Baba Ramdev, an Indian swami and educator who has promoted the practice of yoga and Ayurvedic medicine across India and around the world, reminds us that the eyes are the windows to the soul and offers techniques for their care. Ramdev's free online videos cover a myriad of health conditions, and his eye-care video demonstrates yoga techniques that include acupressure, pranayamas, asanas and eye exercises that benefit vision, improve circulation, relax and strengthen eye muscles, and mitigate signs of aging such as puffiness and wrinkles.
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Acupressure points – called marma points in the Ayurvedic tradition – that benefit the eyes are found on the hands and feet in corresponding locations. Find the point on the hands, palms up and facing you, in a depression directly below where the index finger and middle finger meet. Use the thumb of the opposite hand to firmly press and release the point. On the soles of the feet, find the point directly beneath where the big toe and second toe meet. With your foot in your lap, use your thumb to press and release the point. Ramdev suggests pressing these points up to five minutes, twice a day.
Pranayama is a type of yogic breathing that focuses on the control of the breath, or prana. Breathing exercises are considered an essential practice for good health and benefit all of the body’s systems, including the eyes. Ramdev suggests the bellows-breath, or Bhastrika pranayama, a forceful, deep inhalation and exhalation; Antara kumbhaka, also called the “positive breath,” a deep breath held for several seconds before slowly releasing; Kapalbhati pranayama, which emphasizes short, forceful exhalations and passive inhalations repeated quickly; Bahya pranayama, a holding of the out-breath with an emphasis on contracting core muscles; and Anuloma-Viloma pranayama, an alternate nostril breathing technique. All of these exercises are recommended to bring health and vitality to the eyes.
For many people, the asanas, or poses, are the most recognizable form of yoga. For eye care, Ramdev suggests Sarvangasan, the supported shoulder stand, which stimulates the neck, back, chest and shoulders as well as the face and eyes. He also suggests Halasana, or plough pose, which you can move directly into from Sarvangasan, Paschimottanasan, or seated forward bend, and Chakrasana, or wheel pose.
Eye exercises help tone and relax eye muscles and improve circulation, which benefits their appearance by diminishing effects of fatigue and stress that can contribute to eye puffiness. Ramdev suggests exercising your eyes by moving them in a slow rotation while keeping your head still. He also suggests resting the eyes for several minutes by placing both index fingers above the eyebrows, the thumbs firmly pressing the ears closed, and the remaining three fingers pressing gently on the closed eyelids. Another technique, called palming, relaxes the eyes by using the warmth of the hands. Begin by vigorously rubbing your hands together to generate heat, and then place one hand over each eye so that the hollow of your palms are over the eye sockets.
Check with your physician before beginning any new exercise program, which includes the pranayamas and asanas listed here. Many of the pranayama and asanas are strenuous and should only be undertaken if your physical condition permits it or if you are under the instruction of a certified yoga instructor. As with any new exercise, begin slowly and work up to a level of proficiency comfortable to you.