Know the Asana: Eyes Exercises

Dr. Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati

Rotational viewing, near and distant viewing and palming belong to the group of yoga exercises for the eyes. Each practice has a different action, but in combination they ensure the overall good health of the eyes.

Rotational viewing

Rotational viewing is a combination of many movements of the eyeballs, up and down, side to side and angular movements. The voluntary muscles around the eyeballs, the external ocular muscles, are responsible for these movements. The exercise strengthens these muscles and is helpful when the eyes feel tired due to weakness of the supporting muscles. It improves their coordination and so is useful in cases of squint and double vision. It widens the range of movement of the eyeballs and so is useful to improve the range of peripheral vision. The exercise has a small role to play in correcting vision defects of long and short sightedness.

Near and distant viewing

Near and distant viewing is an excellent exercise for the tiny muscles within the eyes, the internal ocular muscles. These muscles are situated in the iris, the area that gives colour to the eyes and are controlling the lens of the eyes. They control the ability of the eyes to change the focus over a wide range of distances, by changing the curvature of the lens. This exercise is useful for people focusing their eyes on a fixed point over a long period of time, like working on a computer or at a desk, intense and long periods of reading, and certain types of artistic activity. It is also beneficial for correction of vision defects of long and short sightedness and double vision caused by defective focusing. It encourages proper circulation and drainage of the fluid inside the eyeballs thus helping to restore eyeball tension, called intra-ocular pressure, to normal level in glaucoma. This is a condition where intra-ocular pressure is raised, giving rise to headache and eventually impaired vision. Near and distant viewing also provides relief and relaxation to strained eyes by changing the focus.

Palming

Palming is a relaxation practice for the entire eyeballs. The external and internal eye muscles are encouraged to relax under the gentle support of the palms and their rotational movements. The warmth of the palms allows the blood vessels of the eyes to relax and dilate, thereby increasing the blood supply. As the external ocular muscles relax, the walls of the eyes have a chance to expand, lowering intra-ocular pressure. Overall a soothing effect is obtained. Pressure onthe eyeballs must be avoided under any circumstances as it can temporarily jeopardize blood circulation, increase the fluid pressure within the eyes and inadvertently stimulate the optic nerves. Palming is necessary after any introverting practice like long periods of pranayama, yoga nidra or meditation, because it prepares the eyes again for external sensory stimulation. Also, if the eyes have assumed spontaneous shambhavi mudra, then they are restored to a normal relaxed state. Palming is beneficial for the relief of eye strain, correction of vision defects of long and short sightedness and the general strength of the eyes.

These eye exercises are useful for any age group, from young children to the elderly, with or without any eye ailment and without any contra-indications. Among the many recommended eye exercises, this set of three is a minimal necessity for every person to alleviate any eye problem and to maintain the eyes in good health.

(For further details refer to Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha, published by Yoga Publications Trust.)