By S.B. Gogate September 1998 Simple yogic exercises can keep your eyes free from impaired vision and ugly spectacles. 10 CAUSES OF BAD VISION Malnutrition Faulty reading posture Insufficient light Reading against the light Mental strain Tension Recurring cough and cold Blocked sinuses Stiff neck and shoulder muscles Reading under strain Our eyeball comprises three layers—sclerotic or the outer layer, choroid or the middle layer and retina or the inner layer. The sclerotic layer is white and opalescent, with a transparent center called the cornea. Light is transmitted to the eye through the cornea. The choroid layer is called the iris, with the pupil in its center. Directly behind the iris lies the crystalline lens, which focuses light passing through it upon the retina. Around this lens lie the ciliary muscles that control its contraction and expansion. The retina or the inner layer is like a screen that receives the projected images of external objects. You see something when the pupil lets light pass through the cornea onto the crystalline lens. Brightness is controlled by the pupil through contraction or dilation. These rays converge upon the retina via the convex crystalline lens, forming an inverse image. The optic nerve then transmits this image to the brain, producing the final sense of vision. Sight can be adversely affected by various things, ranging from malnutrition to a recurring cough and cold. Perhaps the three most common defects of eyesight are myopia (short-sightedness), hypermetropia (long-sightedness) and presbyopia (failing eyesight due to age). While in myopia, the image is formed short of the retina, in hypermetropia or presbyopia the image is formed beyond the retina. These conditions are the result of faulty eye muscle action or imperfect accommodation. Generally, such disorders are corrected by introducing artificial lenses such as spectacles. These lenses bring the image onto the retina. But this amounts to treating the symptom, not the disorder of imperfect accommodation. Yoga offers a host of corrective measures for defective eyesight. In fact, the best way of improving your eyesight is to stop using spectacles and follow the methods described here. Although for many it will not be possible to get rid of spectacles abruptly, they can be phased out gradually. Do not wear spectacles while doing the exercises. JAL NETI Jal neti (nasal irrigation with water) keeps the sinuses, nasal tract and the throat free from infection. This, in turn, keeps the eyes free from congestion and strain, and improves vision. A special pot for jal neti, with a pointed spout rising from its base, is easily available and its use can be learned from any yoga instructor. Neti should be practiced in the morning before pranayama. Use lukewarm water, slightly above body temperature, adding a little table salt. Salted water is more soothing than plain water, which hurts the nasal tract. If the habit of jal neti is inculcated in childhood, the person would never need spectacles. Even if it is practiced regularly at a later stage with other exercises and precautions, it will definitely help in getting rid of spectacles. PRANAYAMA To correct your eyesight, practice nadi shodhan (alternate breathing) pranayama. Always start and end with the left nostril. Start practicing with five cycles of nadi shodhan. Although it is not possible to explain the full pranayama here, you can learn it from a qualified yoga trainer. This pranayama should be practiced in the mornings and evenings on an empty stomach. MEDITATION AND VISUALIZATION Sit comfortably in vajrasana, padmasana or siddhasana. Normalize the pace of your breathing, close your eyes and relax. Be aware of your eyes and the tissues surrounding them. Mentally, let all the organs, glands, cells and tissues in this area relax. Talk to them in your mind, as if they are your friends. Tell them sincerely to relax and function in a rhythmic and harmonious manner. Slowly, concentrate your awareness on your eyeball and create its mental picture. If you are myopic, tell your eyes to contract enough to allow the image to coincide on the retina. If you are long-sighted, tell your eyes to elongate enough to allow the image to coincide on the retina. Supplement your visualization with some catchy affirmation such as: ‘My eyes perform better than the best automatic cameras I have ever known.’ Practice this visualization meditation at least for 15-20 minutes twice a day. EYE RELAXATION Practice these methods to relax your eyes effectively: Sit comfortably, close your eyes and cover them with your palms. Be sure that both palms are cupped and do not press on the eyes. Imagine the blackness getting darker and darker. Rest in this manner for five minutes at a time, at least thrice a day. Stand upright in front of an open window, preferably overlooking greenery. Keep your feet a foot apart, let your arms hang loosely at the sides and be as relaxed as possible. Gently oscillate your body from side to side like a pendulum. Raise your heels alternately, keeping toes firmly on the ground. Gently swing the whole body to and fro without bending at the waist or hips. Start the exercise with eyes open. Swing like this for a minute and then close your eyes gently, while still swinging. Imagine the apparent movement of the window as clearly as possible. Open the eyes after a minute and continue this exercise for 10 minutes, alternately closing and opening the eyes. Repeat this exercise at least thrice a day. Close your eyes and, facing the sun, move your head slowly from side to side. Sun rays cause a rushing of blood to the eyes, relaxing optical muscles and nerves. Do this exercise for 10 minutes thrice a day. Take a handful of cold water and, bending forward, splash your eyes rapidly, several times. Do not forget to hold water in your mouth while splashing eyes as this cools them down to their nerve ends and freshens them a great deal. EXERCISES FOR EYE MUSCLESSit erect in a comfortable position. Keep your head and neck as relaxed as possible. Gently move your eyes up and down 10 times. The motion should be very slow, uniform and effortless, without moving the head or neck. Let your eyes see as far up and as far down as possible without causing strain. As the eye muscles relax, you will be able to look lower and higher. Repeat this exercise five to six times in a sitting. You can add to the relaxation by resting your eyes in your palms in-between. Sitting in the same posture as before, move your eyes from side to side. Repeat 10 times. The motion should be very slow, uniform and effortless without moving the head or neck. As in the earlier exercise, you will able to move them farther and more easily with practice. Repeat this exercise five to six times. Move your eyes gently and slowly around in a circle five times, alternating between clockwise and anti-clockwise motions. Rest for a second and repeat the process five times. Remember that it should be done slowly and effortlessly. Sit on a terrace where you can see far off objects on the horizon. Look at a distant object and then look at the tip of your nose. Look from one to the other object 10 times. Close your eyes for a second and resume the exercise. Repeat five times and rest your eyes. The author freed himself of spectacles after using them for over 14 years, thanks to the exercises he now prescribes to others
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