What Is Eye Yoga And How Does It Affect Your Health?

Eye yoga, one of the latest wellness trends, is taking the world by storm. Proponents say that it relieves eyestrain, improves vision, and wards off stress, but can you trust these claims? While there’s no evidence that eye yoga can help with astigmatism and other vision problems, it has several potential benefits.

Just like regular yoga, this form of exercise strengthens the muscles involved. Over time, it may improve eye health, says yoga teacher Chatty Dobson (via Vogue). The best part is, you can practice on your couch, in bed, or while doing housework. Palming, blinking, zooming, and other yogic eye exercises can be done anytime, anywhere. The key is to be consistent and perform these movements daily or every other day.

Make sure you have realistic expectations before getting started. Eye yoga won’t correct your vision or eliminate the need for eyeglasses. However, it can reduce eyestrain and other negative effects of too much screen time. Here’s what you should know about it and how to reap its benefits.

Eye yoga can reduce eyestrain

More than 60% of Americans experience eyestrain, blurred vision, dry eyes, and other problems associated with screen time ​(per the Refractive Surgery Council). Health experts recommend taking a break from your computer every 20 minutes and avoiding blue light at bedtime, but that’s easier said than done. Stress, fatigue, dry air, and exposure to bright light may contribute to eyestrain, too (via the Mayo Clinic).

As it turns out, eye yoga can reduce eyestrain and prevent it from getting worse. In one study, this form of exercise reduced eye fatigue in undergraduate students, reports the Journal of Physical Therapy Science. Subjects practiced eye yoga for just 60 minutes, twice a week. After two months, they reported a greater reduction in eye fatigue than the control group.

Another study had similar results. Students who practiced yoga ocular exercises for six weeks experienced a significant decrease in eye fatigue. As the researchers note, eye yoga may increase the efficiency of extraocular muscles (via the International Yoga Journal). “Strengthening the muscles of the eye also reduces the deterioration of eye focus that we see as we age, and the stretch that we receive from eye yoga is hugely beneficial in easing tension headaches and relaxing the muscles of the face in general,” yoga teacher Chatty Dobson told Vogue. 

Yogic eye exercises may improve your vision

With regular practice, this form of exercise may improve your vision and can keep your eyes healthy. For example, a 2018 study published in the International Yoga Journal suggests that it may reduce stress and intraocular pressure in people with glaucoma. Tratak, a technique that involves gazing at the flame of a candle or other objects for as long as possible, appears to be particularly effective.

Yogic eye exercises can also increase macular thickness, reports a 2020 study featured in the International Yoga Journal. This time, scientists investigated the effects of eye yoga on healthy individuals. Subjects experienced significant improvements in blood pressure, intraocular pressure, retinal thickness, and macular thickness. While further research is needed to confirm these benefits, most studies have promising results.

All in all, eye yoga is worth a try. This gentle form of exercise won’t cure glaucoma or other eye conditions, but it can help you relax and reduce eyestrain. Plus, it’s safer than artificial tears. The American Academy of Ophthalmology warns that lubricating eye drops may contain preservatives that can damage the cornea in the long run. In some cases, they may cause eye irritation, burning, discomfort, and other adverse reactions.

Keep your eyes healthy with these exercises

Getting started with eye yoga couldn’t be easier. First, try stretching your eye muscles, recommends yoga teacher Chatty Dobson (via Vogue). Relax your facial muscles and close your eyes. Look up and count to four while keeping your eyes closed. Start counting to four again, but look down. Repeat two more times. Next, look left and right and then top left to bottom right. Remember to relax and keep your eyes closed. Last, look top right to bottom left.

Dobson recommends blinking as fast as possible 10 times to strengthen the muscles in your eyes. When you’re done, close your eyes and count to five. Repeat four more times. You may also try palming, one of the most widely used yogic eye exercises. Simply rub your hands together until they feel warm and then cup the palms over your eyes, suggests Yoga International. Take deep breaths with your eyes closed. Relax and enjoy the warmth.

Another popular exercise involves focusing on your thumb or an object near you. Extend your arm in front of you and make a fist. Raise your thumb and then move it toward your nose while focusing on it. Continue until you can no longer maintain your focus. Take a few deep breaths and repeat. As you progress, try to keep your focus longer and experiment with other yogic eye exercises. 

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