A New Look at Eye Care
Ayurvedic Solutions for Dry, Tired Eyes
If you were to ask your friends how many times a week they did something to improve the health of their eyes, they'd probably say "none." Most people pay attention to their eyes only if they have a problem. Yet the hours spent watching TV and working on computers take their toll on eye health.
According to Maharishi Ayurveda, the eyes are one of the most important organs in the body. All five elements play a role in maintaining eye health. Earth (prithvi) governs the muscular part of the eye, fire (tejas) rules the blood vessels, air (vayu) governs the color, water (apu) dominates the white area, and space (akasha) controls the tear ducts and channels.
The eye is also governed by Alochaka Pitta, a subdosha of Pitta which becomes less balanced as we age. That's why it's important to care for your eyes throughout life.
In the same way that Maharishi Ayurveda recommends preventing future health problems while you're still healthy, here are some simple things you can do to prevent eye disease and improve your vision.
Healthy Eye Habits
In general, you don't want to stare continuously at fixed objects in the distance. Blink periodically and look away at short intervals to keep from straining the eyes. At the same time, staring at the TV close-up is one of the main causes of myopia (nearsightedness), so watch TV from at least ten feet away — not too near and not too far.
Proper light is another factor in eye health, just like your mother told you. Avoid reading or working in either dim light or in bright sunlight. Staring fixedly in the distance or close-up is especially harmful in bright sunlight, especially if you're around water or reflecting objects. Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes in bright sunlight, but not to drive or read with, as this will cause strain.
One of the biggest enemies of the eyes is lack of sleep. If you have a tendency to stay up too late, try going to bed just fifteen minutes earlier. Gradually bring your bedtime into alignment with the ayurvedic routine — before 10:00. If you wake up in the night and can't fall back asleep, try Deep Rest.
Morning Eye Routine
- Each morning upon waking (either before or after using the toilet), fill your mouth with water and hold for a few seconds with your eyes closed. Spit it out and repeat 2-3 times.
- Splash your eyes and face with cool or slightly warm water 10-15 times. Repeat again in the evening when you return from work or school.
Caution: Never use hot or icy water on the eyes. Also avoid abrupt temperature changes. For instance, if you're hot and sweaty, wait 10-15 minutes until your body adjusts before splashing cool water on your face and eyes.
Yoga for Your Eyes
Yogic eye exercises, if done daily, are a gentle and effective way to prevent vision problems from developing. They are especially recommended for children, but adults can help prevent farsightedness from developing in middle age, and even people who wear glasses can prevent their vision from getting worse.
If you already do yoga regularly, continue with your normal routine, because most yogic exercises have a good effect on the eyes.
Yogic Eye Exercises (for strengthening eye muscles and releasing stress)
- Sit in the Sukhasana (easy pose) with your legs comfortably crossed and your spine, neck and head in a straight line. Look directly to the front at eye-level and breathe normally. This is the position of readiness.
- Move your eyes upward to the ceiling and stay for two seconds. Look downwards and stay for two seconds. Close your eyes for two seconds.
- Look toward the right side, as far as your eye will see, for two seconds. Look to the left side for two seconds. Look to the front again.
- Close your eyes for 6-8 seconds.
- This completes one round. Start with 2-3 rounds and increase up to four rounds.
Palming (for releasing stress from the eyes)
- Rub both palms together quickly for 8-10 seconds. This friction creates a mild heat.
- Close the eyes and gently place the left palm over the left eye and the right palm over the right eye for one minute. Do not press the eyeballs with the palms — just let them gently rest there. Breathe in and out slowly to release stress.
- Repeat 2-3 times.
- Other poses that strengthen the eyes include the Bhujangasana (snake pose), Surya Namaskara (sun salutes), and Shavasana (rest pose).
Stop Computer Fatigue
If you have to stare at a computer screen up close for your job, or spend long hours doing any detailed close-up work, use these tips to banish eye fatigue.
- Every thirty minutes, look away from the computer and palm your eyes (see above). You can also get up for a short break, stretch or make a phone call.
- Dampen two wads of cotton wool with pure Organic Rose Water and place over closed eyes. Relax for 10 minutes with the pads over your eyes. Organic Rose Water has a cooling effect and is especially helpful for tired eyes. You can palm your eyes afterwards.
Choose Eye-Healthy Foods and Drinks
In general, follow your individual diet for your constitution and imbalances as recommended by Maharishi Ayurveda. But to strengthen your vision, or if you face particular eyestrain, add stewed apple, sprouted chickpeas, and raw carrot (an excellent source of Vitamin A) to your diet.
For example, for breakfast eat a stewed apple and 1/4 cup chickpeas which have been sprouted for two days. For lunch, eat a salad with shredded white daikon radish and one carrot, flavored with salt and lemon juice. You can also add cucumber, tomato or lettuce to taste. Vegetable soups, green leafy vegetables, and wheat bread are nourishing for the eyes. Dinner can include the same cooked foods, only less quantity.
Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Constipation, or internal dryness, has an adverse effect on the eyes. But stay away from caffeinated drinks. Even though people drink coffee to release stress, it increases toxicity and dehydrates the body. Try substituting Raja's Cup, which is a traditional ayurvedic beverage that stimulates the mind, is a powerful antioxidant, and diminishes stress, toxins and the craving for caffeine.
Almonds can be used to make a nourishing drink for the eyes. Grind 1/2 c. each of almonds, raw sugar and anise seeds and add 1/2-1 t. a day to a cup of warm milk.
Another excellent ayurvedic remedy for improving vision is to remove the seeds from one pod of black cardamom and combine with 1 tablespoon of honey. Chew thoroughly. This strengthens vision if taken every day.
Two excellent supplements to nourish the eyes are Premium Amla Berry and Organic Digest Tone (Triphala Plus). Both are rasayanas (health-giving ayurvedic elixirs) on their own, and are also special rasayanas for the eyes. Take one tablet of Amla Berry two times a day and 1-2 tablets of Organic Digest Tone twice a day.
Solutions for Dry, Tired Eyes
If your eyes feel tired and dry, or are filled with crusty matter when you wake up, this is due to a disturbance in Vata dosha. Here are some ways to balance Vata dosha and refresh and lubricate your eyes.
- When you wake up in the morning, splash your eyes and face with slightly warm water 10-15 times.
- After returning from work or school, wash your feet in warm water and massage them with Moisturizing Herbal Massage Oil.
- Drink fennel seed water each day. Boil 1/2 t. fennel seed in a cup of water, and boil it back until reduced to half. Sip when warm.
Solutions for Tense, Bloodshot Eyes
Tense, bloodshot eyes are caused by an imbalance in Pitta dosha, and can be triggered by stress, exposure to smoke, pollution, fatigue, or insufficient or irregular sleep.
- Apply Youthful Skin Eye Gel to the area around the eyes at night. This provides natural support for the delicate skin around the eyes, and has a Chakshushya effect (which means that it gives health and longevity to the eye area). It also increases soma and balances agni, and helps remove wrinkles and dark circles.
The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have any serious acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the medical advice of a trained ayurvedic expert, call or e-mail us for the number of a physician in your area. Check with your doctor before taking herbs or using essential oils when pregnant or nursing.