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If you’re reading this, you’re looking at a screen. And if you’re anything like the average person in the U.S., you’ve been looking at one for more than six hours today. That’s a quarter of your day staring at pixels—a formula that’s sure to cause eye strain. The good news? Yoga can help.
What is eye strain?
Eye strain can be caused by anything that taxes your vision—driving long distances, doing detailed tasks, or prolonged exposure to glaring light, like the sun glinting on the snow or the water. But the most likely cause of eye strain today is looking at a computer, phone or other device, according to the experts at the Cleveland Clinic.
A study done way back in 2018 found that Americans were spending 1,700 hours on screened devices, including smart phones, laptops, TVs, video games, tablets, or electronic-readers. (By contrast we spend about 930 hours a year eating, which we often do—you guessed it—in front of a screen.)
But that was then. When the pandemic sent us home to do everthing—work, take yoga, have parties, get married— on Zoom, our time spent on-screen exploded. A 2020 survey found that respondents logged 4,866 hours a week year staring at a screen. The risk for eye strain multiplied.
See also: A Meditation for the Eyes from Cyndi Lee
Symptoms of eye strain
Eye strain isn’t so much dangerous as it is uncomfortable. Your eyes may be dry, scratchy, burning, sore, or generally tired. You may find that your vision is blurred or you feel like you’re seeing double. You may find yourself constantly rubbing your eyes; your face maintains a perennial frown and squint.
They say the eyes are the window to your soul, but they also have a connection with your body. Tired eyes can lead to headaches, tight shoulders, and back pain. If you have difficulty concentrating, your eyes may be to blame.
How to prevent eye strain
Another season of working from home means more time on screens and more stress on the eyes. Fortunately, eye strain can be remedied with rest, good eye care, and yoga. Try these exercises to strengthen your eyes:
- Move them. Keep the head still while you look up and down several times. Repeat, looking left and right, then diagonally.
- Close them. Lower your lids for a few seconds to keep the eyes moist.
- Blink them. Fluttering your eyes every few minutes also helps increase moisture.
- Warm them. Vigorously rub your hands together to create heat, then place your palms gently over your closed eyes
- Challenge them. Choosing an object and staring at it without blinking. During this exercise, focus and unfocus your eyes
Want more? Try these soothing eye exercises with Mumbai-based yoga teacher Rashmi Ramesh.
Healthy vision tips
Maintaining healthy vision overall is critical—no matter how much time you spend at a screen. Protect your eyes at all costs.
- Have your eyes checked regularly—annually if you’re over 60.
- Wear shades to block out UV rays.
- Take frequent breaks from your screen. Step away for 5 minutes (maybe do a meditation) and rest your eyes.
- Stay hydrated to keep your eyes lubricated.
- Eat your carrots and green vegetables, such as spinach and kale.
- Don’t smoke.
Try some of the sequences below to help protect your peepers.
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4 yoga practices to relieve eye strain
This practice leans into the principle of pratyahara, or withdrawal of the senses. Using a head wrap to block out sight and sound, and props for support and comfort, you can settle into a rest that restores the whole body.
Vision depends on the psychology of sight and the physiology of the brain. Explore them both with these helpful exercises.
Drishti, gazing at a fixed point, develops concentration—and teaches you to see the world clearly.
Modify a classic yoga pose to help ease burning, itching “cyber eyes.”
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