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Yoga For Your Eyes

A senior Yoga student discovers how simple eye exercises could save her life by improving her peripheral vision.

As I entered the room to teach my weekly Yoga class at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York City, one of my students caught my attention. “I’m sorry I missed class last week,” she explained. “I got hit by a car.” I held my breath as I waited for details. It turned out she had been hit by a gypsy cab who took a turn too fast. Other than a bruise on her knee, C.G., 81, was fine, if shaken. She didn’t even go to the emergency room. Then came a sigh of relief knowing everything turned out so well. Coincidentally, I had planned to teach Yogic eye exercises this class and, after we did them, I asked the group what benefits they had observed. One student found the exercises improved coordination, one noticed that the work between her two eyes felt more balanced, another said his vision felt brighter. But C.G., who’d been hit by the gypsy cab, gave another, very important benefit. “If I do these exercises, maybe I’ll see the cab coming next time,” she said.

Yoga For The Eyes

These movements are based on the Pawanmuktasana (energy-freeing) series by Swami Satyananda Saraswati of the Bihar School of Yoga in India. Remove your eyeglasses or contact lenses. Perform these exercises slowly, incorporating the breath, and stop immediately if the eyes feel strained. Begin with only 1 or 2 repetitions, then gradually build up to 3 to 5.
  1. Sit tall in a chair. Rub the palms of your hands together to create heat. Now rest the heels of your hands on your cheekbones and let your fingers rest in your hairline without letting the palms of the hands touch your eyelids. Let your eyes bathe in your hands’ warmth.
  2. Blink 10 times.
  3. Bring your arms up and out to the sides at shoulder height. Make loose fists with the thumbs pointing upward. Move your arms in just until you can see your thumbs in your peripheral vision while you are looking straight ahead. Keeping your head still, inhale and look up between your eyebrows. Exhale, gaze at the right thumb. Inhale, look between your eyebrows. Exhale, gaze at the left thumb. Repeat.
  4. Now rest your left hand on the left thigh, in a loose fist with the thumb up, and bring your right arm back out to the side at shoulder level. Without moving your head, inhale, look at your right thumb. Exhale, gaze down at the left thumb. Repeat. Reverse hand placement and repeat.
  5. Maintaining the loose fist, thumb’s up position, with your right hand, slowly make 3 to 5 circles as large as you can. Without moving the head, follow the thumb with the eyes. Reverse the direction of the circle and repeat. Repeat with the left arm in both directions.
  6. Place the right hand on the right thigh. Without moving the head, bring the arm straight up as high as you can in front of you, following the thumb with the eyes. Repeat on the left side.
  7. Rest your eyes by repeating step 1.