What Is Eye Yoga? This Practice Helps You Sharpen Your Zen & Your Vision

You know how there’s an app for pretty much everything? Yoga’s like that, too. Personally, I’m convinced that a delicious yoga session can heal all things mind, body, and spirit: If you’ve had a hard day at work, take a vinyasa flow to cool you down. Got back pain? Threaded needle pose will soothe your aches and pains. And if your eyes are exhausted or sore from staring at a screen all day long, surprise! Eye yoga strengthens your eyes in a series of poses designed to work through strain, reduce headaches, and improve your concentration. And, look, I totally realize that the term “eye yoga” kind of sounds awkward, and you might imagine the poses to look a little silly, but when you consider the fact that millennials constantly have their eyes glued to their laptop screens and smartphones for work and play, I’m willing to bet your lids could benefit from a break.

Plus, how often can you honestly say you pay close attention to your eye health? I know myself, and unless I have a grueling headache that affects my vision, or I'm asked to read through the eye chart at the doctor’s office, I definitely don’t pay enough attention to my eyesight. According to the American Optometric Association, the average adult should get their eyes checked every two years. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that some people are more naturally prone to developing glaucoma, which refers to a group of diseases that can damage the eye and negatively affect a person’s vision. It’s important to talk to your doctor to figure out whether or not you’re at risk and, if so, to start scheduling eye exams annually.

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Eyesight in general is such an important aspect of your health that, too often, is taken for granted or neglected. According to the CDC, roughly 11 million people in America have poor vision, but it’s not uncommon for this to go unnoticed until a person's impairment worsens over time, and they suddenly need prescription glasses or contact lenses. In hopes to eventually lower that statistic, and raise awareness about the importance of sustaining your eye health, the Lions Clubs International founded the first World Sight Day on Oct. 8, 1998, according to TimeandDate.com, and has been celebrated every second Thursday of October since then. World Sight Day lands on Oct. 11, 2018 this year, and to pay homage to the holiday and to your own eyesight, trying your hand — err, eyes — at an eye yoga practice might just be the perfect way to celebrate — not to mention the perfect excuse to experiment and find yet another self-care regimen to work into your routine.

In my defense, the definition is in the name: Eye yoga is for your eyes. The question is, what does eye yoga do for your eyes, specifically? Well, according to pharmacist and empowered wellness expert, Dr. Lindsey Elmore, “eye yoga is the practice of training the muscles around the eyes and then resting them in an effort to reduce eye fatigue, improve eyesight, and overall maintain healthy eyes.” In other words, eye yoga isn’t a meditative practice. On the contrary, it’s very active, and will require you to “move the eye around like a clock, to the left and right, diagonally, or up and down,” Elmore tells Elite Daily in an email. There is, however, a resting period to massage the eyes and relax them once you’ve gone through a series of movements, she explains.

All of those eye movements might sound dizzying on paper, but according to Elmore, the practice should be carried out smoothly, with intention behind each gesture. When done properly, the wellness expert says there are lots of great health benefits to eye yoga, including reduced eye fatigue, strengthening of the eye muscles and tissue of the lens, and the practice can help to keep your eyes moisturized.

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Just like in a traditional yoga class where you're given a series of moves to flow through, there are specific “poses” in eye yoga, too. In an exclusive interview with Elite Daily, Sarah Highfield, founder of Yogagise Yoga, offers a series of four moves to get you started. First, Highfield describes "palming," which is actually pretty self-explanatory: Start with your eyes closed, she explains, and cup both of your eyes with the palms of your hands to block any light from coming in. Then, without applying pressure, keep your palms over your eyes for three to five minutes and open and close them periodically.

Another eye yoga practice you can try is called "stretching," Highfield says, which basically just means looking as far up, down, left, and right as you can for three seconds in each direction.

Highfield refers to a third movement as “focus switching.” In this practice, she tells Elite Daily, you’ll cover one of your eyes with the palm of your hand, and hold an object with some kind of small text, like a book or paper, at a distance in front of you. Pick a letter, locate it on the page, and trace it with your eye for three seconds without squinting, and repeat this for three to five minutes before switching to the other eye.

Lastly, Highfield suggests flexing your eyes by slowly “rotating your eyes in a clockwise, circular movement” for one minute, and repeating the same movement counterclockwise for another minute.

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Unlike traditional yoga practices that require a mat and ample room to stretch out, Highfield says eye yoga can be done anywhere, at any time your eyes need a break, like when they start to dry or tire out after scrolling through Instagram for hours. And on that note, in addition to eye yoga, there's also a laundry list of best practices for eye health you should be aware of. Topping that list, is being mindful of how much you’re exposing your eyes to blue light.

During an interview with Elite Daily back in March of 2018, Erik Ritchie, chief commercial officer at online eyewear market Zenni Optical, explained that overexposure to the blue light emitted from the digital screens you come in contact with (i.e. your smartphone, your computer, even your TV) can all cause “eye strain, headaches, and blurred vision.” Of course, for a lot of people, their work is done through the computer, so avoiding screens altogether isn’t exactly a realistic request for most of us. That being said, to combat the negative effects screens can have on your eyes, try to practice eye yoga periodically throughout your day, and invest in blue-light glasses (my favorite pair is from Peepers).

Outside your workspace, make sure you have a pair of sunglasses at the ready when UV rays are beating down. Light up your living space with high-quality lights like Philips LEDs that mimic natural light so it isn’t so hard on your eyes, try your best to clock in seven to nine hours of sleep every night, and above all else, get your peepers checked by a doctor, friend. It’s amazing if you can prevent a problem before it starts, but in order to know what you’re working with, you have to consult your doctor first.