“When the mind is tired or strained, nothing can rest the eyes;
and when the mind is at rest, nothing can tire the eyes”
In Part 1 of Yoga for Tired Eyes, I talk about cool rinsing, oil massage, and eye palming for tired eyes.
Taking care of our eyes can help us to feel less mentally fatigued. When you realize that approximately 40 percent of the brain is dedicated to visual processing and that the optic nerve is one of the main stimulants of the nervous system, it is understandable that we begin to have less insight when our eyes are weary.
While there is no scientific evidence that eye yoga improves vision, there is substantial evidence that yogic exercises improve overall health, mental stamina, and most importantly relieve stress, anxiety and fatigue. This practice can aid focus and relieve the feeling of fatigue in the eyes and the mind.
Begin in a comfortable, seated position. Close your eyes and begin to notice your breath. Don’t try to alter your breath. Simply be aware of it. If you find your mind begins to wander, softly look downward with your eyes still closed and silently repeat, “this is an inhale” and “this is an exhale” until you feel more of a relaxed, focused state.
Very succinctly, drishti is the practice of single-pointed focus. It is a way of training the physical body to be still which can then allow the mental state to become single-focused and eventually still.
Slowly open your eyes. Find a fixed point, for example, a flower, statue or even a woodgrain that is comfortable to look at. The light level of the object should not be in large contrast to the surrounding area so as to avoid eyestrain. Nor should it be too similar in color or it will be difficult to focus on for a period of time. Adjust the object or your position as needed for ease. Look at one place. Now, begin soften your gaze while keeping the point of your gaze in focus. Mentally scan the muscles around your eyes and see where you might be holding tension. Let it go.
Look for where else you might be holding the focus elsewhere in your body. Between your eyebrows? In your jaw? The shoulders? The front of the hips? Bring your awareness to any areas of the body that are tight and let them go. Check in with the breath and your focal point. Are they both steady and even, without strain?
Beginning this practice, it may be easiest to practice a few minutes at a time or for as long as feels good to you. If the goal is to relieve tiredness, only go to where there is no strain or effort.
Eye Yoga on the Clock
Taking a comfortable seat, begin by picturing a clockface. Look up toward 12 then, moving slowly and steadily, look down to 6, then back up to 12. Repeat this 5 times. Then switch to looking from side to side between 3 and 9, repeating steadily 5 times. Finally, move diagonally between 10:30 and 4:30 then 1:30 and 7:30.
Around the World
The final practice is to deliberately move the eyes around the field of vision clockwise 3 times then anti-clockwise 3 times. Closing the eyes and checking in again with breath and with the body. Is the breath still steady? If not, take some time to bring it back to an easy pace. Did tension creep in to the forehead, jaw, neck, shoulders or elsewhere while concentration was on the eye exercises? Take time to release.
These exercises can be done together or separately on a daily basis. Follow them up with your favorite relaxation pose, such as sivasana or viparita karani (the second is on of yoga’s best kept secrets for restoring energy throughout the body.)
If you find your eyes feel tired while reading or looking at a screen, changing focus to look into the distance can help to recharge you. Try moving the eyes in figure eight movements several times in both directions then blink a few times. Close your eyes and check in with yourself, if you still feel eye strain or fatigue it’s probably a good indicator that it is time to get up, move your body a bit, get a drink and if possible, relocate your screen or book to a new orientation when you return to it.
Post for NaBloPoMo
(Since I’m writing most of these late at night, in bed, while tandem nursing twins, I’m choosing to concentrate on writing rather than proof-reading or editing. Please forgive the extra typos and non-nonsensical grammar. Thank you.)