Our eyes are remarkable organs—allowing us to marvel a sunset, a Matisse painting, devour a great book or just cross the street, cook a meal or drive a car. So what do we do to care for them? Here are a few ways to support their well-being:
1. Get a regular check-up with an ophthalmologist (eye M.D.). It is always good to establish a baseline in any area of health, eyes included. The doctor will know what is ‘normal’ for you and if anything changes, it can be addressed sooner rather than later.
2. Exercise them. That’s right. There are six muscles that move the eyeball. At the start of EVERY class at Integral Yoga in the West Village, no matter the level, we begin with simple exercises to give these muscles a ‘work out’. With a soft focus, we are guided to look up and down, from left to right, move them in a large circle both clockwise and counterclockwise. The idea is to increase the blood and qi to these muscles, wash away toxins, and nourish the optic nerve. It feels good, especially when the eyes feel ‘frozen’ from staring at the computer. Another great exercise is for the small, circular ciliary muscles which are responsible for adjusting focus (much like a camera does) on things close up and then far away and all distances in between. This is great for people who need reading glasses or for those who don’t yet need them to keep these muscles fit and not stiff. Here is how it goes:
Point your index fingers at each other about four inches apart from each other at the level of your eyes with your hands placed about a foot away from your face. Begin by focusing on the index fingers for a few seconds. Then change your focus to a place far beyond them. Do this about six times. When you look in to the distance you should see a small ‘hot dog’ illusion in between your index fingers. You can really feel those tiny muscles working.
3. Eat foods that are good for your eyes. Yes, your grandmother was right when she said carrots were good for your eyes. Also, dark leafy greens and berries contain antioxidants which act as scavengers to de-activate free radicals that are known to play a role in the development of many diseases including those of the eyes.
4. Lifestyle adjustment: Give your eyes a break! A few hours a day on the computer needs some down time—and time about every twenty minutes to stop, look at something far away or palm your eyes by rubbing the palms together to create heat and than cupping them over the eyes for a few seconds to let them relax in the darkness and heat of your palms.
5. Emotional well-being: In Chinese Medicine the liver is said to “open to the eyes’. The liver is the first organ affected by emotions that are not flowing harmoniously—that is, ones that are excessive or suppressed. This causes what we call ‘liver qi and blood stagnation’ which in turn plays havoc with not only the health of the eyes but all of the other organ systems as well.
6. Finally, close your eyes for a few minutes a day to focus on your inner vision. Ask yourself if you are using your unique gifts for the benefit of yourself and others. Sometimes we need to close our eyes in order to be able to see what is right in front of us!