Can Eye Yoga Improve Your Headaches and Eyesight?

Three young women with their eyes closed

Stocksy

After staring at your computer or phone all day, do you ever get that feeling that your eyes are tired and exhausted and you can't possibly look at a screen for even another minute? You may be experiencing eyestrain, which is a fairly common eye condition that happens after staring at a screen, driving, or carrying out any other activity that requires intense focus of the eyes.

Fortunately, eyestrain typically isn't a serious concern and usually goes away after you rest your eyes or do something to reduce the eye discomfort, according to the Mayo Clinic.

One way some people reduce eye strain is by engaging in a practice called eye yoga. Curious to learn more? Here's everything you need to know about eye yoga. And no, you won't need a yoga mat or any props for this one.

Meet the Expert

What Is Eye Yoga?

Eye yoga is a practice of eye movements and exercises that claims to bring all sorts of benefits, like strengthening the eye muscles, decreasing eyestrain, reducing stress, and possibly even improving vision.

Eye yoga exercises are fairly simple—think gazing, focusing, eye rolling, and shifting your point of focus. Unlike a yoga class that takes an hour or so out of your day, each of these exercises can be completed within a few minutes or less. You can choose just one exercise, or combine them.

With all the time we spend staring at screens these days, taking a minute or two to look away every once in a while for an eye yoga exercise may provide much-needed rest for the eyes.

The Benefits

There's not much evidence to support many of the supposed benefits of eye yoga, but some of the exercises can help to reduce eyestrain by exercising the muscles that help your eyes focus, experts say. Some eye yoga exercises may also temporarily alleviate dry eye.

"Palming exercises will definitely soothe eyes and also help spread the tears and help dry eyes," Hilal-Campo says. "Blinking yoga exercises will express the oil from the meibomian glands that surround the eyelid into the tears and will help with dry eyes."

Additionally, some of the eye yoga exercises include a breathwork focus, which may help alleviate stress. "Eye yoga may reduce eyestrain related to increase screen time and reduce stress levels associated with the modern work environment," Dello Russo says.

Does Eye Yoga Work?

Eye yoga may be able to reduce eyestrain, but it's not going to correct or cure eye conditions like myopia hyperopia, astigmatism, or presbyopia in a way that allows you to ditch your glasses or contacts.

"Eye yoga will not cure myopia, farsightedness, or astigmatism," Dello Russo says. "Nor will eye yoga independently cure any diseases of the eye."

The Best Eye Yoga Exercises

Ready to try eye yoga? Read on for some simple, eye-doctor-recommended exercises.

Eye Focusing

  1. Sitting upright, extend one arm straight in front of you.
  2. Make a loose fist with your hand, with your thump pointing upward.
  3. Focus both eyes on your thumb, and slowly move the thumb closer to your nose until you are no longer able to focus on it.
  4. Pause for a breath or two before lengthening your arm into its original position while maintaining focus on the thumb.
  5. Repeat 5 to 10 times.

"There are many people who suffer from eyestrain and eyestrain headaches, and it is actually from poor convergence, or convergence insufficiency," Hilal-Campo says. "Ophthalmologists have these patients do similar exercises to improve convergence and decrease strain—for most patients this really works."

Palming

  1. Rub your hands together for 10–15 seconds, until they are warm.
  2. Close your eyes and gently place your warm palms over your eyes, with your fingertips on the forehead, your palms over your closed eyelids, and the heels of your hand on the cheeks. 
  3. While keeping your eyes closed, breathe deeply and enjoy the feeling of calm and peace for as long as it feels soothing.
  4. Remove palms from face.

"Closing the eyes allows the tear film to distribute on the ocular surface, and the warmth is very soothing," Hilal-Campo says. This is a great one for soothing dry and tired eyes after staring at screens all day.

Distance Gazing

  1. Rest your gaze on a distant object that's at least 20 feet away (look out a window if necessary).
  2. Breathe deeply, and then shift your gaze to another distant object.
  3. Breathe again as you shift your gaze to another distant object.

"This relaxes the focusing and the convergence reflexes of your eyes and can help with eyestrain," says Hilal-Campo, who recommends this exercise every 20 minutes or so when using screens.

Near and Distant Viewing

  1. While standing or sitting with your back straight, focus on the tip of your nose for 5 to 10 seconds.
  2. Relax for about a minute.
  3. Repeat 10–20 times.

Blinking

  1. Relax in either a sitting or standing position.
  2. Find something a few feet away to gaze upon.
  3. Open your eyes as wide as possible and blink 10 times in an exaggerated and purposeful way.
  4. After blinking 100 times, close your eyes for 20 to 30 seconds.
  5. Repeat a few times.

"Eye doctors often recommend blinking exercises for dry-eye patients and patients who are prone to blockage of the oil-secreting glands," Hilal-Campo says. "This will absolutely soothe eyes."

Brahmari Pranayama (Humming Bee Breath)

  1. Begin by sitting cross-legged on the floor.
  2. Place your fingers over your eyes horizontally and inhale slowly.
  3. On the exhale, make a buzzing sound (like a bee) while applying light pressure on your eyeballs.
  4. Repeat 5 or 6 times.

"This exercise is great for creating calm and improving relaxation by simply breathing in and out," Dello Russo says.

The Takeaway

Eye yoga won't correct your vision or cure any eye conditions, but it may bring temporary relief for eyestrain. If you tend to log a lot of screen time and suffer from eyestrain or dry eyes, some of these eye yoga techniques may be worth a try.

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