Are long hours in front of a computer making you feel weary, anxious, or grumpy? Screen time dominates our days and evenings, and can wreak havoc on our eyes and our nervous systems. Instead of reaching for your phone to scroll through social media when your work day ends, grab your yoga props. This Restorative Yoga sequence by DC-area teacher Tara Lemerise uses a headwrap to alleviate eye strain and leave you feeling grounded and refreshed.
Many of us have tired eyes and uncomfortable headaches after focusing on a screen all day. Asthenopia, the medical term for eye strain, is also exacerbated by stress, fatigue, and lack of sleep. With many of us quarantining in our homes for work, school, and recreation, our screen time has only been increasing. An August 2020 report from Nielsen estimated that the average American’s time on a screen has increased 60 percent since the emergence of COVID-19 in the United States to nearly 13 hours per day.
Restorative Yoga and pratyāhāra, or withdrawal of the senses, are the perfect practices to give our overtaxed eyes and frayed nervous system a reset. The Sanskrit word prati means towards and āhāra means to bring near or to fetch. During the practice of pratyāhāra, we are aiming to separate ourselves from the input we receive from our senses. Wearing a headwrap or eye bandage is a simple way to cultivate the right conditions for pratyāhāra since it temporarily disables our sense of sight (and hearing depending on how you position the bandage). In essence, we move our awareness away from external inputs and direct it inward. This gives our eyes a break and reduces brain stimulation. We begin the shift from avhigh alert state to the rest and digest side of our nervous system.
The headwrap, along with the piles of props used in this sequence, create a safe and supported place for resting. Restorative Yoga poses don't aim to build strength or cultivate flexibility, rather they are designed to help you feel open, settled, and calm without any stretch or effort.
Also remember that it takes time to change habits. When we are established in patterns of stress and overusing our eyes, it is better to practice fewer postures with longer holds. Stay in the poses for at least 8 minutes and up to 20 minutes. Set a timer with a pleasing alarm to signal you to transition to a different pose. If you can’t get through the whole sequence, don’t worry! Just do what you can, and remember that sometimes less is more.
Please note, if your eye strain or headache doesn’t improve after working with this practice, seek medical help.