Picture this: You’re staring at the Bad Screen (your computer) when, suddenly, you hear a ding from your Good Screen (your phone.) Oh great, it’s your weekly screen time report reminding you that you’re spending way too much time… staring at a screen.
What if you didn’t have to just put up with constant eye strain? We tend to our lower back pain and sore muscles—so why not our eyes? Eye yoga might be the solution to naturally rejuvenate your tired eyes.
What Is Eye Yoga?
Eye yoga consists of exercises that strengthen the muscles around the eye. This may improve eyesight, relieve eye strain, and enhance the mind and body connection. Don’t confuse it with vision therapy Wiley Online Library “A critical evaluation of the evidence supporting the practice of behavioural vision therapy” View Source , which attempts to correct visual abilities and skills by training the brain. Unlike vision therapy, eye yoga is not scientifically proven to correct various eye conditions. It’s also not the same thing as yoga of the vinyasa or ashtanga variety, which involves the whole body (or other parts of the body).
In this article, we’ll cover some eye yoga exercises, the benefits of eye yoga, and give you tips for keeping your eyes healthy.
Benefits of Yoga for the Eyes
Eye yoga exercises work to improve your focus and relax overused muscles by reducing tension in the facial and eye muscles.
On an episode of the Table Manners podcast, Paul McCartney credits eye yoga as the reason for his “excellent,” glasses-free vision. That’s all anecdotal evidence, but it means a lot coming from Paul, right?
A 2012 clinical study PubMed Central “A clinical study to evaluate the efficacy of Trataka Yoga Kriya and eye exercises (non-pharmocological methods) in the management of Timira (Ammetropia and Presbyopia)” View Source tested the effect of various eye yoga exercises on people experiencing refractive errors such as myopia (nearsightedness), hypermetropia (farsightedness), astigmatism (distorted vision), and presbyopia (farsightedness caused by age).
Objectively, researchers found that there was little to no improvement when they measured dioptric power (focusing ability). But half the group of patients noticed a mild improvement in their symptoms—including reduced fatigue, eye watering, headache, and ocular pain—so more research is needed to establish (or rule out) eye yoga’s benefits on eyesight.
Eye yoga could also help to delay the progression of glaucoma by lowering intraocular pressure PubMed Central “Effect of Yoga-Based Ocular Exercises in Lowering of Intraocular Pressure in Glaucoma Patients: An Affirmative Proposition” View Source , thus “decreas[ing] stress and improv[ing] quality of life in glaucoma patients.” By strengthening the muscles surrounding your eyes, you can relieve the internal strain on your eyes. If you’ve just had cataract surgery, you may be able to use eye yoga to rebuild your ocular strength and help with your recovery—but make sure to speak with your doctor before attempting it.
Relieve Eye Strain
We live in a screen-centric society, so most of us encounter regular eye fatigue from our phones and laptops. In addition to screen strain, things like artificial or insufficient lighting, poor diet, stress, and aging can all contribute PubMed Central “Effects of yogic eye exercises on eye fatigue in undergraduate nursing students” View Source to eye fatigue. A 2016 study PubMed Central “Effects of yogic eye exercises on eye fatigue in undergraduate nursing students” View Source found that eye yoga exercises worked to reduce the levels of eye fatigue over the course of eight weeks. The exercises proved to lower the stress levels of the participants and boosted their ability to concentrate while easing the discomfort of blurry vision, eye irritation, or eye dryness that occurs when eyes are strained.
Strengthen Mind and Body Connection
High-stress levels cause a whole slew of problems in the body. Eye yoga, like traditional yoga exercises, may help to reduce the stress Harvard Health Publishing “Relaxation techniques: Breath control helps quell errant stress response” View Source in the body by centering breathing and focusing on small movements.
Connecting your mind to the movements of your body allows you to relax and increase your body awareness PubMed Central “Body Awareness: a phenomenological inquiry into the common ground of mind-body therapies” View Source —carefully bringing attention to each muscle you stretch.
7 Eye Yoga Exercises You Can Try
Like traditional yoga, eye yoga focuses on breathing and movement to connect your mind and body. Practice the following exercises to strengthen the muscles surrounding your eyes and relieve the symptoms of eye strain. Feel free to roll out your favorite yoga mat or practice these eye yoga exercises anywhere you’re comfortable. You can do the exercises in any position, but it may be helpful to get in a pose you’d use for meditation (especially if you already have your own meditation cushion). That’s seated in a comfy place with your head aligned with your spine.
We took a look at some common eye yoga exercises compiled a list of seven that we think are the more beneficial.
Rapid blinking doesn’t just signal confusion. It’s also a great way to reset your eyes after extended screen usage, which causes strain and dry eyes. You can practice this eye yoga exercise any time your eyes feel tired, or you’ve been looking at a screen for longer than 20 minutes.
How to do it:
- Take a deep breath and relax your shoulders and neck with your gaze fixed straight in front of you.
- Quickly blink your eyes about 12 times.
- Allow your eyes to close and rest for about 15 seconds.
- Repeat this process 3–5 times to relieve eye dryness and strain.
2. Eye Rolling
Rolling your eyes side to side and up and down releases the tension built up in your ocular muscles—and allows the muscles to relax. Now’s your chance to roll your eyes without any consequences! (Just make sure to do it after that Zoom meeting, not during.)
How to do it:
- Start by fixing your gaze in front of you.
- Look to the left, shift your focus up to the space between your eyebrows, then look to the right.
- Roll your eyes down to the right, shift your focus to the ground, then roll your eyes up to the left.
- Repeat this process, drawing three circles clockwise with your eyes, and then three circles counter-clockwise.
3. Focus Shifting
Center your thoughts by focusing on your breathing and movement as your eyes follow a single vantage point. It’s called focus shifting, and it may improve your range of vision and strengthen your peripherals.
How to do it:
- Relax your neck and shoulders and fix your gaze in front of you.
- Extend your right arm, holding your thumb up for you to follow with your eyes.
- While keeping your arm straight, extend your arm out to the right and follow your thumb with your eyes before returning back to where you started.
- Lower your right arm, then do the same thing with your left arm.
- Repeat this exercise five times on each side to improve your focus by strengthening your peripheral vision.
4. Figure Eight
Improve your tracking skills as you trace an imaginary infinity symbol or figure eight with your thumb.
How to do it:
- Use your thumb to create a figure eight in front of you.
- Start with your arm extended and fix your gaze on your thumb.
- Trace a figure eight shape, following your thumb as it moves.
- Keep tracing in the same direction for 20 seconds before switching directions for another 20 seconds.
5. Zooming In and Out
This eye yoga exercise may strengthen your eye muscles and improve your focus. It’s also a great reminder for you to take a step away from your computer.
How to do it:
- Take a deep breath and fix your gaze on a distant object. It could even be through a window if you’re sitting inside. Hold your gaze for a full breath.
- Shift your focus to a closer object, holding your gaze for another breath.
- Now shift your focus to something near you, like your hand, and hold for another breath.
- Reverse your gaze back to each of the objects, allowing yourself to hold for a breath while you focus on each object.
- Repeat this exercise several times, focusing on objects around you at various distances.
6. Nose Tip Gazing
Did you know your nose is always in your range of vision, but your brain is actually telling your eyes to ignore it? Nose tip gazing brings awareness to your nose, allowing your eyes to practice focusing.
How to do it:
- Start with your thumb touching your nose and focus your eyes on your thumb, taking in a deep breath. (This exercise is similar to the focus shifting and figure eight yoga exercises.)
- As you exhale, slowly extend your arm straight in front of you, following your thumb with your eyes.
- Move your thumb back towards the tip of your nose as you take a deep breath in.
- Continue moving your thumb in and out five times (don’t rush it!) to strengthen your eyes.
Palming is an eye yoga technique that you can use to help increase focus. It can also help increase feelings of serenity and peacefulness. For these reasons, it’s often ideal to use this as the final eye yoga exercise you practice or in a moment when you feel you’re having trouble centering.
How to do it:
- Start by washing (and drying) your hands. Then, rub them together to create some heat so you don’t touch a sensitive area with ice-cold hands. Heat can also provide relief to dry eyes—it opens the meibomian glands, which stimulates oil production and slows down tear evaporation.
- Place them over your eyes, hollowing your hands to avoid pressing on the eyes.
- Take several deep breaths with your eyes closed. Allow yourself to relax and feel the tension melt away.
- Repeat this process several times as needed.
Who Is Eye Yoga Good For?
Eye yoga can be done by anyone—even by those who wear corrective glasses or contacts. There is no fitness level required and little to no risk associated with these exercises. While eye yoga may improve the overall health of your eyes, you should not use it as a substitute for medical treatment. As always, check in with an eye doctor if you’re unsure about trying these exercises.
Additional Tips for Eye Health
The power to take care of your eyes is in your… hands. (Not literally.) In addition to eye yoga, there are other proven methods to keep your eyes healthy NIH — National Eye Institute “Keep Your Eyes Healthy” View Source year-round.
- Get regular eye exams: Start with an initial exam—your doctor will tell you how frequently to schedule your following appointments. Eye diseases are easier to treat the earlier they’re caught, and doctors can only catch them with a dilated exam!
- Protect your eyes by wearing sunglasses: You only get one set of eyes, so protect them from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays (UV). Try and find polarized sunglasses that block out at least 99% of those UV rays.
- Give your eyes a break from the screen: Try and rest your eyes every 20 minutes, giving your eyes something else to look at besides a screen. Blue light glasses are also a great way to give your eyes a break and eliminate some of the eye strain caused by screens.
- Drink water: Water is great for boosting your overall health, including lubricating your eyes. You can get a motivational bottle or use a water tracking app or smart water bottle to keep your water intake high, especially during the warmer months!
- Eat a healthy diet: Incorporating fruits and vegetables into your diet is a great way to keep your eyes—and whole body—healthy. Look for foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids NIH — National Eye Institute “Keep Your Eyes Healthy” View Source and vitamin A American Optometric Association “Vitamin A beneficial for eyes, just not for preventing myopia” View Source , such as leafy greens, fatty fish (like tuna and salmon), carrots, tomatoes, and beef liver.
- Stay active: Whether it’s a daily run or just simply walking the dog every day, make an effort to keep your body moving. This lowers your risk of vision problems or eye diseases caused by various health conditions.
- Quit smoking: Smoking impacts your whole body—including your eyes. When compared to non-smokers, heavy smokers are three times more likely New York State Department of Health “Smoking Can Lead to Vision Loss or Blindness” View Source to develop age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.
- Practice safe contact lens wearing habits: Be sure to always wash your hands before touching your eyes or contacts to avoid infection. Read the instructions and replace your contacts regularly according to the recommendations.
Eye yoga only takes a few minutes of your time, so what’s the harm in giving it a try?
It could just be the solution you were looking for to relieve some stress and help your tired eyes feel like new again. Remember to always listen to the advice of your eye doctor.
- Vision therapy definition: “A critical evaluation of the evidence supporting the practice of behavioral vision therapy,” Ophthalmic & Physiological Optics (December 2008).
- Paul McCartney credits eye yoga for great vision: “S11 Ep 8: Paul and Mary McCartney,” Table Manners with Jessie and Lennie Ware (May 2021).
- The effect of eye yoga on eyesight: “A clinical study to evaluate the efficacy of Trataka Yoga Kriya and eye exercises (non-pharmacological methods) in the management of Timira (Ammetropia and Presbyopia),” Ayu (October 2012).
- Eye yoga lowers IOP for glaucoma: “Effect of Yoga-Based Ocular Exercises in Lowering of Intraocular Pressure in Glaucoma Patients: An Affirmative Proposition,” International journal of yoga (December 2018).
- Factors that cause eye fatigue and how eye yoga can help: “Effects of yogic eye exercises on eye fatigue in undergraduate nursing students,” Journal of physical therapy science (June 2016).
- Breathing reduces stress: “Relaxation techniques: Breath control helps quell errant stress response,” Harvard Health Publishing (July 2020).
- Body awareness helps you relax: “Body Awareness: a phenomenological inquiry into the common ground of mind-body therapies,” Philosophy, ethics, and humanities in medicine : PEHM (April 2011).
- Tips for eye health: “Keep Your Eyes Healthy,” National Eye Institute (May 2021).
- The effect of smoking on the eyes: “Smoking Can Lead to Vision Loss or Blindness,” New York State Department of Health (December 2009).
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