Culture: For your eyes only by health guru Carole Baker
National Eye Health Week has just taken place and like other awareness campaigns, its aim was to inspire and educate people on the importance of eye health.
I’m in glasses denial and spend time oscillating between proclaiming ‘They’re making the writing smaller on these labels’ and researching all the things I can do to keep my eyesight in tip-top condition.
It is said the muscles of the eyes are similar to other muscles and the ‘move it or lose it’ mantra that I spout in my yoga classes also applies.
Many of our ancestors spent long hours gazing at a horizon of blue sky and had unlimited peripheral vision. Today, we are crowded in and towered over by high-rise buildings and offices and we live in small spaces further limiting our chances to use our distance vision.
We spend most of our time doing close-up work and staring at the screens of computers, phones and TVs, which all limit our eye movement and create a lot of near-point stress.
Did you know there are yoga eye exercises? (Yes really, and actually BBC Radio 2 called me up once to ask me to comment on their benefits as they had read an article that Sir Paul McCartney was waxing lyrical about them!)
Eye yoga exercises have existed for centuries and are said to have helped many people regain their natural eyesight. They are easy to do and can be done anywhere and anytime. They help us to use our eyes to their fullest capability, which is not always possible in our current way of life.
Sit in a comfortable seated position in a room with no distractions and try the following five exercises:
Warm up is important for all sorts of exercises. By increasing circulation to the eyes, it helps reduce your risk of the aches and pains that may come with exercise. Before we start the eye exercises, we have to stretch our eye extraocular muscles first.
l Keep your head stationary throughout the exercise.
l Look straight ahead and look all the way up, count 2 seconds, then look all the way down, count 2 seconds, then look to the extreme left
l Repeat and look to the extreme right
l Now you have to move your eyes to the four diagonal corners. (You may feel tight stretches in your eyes which is a good thing)
l Begin with looking to the extreme top-left corner, bottom-right, top-right and end with bottom-left for one whole cycle
l Repeat the cycle for one minute
This eye yoga exercise aims to improve your eyes flexibility. You can either do it with eyes open or closed.
In the beginning, get a friend to check whether you are doing it properly.
l Relax and look up
l Rotate your eyes in clockwise direction
l Take it slow, make sure you reach all the corners
l You can visualize a flying ball circling around your face
l Do this for one minute and change to anti-clockwise direction
3: Focus switching
Accommodation (the process of eyes changing focus) is probably the most often performed function of the eyes. When people depend on glasses, their eyes become lazy which eventually leads to weakening in accommodation ability and their eye muscles.
This eye yoga exercise rectifies that.
l Hold something with small letters (for example a book or newspaper) at your reading distance.
l Cover one of your eyes with your hand, keeping the covered eye open to avoid fatigue
l Trace the shape of any small letter for 2-3 seconds
l Look up from the book and find something at least 20 feet away. (Preferably another letter which you can see)
l Trace its shape for another 2-3 seconds (Do not squint, relax your eyes)
l Repeat steps 4-6.
l Once five minutes is up, cover the other eye and repeat the cycle
4: Deep blink
This exercise is designed to improve your ability to accommodate and improve the acuity of your distance vision. It is also a relaxation technique.
l You will need a blank wall, a comfortable chair and some large letters (you can cut them from newspaper headlines etc)
l Stick the large letters to the wall and gradually move back until the letters start to blur. Position the chair at that point
l Sit on the chair in a relaxed posture and close your eyes. Take a deep breath, and release it out slowly. Repeat this a few times until you feel relaxed
l Take a deep breath and hold it. Clench your fists and tighten the muscles in your whole body – eyes, face, head, chest, neck, arms, legs and stomach. Keep your muscles tightened for about 5 seconds
l At the end of the 5 seconds, simultaneously exhale quickly through your mouth, release all the tension of your body and snap your eyes wide open. Look at the letters and they should become clear for a few seconds
l Breathe slowly and maintain a relaxed gaze at the letters
l Look at it for a second or two till it becomes a blur again
l Repeat steps 3 to 6 for two minutes. You will be surprised how far you are able to go if you do this everyday
Now we need to relax the muscles that have been worked. Apparently our photoreceptors break down and are reconstructed every minute. The eye desperately needs darkness to recover from the constant stress of light, and the simplest way to break eye stress is to take a deep breath, cover your eyes, and relax.
Try and do palming frequently throughout the day so that the eyes can get adequate rest. Don’t use blue light before bed (screens)
l Rub your hands together to create a warm sensation. Close your eyes and cover both of your eyes with the hands. Do not press against your eyes, they should be in the cup of your palm
l Imagine yourself looking into the dark and if you see flashes of light, ignore it as it will eventually go away
l Hold this position for one minute or as long as you wish
Note: Apparently In China, to stop the myopic epidemic, Chinese education officials have introduced a new version of eye exercises, based on traditional Chinese medicine techniques. Every day, school children will break off from their studies twice a day to perform the eye exercises.
Food, herbs and supplements for optimising eye health
Eye health conditions have many different causes that vary dependent on the symptoms you’re dealing with, and what else is going on in your body. Many of them can heal. However, there are some commonalities across the different types of conditions too.
Whenever there is an eye health condition, there will also be a lack of antioxidants, mineral deficiencies, and/or free radicals in the body from oxidizing heavy metals, pesticides, and other toxins. Anyone with eye health issues would benefit from increasing the antioxidants and minerals in their diet by eating more fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, and wild foods.
Eyebright is a tiny herb that grows readily in backyards, fields and pastures. It contains anti-viral, anti-inflammatory and anti-allergenic properties. It is known for being particularly beneficial for eye related problems such as conjunctivitis, cataracts, blurry vision, weakened vision, and swollen, puffy eyes. Eyebright is commonly found online or at your local health food store as a tea, capsule, tincture, cream or salve. If you find it in tea form, steep for at least five minutes in order to fully extract its healing properties.
Some of the most healing foods for eye health conditions include wild blueberries, mangos, asparagus, oranges, avocado, parsley, celery juice, saffron, fennel, spinach, winter squash, carrots and sweet potatoes.
Some of the most healing supplements for eye health conditions include spirulina, barley grass juice extract powder, elderberry tea, ginkgo biloba, nettle leaf vitamin C, zinc and selenium.
Eyewise by Lamberts is a supplement I used to heal my eyes a few years ago when I was getting spiders web like black bits floating in front of my eyes – this was a result, I am certain, of many hours bent over a laptop trying to install an online booking system for the self centre – I saw a specialist at the hospital who told me there was nothing they could do and then I researched and took the supplement, plus did some neck exercises and after a month they disappeared!
The neck and eyes connection
Most of us don’t move our necks enough and carry a lot of tension in that area – because we do spend a lot of time with our heads down (screen staring) and our shoulders hunched we can often cause a restriction in blood flow to the optic nerve, which may cause eye issues. A good pose to do daily to free off your neck and send fresh blood to the head is Downward Facing Dog yoga pose (you can move your head side to side freely without gravity) – there is a free instructional video on my website under advice/free videos – follow the link to YouTube.
*With thanks to greenmedinfo.com, medicalmedium.com and improveeyesighthq.com/for research articles
The suggestions in this article are the personal opinion of the author. Please do not take any new remedies if you are currently on any medication without the consent of your GP.
Carole Baker is founder of The Self Centre,
Bury St Edmunds