As I sit here squinting at my computer screen, I am reminded of the need to do my eye exercises. Although I resort to glasses for very fine print, I find that if I’m diligent about my eye exercises, my eyesight improves. Eye exercises are said to strengthen the eye muscles, improve focusing, eye movements and stimulate the vision centre in the brain.
Strengthening the eye muscles and focus
There are several eye exercises that are designed to relieve tension, improve circulation, and increase flexibility. One basic exercise involves simply moving the eyes as far as comfortable in a clock-like motion. Another exercise is to follow your thumb at arm’s length as you move your arm as far to the side as your vision allows. These two exercises help to strengthen the eye muscles. An exercise to improve focus involves slowly shifting focus between a distant object and the tip of the nose. This helps to train the ciliary body, an organ that adjusts the lens of the eye.
Yoga Asanas for the eyes
Our bodily cells have basic requirements. Their needs are simply a microcosm of what our body as a whole needs – many of our needs both on a cellular and whole body level are provided by nutrition and the removal of metabolic wastes. Therefore in addition to the specific eye exercises, yoga asanas which increase our circulation are beneficial, thereby bringing nutrition to the eyes and clearing away waste products.
Simple inversions like Downward-Facing Dog can increase circulation to the shoulders, neck and face, including the eyes. Aerobic type exercises which increase our heart rate will also stimulate our circulation as will some of the stronger breathing practices like Bhastrika and Kapalbhati.
Scientific studies have shown that exercises like walking can lower pressure in the eyeball. This invites the suggestion that yoga asanas may have a similar effect.
It is important to note, however, that there is limited scientific evidence to support the claim that yoga in general can directly improve age-related vision problems.
The importance of relaxation
Nevertheless, relaxation techniques such as those used in yoga may help reduce stress and promote overall well-being, which can indirectly benefit eye health. When you experience high stress or anxiety, your body goes into a “fight or flight” mode, which is a survival response that prepares your body to either confront a threat or run away from it. This response involves the release of certain hormones, including adrenaline, which cause your pupils to dilate and your facial muscles to tense up.
As a result, your eyes may become more sensitive to light and feel achy or strained. You may also experience blurred vision or difficulty focusing. Additionally, prolonged muscle tension in the face and neck can lead to tension headaches, which can also cause eye pain and discomfort.
Practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or a mindful yoga routine can help reduce anxiety and tension and may also alleviate eye discomfort.
Overall, yoga practices and eye exercises can help to release tension around the eyes from stress or simply from squinting at the page. They can also promote strengthening and flexibility of the eye muscles..
By Vrndavan Dasi
Founder and Principal of Veda Yoga Teacher Training