As part of my yoga practice, I do a series of eye movements called netra vyayamam – aka eye yoga. It’s basically like a calisthenics routine for your eye muscles and it’s amazing. Honestly, it’s amazing, like I’ve cleaned my real eyeballs. Everything looks a bit sharper, my face is more relaxed, and I feel relieved from eye strain from long screen time. And these types of exercises are all over social media, touted as a way to alleviate the aforementioned fatigue, but also potentially improve your vision. But we know better than to believe everything we hear, so I asked ophthalmologists to explain the real benefits of eye fitness – if any, are backed by science.
Do eye exercises improve your vision?
“There are benefits to doing eye exercises, but you have to have the right expectations,” says Danielle Richardson, a Los Angeles-based optometrist and medical consultant at Johnson & Johnson Vision. Richardson is also a yoga teacher and is well versed in netra vyayamam and the idea that eye yoga can improve vision. Unfortunately, this notion seems to be more wishful thinking than anything else. “There is very little credible scientific evidence that eye exercises can improve vision,” says Richardson.
Most experts seem to agree with Richardson that eye exercises aren’t a solution to vision problems, so if you’re hoping for an eye routine that will make your glasses obsolete, my condolences. That said, Richardson says eye exercises can help relieve eye strain, discomfort, and screen fatigue. “Eye exercises can help with problems commonly associated with staring at a computer screen all day, including headaches and dry eyes,” she says.
“Our eyes do a lot for us every day, and it’s easy to take that for granted,” says Richardson. Like all other parts of your body and mind, your eyes need care. “We constantly use digital devices, read and consume so much in 24 hours that it’s normal for our eyes to feel strained and tired,” says Richardson. “Eye exercises have specific benefits, although they’re probably not a catch-all for your eye health.” So you can think of eye exercises like you think of any other type of exercise – as part of your health care regimen.
What are the real benefits of eye exercises?
Richardson doesn’t seem willing to make that kind of sweeping statement, but for people who have eye health issues, there’s a whole branch of optometry dedicated to teaching you how to exercise their eyes called Vision Therapy. In vision therapy, eye exercises are prescribed on an individual basis based on your needs, says Richardson. “Visual therapy is generally indicated for those who have problems with their eye muscle movements or ability to concentrate,” says Richardson. Much of the research that suggests that eye exercise can improve vision uses vision therapy in a clinical setting.
How do eye exercises help with fatigue?
“There is some overlap between eye yoga exercises and vision therapy eye exercises, as both aim to improve muscle function,” says Richardson. There are plenty of eye exercise routines online, but Richardson doesn’t seem sure people should tinker with their eye health. “Before starting any exercise routine, it is always recommended to consult a doctor and eye exercises are no exception,” says Richardson. target the right muscles based on your unique visual system and vision requirements.
So yes, eye exercise can be helpful, but consult your doctor. That being said, Richardson says the risks of eye exercise are minimal, but they do exist. If you’re eager to improve your eye health in a safe, evidence-based way, Richardson says the 20/20/20 rule is the law — and it’s easy “For every 20 minutes you spend staring at a screen, you should try looking away at something 20 feet away from you for a total of 20 seconds,” says Richardson.
Eye health is especially important right now, says Richardson. Many of us have basically spent two years glued to our screens. “Due to working and going to school virtually, ophthalmologists have noticed an increase in patients reporting that their eyesight is changing,” says Richardson. Recent studies show that more and more people are suffering from eye problems due to the pandemic. “It’s a serious problem,” says Richardson.
So while eye exercises can temporarily relieve you of the strain modern life puts on your eyes, they won’t “cure” anything and experts believe there may not be a one-size-fits-all approach to fitness. eye physics. Does this mean I will stop doing eye yoga? Absolutely not. It feels good, and right now I need that little relief.