This week we are looking at eye exercises as well as more traditional posture work. As many of us spend so much time in front of computer screens, it seems good sense to include our eyes in our yoga practise. This series of exercises assumes you are sitting in Dandasana, (staff pose), but I think any comfortable sitting position would be fine.
Basic Palming – rub the palms of your hands together to generate heat, then cup your warm palms over your closed eyes. Wait until the heat has been absorbed by the eyelids before lowering your hands. Keep your eyes closed and repeat this a few more times. The physical benefits include revitalising the eye muscles and stimulating the fluid in the eye. On a more personal level, one of my students said it was like ‘being with a friend in the dark.’ It feels very nurturing.
Blinking – apparently some defects in eyesight mean that we do not blink spontaneously, but in an irregular way. To help correct this, consciously blink ten times, then relax for a few breaths with the eyes closed. Repeat this another five times.
Looking sideways – make fists with your hands and point the thumbs up. Now stretch out your arms and take them out to the side – but still in your peripheral vision. Keeping your head in a fixed, neutral position, move the gaze from the space between the eyebrows to your left thumb. Do this on an out breath. Inhaling, come back to centre. Exhaling, look at your right thumb. Return to centre. Do this ten times. Use palming at any point if your eyes get tired. This exercise is especially good if you do a lot of reading or close work as it relaxes tension in the eye muscles.
Looking from the centre to one side – make a fist with your hands with the thumbs poining up. Place your left fist on your left knee. Take your right arm out to the side so that your right fist is still within your peripheral vision. Keeping your head in the neutral position, breathe out as you look forward at your left thumb. Breathe in as you move your gaze from the centre to your right thumb. Do this ten times. Rest the eyes for a while before putting your right thumb on your right knee, and taking your left arm out to the side. Repeat as before. This exercise improves the lateral muscle function of the eye.
Looking up and down – make fists again and, with the thumbs pointing up, place a fist on each knee. As you breathe in, raise your left thumb and follow it with your gaze. When you are at the top of your gaze, gently lower the thumb while breathing out, all the time following with your gaze. Repeat using your right thumb. Do this ten times on each side, palming whenever your eyes feel tired. This exercise improves the muscle function at the top and bottom of the eyeball.
Looking in a circle – using first your left, then your right thumb, draw an imaginary circle with your outstretched arm and follow it with your gaze. On each side do ten clockwise and ten anti-clockwise circles. This exercise promotes good muscle co-ordination.
Looking at the tip of your nose -my students commented that this is not something to watch other people doing! In this exercise you need only to make a fist with your left hand, thumb pointing up. Extend your left arm in front of your nose. Breathing in, draw the thumb gently towards the tip of your nose. Gaze at the tip of your nose for a few moments and then follow your thumb back, as your arm extends. Do this on an out-breath. Do this ten times. This exercise stimulates the power of your eyes to focus.
You can take this exercise a stage further by extending the gaze from the tip of your nose to a more distant view, say from a window.
After completing these exercises, lie down in Savasana for a few minutes.
(I am indebted to ‘Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha’ by Swami Satyananda Saraswati for these exercises. published by the Yoga Publications Trust in 2009).