Yoga Eye Health:

Yoga for Eye Health

by Orlin Sorensen

If you’re wondering what resolution to make for this new year, then here’s a tip: look no further than what you’ve already been doing. According to a 2008 study from Yoga Journal, 6.9% of U.S. adults — or 15.8 million people — practice yoga, and that number has nearly doubled in the last five years.

“But I don’t practice yoga!” we hear you saying. Our response: As a member of the Rebuild Your Vision program, you’re aware that regular performance of your eye exercises has myriad health benefits, right? Well, it might interest you to know that eye exercises have been an important component of yoga for as long as it’s been practiced — from around 3,000 B.C., to be exact.

According to the website Holistic Online, yoga practitioners attach special importance to eye exercises, for two reasons:

1. A lot of eye problems in later life are due to a loss of tone in the eye muscles. [Eye] exercises tone the eye muscles up and keep them elastic.

2. Any eye tension present will tend to produce a general feeling of tension, due to the eye's connection to the brain via the optic nerve. The eye exercises will reduce tension in the eye muscles, as well as reduce general tension.

Even former Beatle Paul McCartney has gotten in on the fun; last year he released his own eye yoga video, claiming the exercises have helped him retain his 20/20 vision. McCartney says, “When I was in India there was a guy at one of the hotels who offered to teach me eye yoga exercises. He told me eyes are muscles just like any other, and they need exercise to keep them working properly. Spending so much time at computers or the TV or reading books, we are only using one set of muscles in our eyes. The yoga gives a workout to the other ones. It is really good for your eyes and keeps them in shape."

While there are many eye asanas (as exercises are called in yogic practice), several well-known asanas are close cousins of exercises you are already familiar with from the Rebuild Your Vision program. Take this one, for example, called “palming”:

Sitting on your mat, draw up your knees, keeping your feet on the floor and slightly apart. Now briskly rub your palms to charge them with electricity and place the cupped palms over your closed eyes. The fingers of the right hand should be crossed over the fingers of the left hand on the forehead. The elbows should rest on your raised knees and the neck should be kept straight. Don't bend your head. Do deep breathing while palming your eyes.

Sound familiar?

The word “yoga” comes from the Sanskrit and means “to join or yoke together,” as it brings the body and mind together into one harmonious experience. Although many people think that yoga is just stretching, yoga is really about creating balance in the body, and its benefits go beyond increased flexibility, strength, blood circulation, muscle tone, and serenity. Aetna’s InteliHealth website notes that:

Yoga has been shown to reduce heart rate and blood pressure, increase lung capacity, increase the amount of time you can hold your breath, improve muscle relaxation and body composition, cause weight loss and increase overall physical endurance. Yoga may affect levels of brain or blood chemicals, including monoamines, melatonin, dopamine, stress hormones (cortisol) and GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid). Changes in mental functions such as attention, cognition, processing of sensory information and visual perception have been described in some research studies in humans.

With so much to be gained, we won’t call it “cheating” if you resolve to take your Rebuild Your Vision practice to the next level this year. After all, what’s good enough for 15.8 million people (and Sir Paul McCartney) is good enough for us.

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