Most of us spend a good part of our day in front of a compurter screen, staring at word documents, excel sheets or surfing the internet. We are often worrying about our weight, skin or hair and not being fit enough. But we seldom realise that one of the most important parts of our body are the eyes which have done most of the work of our everyday life.
Did you know your eyes need a workout too? We do not think of our eyes when heading to the gym for a work out or to a yoga class but improving our vision through yoga can change our life.
We know that yoga is good for improving our health and calming our mind but few of us know that yoga can do wonders to our vision!
Yoga can enable us to use our eyes to their fullest capability by not only helping our vision but also our brain taking into consideration the fact that everything is connected. Eye yoga also relieves from disorders in the eye muscles like myopia (short-sightedness) and hypermetropia (long-sightedness).
Jane Rigney Battenberg writes in her book ‘Eye Yoga: How You See is How You Think‘, “Since the eye muscles are eight times stronger than they need to be, they don’t have to be strengthened so much as stretched, relaxed and fine-tuned. You will need to balance the eye stretching and strengthening exercises, where the eyes learn to work and see together, with the relaxing, loosening exercises, where you re-pattern your eyes and brain to relax and see.”
Facts about eyesight
There is a correlation between eyes and mind. Fact is that vision occupies about 40 percent of the brain’s capacity. 4 of our 12 cranial nerves are dedicated exclusively to vision, while 2 other nerves are vision-related.
While insight may be the ultimate purpose of eye asanas, vision improvement is also an important benefit. Muscle stretching and contracting is not as important as relaxation which will come as a surprise to most of you.
6 muscles connect the eye to the eye socket and help them move side to side, up and down and all around. By reading, watching or driving for a longer time your eye muscles get less flexible and tired. This causes eye fatigue and the use of smartphones or computers does not help at all.
With age our eye muscles begin to weaken like all other muscles. Millions of people suffer from eye problems and they can find help or relief by doing easy yoga excercises to tone the eye muscles and help them to retain their elasticity.
Seeing involves not just the eyes but the brain. Seeing is connected to the mind and only partly to the eyes. An incredible billion images are produced in the retina every minute and the brain selects what you will see.
Reasons for eyesight deterioration
Many age-related vision problems are due to a gradual loss of flexibility and tone in the eye muscles causing us not to be able to focus at different distances.
Stress can affect our minds and bodies and has an impact on our vision.
Macular Degeneration is a disorder that affects the retina and causes difficulty reading or a blurry or blind spot in the central area of our vision. Age is the primary contributing factor but smoking and nutrition can also play a role.
Cataracts are a clouding of part or all the lens inside the eye. This clouding interferes with light reaching the retina at the back of the eye, resulting in general loss of vision. Causes include aging, long-term exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet radiation, injury, disease and inherited disorders.
Glaucoma causes damage to the optic nerve. Most commonly, this occurs due to increasing internal pressure in the eye because of problems with the flow or drainage of fluid within the eye.
Diabetic Retinopathy. People with diabetes can experience day-to-day changes in their vision and/or visual functioning because of the disease. Diabetes can cause blood vessels that nourish the retina to develop tiny, abnormal branches that leak. This can interfere with vision and, over time, may severely damage the retina.
Retinitis Pigmentosa gradually destroys night vision, severely reduces side vision and may result in total vision impairment. An inherited disease, its first symptom-night blindness-usually occurs in childhood or adolescence.
Amblyopia is a failure in development of the visual system during childhood.
Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP) occurs in infants born prematurely. It is caused by the high oxygen levels in incubators during the critical neonatal period.
Retinal Detachment separates the retina from its underlying layer. It can cause total vision impairment in the affected eye. Causes include holes in the retina, eye trauma, infection, blood vessel disturbance or a tumor.
Acquired (Traumatic) Brain Injury. Vision can also be lost or damaged as a result of head injuries, brain damage and stroke. Signs and symptoms can include reduced visual acuity or visual field, contrast sensitivity, blurred vision, eye misalignment, poor judgment of depth, glare sensitivity, confusion when performing visual tasks, difficulty reading, double vision, headaches, dizziness, abnormal body posture and balance problems.
Source: American Optometric Association 2020
Basic yoga exercices for eyesight improvement
Exercise One: Stretching
Before starting the eye exercises, we have to stretch our eye extraocular muscles first.
- Keep your head stationary
- Look straight ahead and look all the way up
- Count 2 seconds, then look all the way down
- Count 2 seconds, Then look to the extreme left
- Repeat and look to the extreme right
- Now you have to move your eyes to the four diagonal corners
- Begin with looking to the extreme top-left corner, bottom-right, top-right and end with bottom-left for one whole cycle
- Repeat the cycle for one minute
- Remember to maintain your head stationary
Exercise Two: Flexing
This eye yoga exercise aims to improve your eyes’ flexibility. You can either do it with eyes open or close.
- Relax and look up
- Rotate your eyes in clockwise direction
- Take it slow, make sure you reach all the corners
- You can visualize a flying ball circling around your face
- Do this for one minute and change to anti-clockwise direction
Exercise Three: Focus Switching
The change of focus is probably the most often performed function of the eyes.
- Hold something with small letters at your reading distance
- Cover one of your eyes with your hand
- Keep the covered eye open to avoid fatigue
- Trace the shape of any small letter for two to three seconds
- Look up from the book and find something that is at least 20 feet away
- Trace its shape for another two to three seconds (Do not attempt to squint. Just relax your eyes)
- Repeat steps 4 to 6.
- Once five minutes is up, cover the other eye and repeat the whole cycle for five minutes again
Exercise Four: Deep Blink
This exercise is designed to improve your ability to accommodate and the acuity of your distance vision.
To do this eye exercise, you will need a blank wall, a comfortable chair and some large letters.
- Stick the large letters to the wall and gradually move back until the letters start to blur. Position the chair at that point
- Sit on the chair in a relaxed posture and close your eyes. Take a deep breath, and release it out slowly. Repeat this a few times until you feel relaxed
- Take a deep breath and hold it. Clench your fists, and tighten the muscles in your whole body – eyes, face, head, chest, neck, arms, leg and stomach. Keep your muscles tightened for about five seconds
- At the end of the five seconds, simultaneously exhale quickly through your mouth, release all the tension of your body and snap your eyes wide open. Look at the letters and they should become clear for a few seconds
- Breath slowly and maintain a relaxed glaze at the letters (blink if necessary)
- Look at it for a second or two till it becomes blur again
- Repeat steps 3 to 6 for two minutes. You will be surprised how far you are able to go if you do this everyday
Exercise Five: Palming
Palming is an easy exercise to provide deep relaxation for your eyes, which in turn helps relieve eye strain and tension. Palming also reduces tiredness and puffiness of the eyes and improves the blood circulation.
Begin seated in a comfortable position
- Rub both your palms together until you feel heat from your palms
- Gently cup your palms over your eyes
- Be sure your eyes are completely covered so no light gets through
- Take a deep breath and feel the warmth coming from the palms
- Enjoy for a few breaths, then repeat if desired
Exercise Six: Eye Rotation Exercises
A simple yet effective practice of moving the eyes helps keep the eyes healthy and improve vision overall. Practice these exercises listed below for just a few minutes a day to maintain optimal vision.
Movement 1: Eye Movement Up and Down, Left and Righ
- Make a fist with your right hand and extend your right thumb (give yourself a thumbs up!)
- Gaze directly at your thumb, and then follow it as you move the hand up and down
- Repeat the same exercise, but now move the hand left and right as you follow the thumb with your gaze
Movement 2: Eye Rotation Clockwise and Counterclockwise
- Begin in a comfortable seated position and rest your hands on your knees. This exercise only uses your eyes, so you won’t need your thumb
- Begin to draw big circles with your eyes, looking slowly in every direction in a clockwise circle
- Repeat this several times through and then reverse the direction and take your gaze counterclockwise
Exercise seven: Trataka or Concentrated Gaze
The practice of Trataka, meaning a concentrated gaze, is simply gazing at an object continuously for a fixed period of time. This fixed gaze will help strengthen your eye muscles, which can help improve nearsightedness. Trakata is also a wonderful practice to improve concentration and develop your intuition.
- Begin in a comfortable seated position in a dimly lit room
- Place a lit candle about two feet in front of you
- Begin gazing at the flame as long as you can without blinking
- Gently close your eyes when needed and visualize the flame in your mind
- Don’t worry if you don’t see the flame in your mind right away
- Repeat this practice a few times
Exercise eight: Bhastrika Pranayama or Bellows Breath
Bhastrika Pranayam boosts blood circulation to the head and improves vision. It also refreshes your physical and mental being.
- Sit down with your spine erect
- Using your right thumb, close your right nostril
- Inhale and exhale forcefully and quickly through your left nostril
- Do this about 20 times
- You can feel your abdominal walls bellowing while doing the exercise
- Make your last breath, long and profound
- Now, repeat the same process on your right nostril with the left thumb closing the left nostril
- Finishing the exercise on both the nostrils makes for one bhastrika
Relax for about 30 seconds and repeat the entire process again.
Do it for about 10 minutes.
Exercise nine: Kapalbhati Pranayama or Skull Shining Breath
Cleanses your lungs and improves your circulation for a better vision.
- Sit comfortably with your spine erect. Place your hands on the knees, palms open to the sky
- Take a deep breath in
- As you exhale, pull your stomach. Pull your navel in back towards the spine. Do as much as you comfortably can. You may keep your right hand on the stomach to feel the abdominal muscles contract. Pull the navel in
- As you relax the navel and abdomen, the breath flows into your lungs automatically
- Take 20 such breaths to complete one round of Kapal Bhati Pranayama
- After completing the round, relax with your eyes closed and observe the sensations in your body
- Do two more rounds
Exercise ten: Bhramari Pranayama or humble bee breath
This exercise is really calming and can drown the unnecessary noise in your head, making you feel relaxed with just a few breaths.
- Sit on the floor cross-legged or however you feel comfortable
- Now place your fingers over your eyes horizontally
- Exhale and when you inhale make a bee like buzzing sound
- Make sure you apply very little pressure on the eyeball and keep your lips sealed
.As you can do these exercises nearly everywhere – lying on your bed, sitting at your desk, waiting in a cue, it is very easy just to chose a couple of exercises which you like most and keep doing it for some time – you will be surprised to see the results!
I have chosen 2 methods to test your eyes at home. Please see links below: