While the social distancing measures adopted by various countries to fight the COVID-19 pandemic have shut down yoga studios and other community spaces, yoga practitioners have turned to home practice and online yoga resources. In the changed setting too Yoga proves to be a powerful tool to deal with the stress of uncertainty and isolation, as well as to maintain physical well-being. A new normal requires new habits and some creative thinking about our psychological well-being. Now that many of us are forced to work remotely full-time, need to take care of young and old family members during working hours, are feeling stuck or isolated, are separated from loved ones, and have reduced options for regular physical exercise and social activities, we must think differently and creatively about ways to keep healthy both in mind and body.
Due to pandemic COVID19, like last year, the International Yoga Day 2021 will be celebrated virtually keeping in mind COVID19 protocols. Expectedly, the theme of the IDY 2021 is “Yoga at home and Yoga with Family”. Everybody is expected to act as a responsible citizen and encourage others to follow COVID appropriate behavior.
Among Kashmiris, and may be among other cultures of the world as well, blessings, among other things, were given specifically for the safe vision of the eyes and the strength of the knees. This was done on account of the realization that when we are old, our feet must always remain strong and our eyes should not lose vision. Whereas the subject of legs was covered in an earlier write-up of mine, the need for keeping our eyes safe and healthy cannot also be overemphasized. This Yoga day, let us explore what it has to offer in this regard and resolve to do all that will help us keep our eyes functional and our vision safe.
If the eyes really are the window to the soul, it makes sense to treat them with the same respect as our bodies, may be even more keeping in view their soft and delicate structure. Enter: eye yoga, the new wellness trend on the block, which promises brighter, better rested peepers in just five minutes or even less. While those more au fait with downward dog and crow poses might feel a little puzzled, yoga for the eyes is about stretching the muscles around the eyes. “Similar to regular yoga, each time you practice eye yoga the muscles involved will become stronger and find more length,” explains Chatty Dobson, yoga teacher. The idea is that by strengthening the muscles around the eyes, the area will look more lifted and awake and eye health will be improved. It’s not just an aesthetic thing – since so many of us are subjecting our eyes to strain every day through hours spent staring at screens, looking after the muscles in the area is more important than ever for our health too. An average person spends eight and a half hours or more in front of the computer screen. This is indicative of how much pressure we put on our eyes, and that may affect our vision. We might even rub your eyes due to the increased time on the screen that we often face eye problems such as watery eyes, itchy eyes, or blurred or hazy vision. Eye problems are a result of improper functioning of the eye muscles. Therefore, it is essential to give small breaks to our eyes while we are working on the screen for a longer duration.
Follow the 20/20/20 Rule. A lot of people viewing digital screens for extended hours develop computer eye strain (headache and red eyes). The strain, in turn, leads to eye fatigue. To deal with the focusing fatigue, it is advisable that you follow the 20/20/20 rule. This is a simple technique that we can follow when at work. Take breaks every 20 minutes from our computer screens, look 20 feet away and focus on something for 20 seconds. Yes, it is that easy.
“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,” points out Dobson, who deems it so important that it will be a part of on-demand digital fitness platforms. Here Dobson shares three of her top eye yoga moves for us to do at home – and these should not take longer than five minutes.
Stretching involves relaxing the muscles of the face; wiggling out the jaw and eyebrows to help soften them with eyes gently closed. While keeping them closed, look all the way up and count to four, slowly look all the way down, count to four. Repeat three times. Repeat, but this time looking left and right. When you’ve done that, look top left to bottom right, then top right to bottom left.
Strengthening involves blinking as fast as one can 10 times; then sitting with eyes closed for a slow count of five. Repeat five times. Sit for a while longer at the end to notice any sensations that arise. Blinking improves our eyesight and provides lubrication to the eyes preventing dry eye and itching.
Focusing involves sitting up tall with our arms out straight in front of us, hand in a “thumbs up” position. And then bringing our gaze and our focus to our thumb nail. Hold for the count of four; then slowly bring our thumb towards our nose until our eyes can no longer focus. Hold for another count of four, then slowly extend our arm again, keeping our focus on our thumb throughout. Repeat five times.
Not giving our eyes enough movement can affect your eye muscles. The best way to keep your eye muscles in function is to roll our eyes from time to time.
Up and Down Rotation involves sitting straight, inhaling while looking up and exhaling while looking down. Repeat this for 5-10 minutes. This type of eye yoga helps in improving eyesight.
Sideways Rotation is useful if one has eye conditions like hypermetropia and myopia. To control the eye condition from developing further, move the eyes side-to-side, and repeat it 10 times.
Circular Eye Rotation is helpful for those who perform extensive work on digital screens. It helps to eliminate eye problems like eye irritation and dryness in the eyes. For this type of eye yoga, sit upright, and rotate the eyes in a clockwise direction tracing as large a circle as possible. Repeat this 10 times. Repeat the rotation anti-clockwise 10 times.
To get rid of the eye fatigue and stress, palming our eyes is very useful and helpful. This technique gets one rid of the eye pain. The exercise involves rubbing our hands for a few seconds till they feel warm. Relax, free your mind from any thoughts and place the warm palms over the eyes. Close the eyes and take a deep breath. Repeat the process ten or more times. Remove the hands once there is a feel of a soothing sensation in the eyes. It is important to know that apart from diseases like glaucoma or cataract, which are caused due to elevated eye pressure or problems in the eye lens, half of the eye problems are related to improper functioning of the eye muscles. If the work requires us to spend long hours on the digital screen, always wear computer glasses or our prescribed glasses. Resist from wearing contacts as these often create dry eyes. If the eye problems persist for a week or more, consulting an ophthalmologist is a must. One should also ensure to take proper guidance from the ophthalmologist while doing breathing yogic exercises if one is suffering from glaucoma.
These eye exercises can be done anywhere as part of our eye care routine, to help ease our eye muscles after too much screen time. These eye exercises could be particularly helpful to soothe our tired eyes during a workday. Make a conscious effort to improve the eye health this Yoga Day, as doing the exercises mentioned above, will help improve our concentration, relieve us from an eye strain, calm our mind, provide us comfort from dry eyes and there will be lesser chances of eye diseases. Furthermore, paying a yearly visit to an Ophthalmologist helps us to discover and improve our eye conditions.
Bhushan Lal Razdan, formerly of the Indian Revenue Service, retired as Director General of Income Tax (Investigation), Chandigarh.