscles a rest for recovery similarly our eyes also need a rest. Relaxing the eyes means we are giving all those busy nerves a break, giving our visual cortex a break and giving our eyes a well earned break, all of which will help our eyes recuperate. In fact according to Fernando Pages Ruiz of Yoga Journal, ‘In an experiment applying the muscle relaxant curare to the eyes, patients experienced dramatic eyesight improvement.’
People who experience ongoing stress and anxiety are also highly likely to experience eye pain or discomfort, light sensitivity and blurry vision which can be caused either by the pupils staying in a dilated position and/or the facial muscles tightening. Dilation of the pupils is part of the body’s response to help us see better to cope with a stressful situation but this prolonged dilation can cause light sensitivity and eye aches. Concomitant to stress and anxiety is muscle tension which can tighten our facial muscles and constrict our blood vessels causing further eye pain, aches and even blurred vision.
Relaxing the eyes is in fact deeply healing for our eyesight. According to Dr Robert Abel M.D. photoreceptors in the eyes are being broken down and reconstructed every minute and the eye needs darkness to recover from the constant input of light. Therefore the yoga exercise of ‘palming’ or blocking out light with our palms is such an important part of a program of eye exercises.
Although there is no scientific proof that eye exercises will improve your eyesight they are worth a try and just may help counteract existing problems and prevent future ones. Vision is such an important sense so if you would like to try some eye yoga please visit here for more information.