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Yoga for the Eyes

Let Your Eyes Smile

"The eye is the jewel of the body." ~Henry David Thoreau

Have you ever explored the way that you use your eyes to control and surrender?  As the most dominant sensory organ, many of us are subconsciously using our eyes to solidify and harden the world around us.  Often our eyes are 10 steps in front of us as we walk down the street, practically jumping out of our heads.

The eyes are often considered, windows to the soul.  We might ponder a daily practice of resting and receiving the world through our eyes; looking at the world (or our computer screens) with the same softness that we might when we lay eyes on a newborn baby or a beautiful sunset. 

Below are some tips to explore in your daily practice of drishti (Sanskrit for gazing or how you see the world).  It is recommended to rest with your eyes softly closed between each one.  Also, all of the exercises are great to do as a break from a long day at the computer and as a great way to relieve stress.

1. Start by gently massaging the lower eyelids with your ring fingertips for one minute.  Pause.  Begin to slowly close the eyes.  Notice the soft tremble/vibration that exists in the upper eyelids just as the eyelids come together.  Do this a few times, letting the gaze soften and the act of closing the eyes becomes slower.  The eyelids begin to feel like lovers' hands meeting in a dark room, sliding together seamlessly.See if the upper eyelids begin to relax?  Tip: look softly into the distance as you close your eyes.

2. Explore shifting between focal gaze and peripheral gazing points.  The focal (narrow) gaze is associated with clarity and rational-thinking.   It is used when reading and typing and often people lean forward when they really get into seeing something perfectly clear.  Peripheral gaze is associated with blurriness, uncertainty and the intuitive mind.  It is a wider view of the world, usually associated with looking at a horizon line, a sunset or a landscape.  Pick a focal point and a two peripheral points (one to the left and one to the right) and oscillate between the two.   See if you can maintain a soft gaze on each peripheral point at the same time (almost like you have eyes on the sides of your head). Take one breath in focal gaze, then one breath in peripheral gaze.

3. Practice Blinking.  Blinking is a wonderfully healthy tool for the cleansing, lubrication and relaxation of the eyes and for strengthening the eyes ability to shift between dark and light.  Begin lying on your back or seated.  Let your eyes stay open until a natural blink comes and then blink a few times, feeling the moisture and softness come into your eyes.  Repeat this a few times.  From here, experiment with keeping your eyes closed for a breath and then open for a breath.  Throughout the exercise keep the eyes resting in the hammocks of the eye sockets and the face relaxed.

4. Sitting or lying down, eyes softly open.  Begin drawing infinity symbols with your eyes.  Feel if both your eyes are moving, or if one is more dominant. You can also do this with one eye open and one eye closed.  Explore moving the eyes in both directions, speed variations and relaxed belly breathing while you shift the eyes around.  Blink whenever necessary. 

5. Eye Cupping.  A simple exercise to relax your eyes and sooth your optic nerve.  Lying on your back, rub your palms together and create some heat between your hands.  Once the hands are warm to touch, place the palms over the eyes as if you are cupping your eye sockets.  When you feel there is no light entering, let your eyes relax and drop back.  And, if they open, let them open.  Receive and absorb darkness with your eyes.  Most of us rarely ever adapt our eyes to darkness.  This is a deeply restful and healing eye practice.   Repeat between exercises, throughout the day, as a break from bright light or just to feel fabulous and alive!  Wonderful before or after savasana.

The eyes are a gateway to the way we perceive the world.  If our eyes are hardened and stuck, it is perhaps difficult to open our minds to new ways of thinking, healing and moving?  Have fun!  Let your eyes smile! 

Inspired by metaphors in movement, spatial awareness and a simple life, Sarah Manwaring-Jones has shared yoga for the last 10 years.  She integrates a deep love of nature and the human form into the ancient practices of yoga through embodied principles of tensegrity and honoring her own experiences of life, love and loss.  Sarah feels yoga is a gentle and kind hammock, a wide-open space to rest into for support in our busy lives. 

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angela_2, posted on October 30, 2012

Yes, thank you. And I agree, a video would be wonderful!

sandykwan, posted on October 25, 2012

Very interesting! I have heard wonderful thing about things about eye exercises and restoring vision (both near and far-sightedness) Can you please post a video?

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