If you were to ask your friends how many times a week they did something to improve the health of their eyes, they'd probably say "none." Most people pay attention to their eyes only if they have a problem. Yet the hours spent watching TV and working on computers take their toll on eye health.
According to Maharishi Ayurveda, the eyes are one of the most important organs in the body. All five elements play a role in maintaining eye health. Earth (prithivi) governs the muscular part of the eye, fire (tejas) rules the blood vessels, air (vayu) governs the color, water (apu) dominates the white area, and space (akasha) controls the tear ducts and channels.
The eye is also governed by Alochaka Pitta, a subdosha of Pitta which becomes less balanced as we age. That's why it's important to care for your eyes throughout life.
In the same way that Maharishi Ayurveda recommends preventing future health problems while you're still healthy, here are some simple things you can do to prevent eye disease and improve your vision.
In general, you don't want to stare continuously at fixed objects in the distance. Blink periodically and look away at short intervals to keep from straining the eyes. At the same time, staring at the TV close up is one of the main causes of myopia (nearsightedness), so watch TV from at least ten feet away-not too near and not too far.
Proper light is another factor in eye health, just like your mother told you. Avoid reading or working in either dim light or in bright sunlight. Staring fixedly in the distance or close-up is especially harmful in bright sunlight, especially if you're around water or reflecting objects. Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes in bright sunlight, but not to drive or read with, as this will cause strain.
One of the biggest enemies of the eyes is lack of sleep. If you have a tendency to stay up too late, try going to bed just fifteen minutes earlier. Gradually bring your bedtime into alignment with the ayurvedic routine-before 10:00. If you wake up in the night and can't fall back asleep, try Deep Rest.
- Each morning upon waking (either before or after using the toilet), fill your mouth with water and hold for a few seconds with your eyes closed. Spit it out and repeat 2-3 times.
- Splash your eyes and face with cool or slightly warm water 10-15 times. Repeat again in the evening when you return from work or school.
Caution: Never use hot or icy water on the eyes. Also avoid abrupt temperature changes. For instance, if you're hot and sweaty, wait 10-15 minutes until your body adjusts before splashing cool water on your face and eyes.
Yogic eye exercises, if done daily, are a gentle and effective way to prevent vision problems for developing. They are especially recommended for children, but adults can help prevent farsightedness from developing in middle age, and even people who wear glasses can prevent their vision from getting worse.
If you already do yoga regularly, continue with your normal routine because most yogic exercises have a good effect on the eyes.
- Sit in the Sukhasana (easy pose) with your legs comfortably crossed and your spine, neck and head in a straight line. Look directly to the front at eye-level and breathe normally. This is the position of readiness.
- Move your eyes upward to the ceiling and stay for two seconds. Look downwards and stay for two seconds. Close your eyes for two seconds.
- Look toward the right side, as far as your eye will see, for two seconds. Look to the left side for two seconds. Look to the front again.
- Close your eyes for 6-8 seconds.
- This completes one round. Start with 2-3 rounds and increase up to four rounds.