Dear yoginis and yogis,
“Yoga for your eyes? I didn’t even know that existed!”, said two of my students recently, as they read about the workshop I’ll be giving in January on this topic. They were surprised to learn that yogic eye movements are part of basic teacher training in hatha yoga. Despite this, these techniques are not often taught, except in classes for “seniors”… and yet, in a visual society such as ours, and a screen-based culture, our eyes “sorely” need some tender love and care, don’t you think?
It occurred to me that, following on my November post about the yoga of social media, the title “Yoga for the eyes” could also lead you to expect a blogpost full of sexy yoga photos, “pretty to behold”, “eye candy”, etc. But that is not what we’ll be “looking at” in detail in January.
That being said, the fact that our eyes strain even more than a few years ago, due to our increasing screen-time on social media, means they need some attention. In olden days, the main problem for eyes would have been that people tried to study, or mend tools, or do needlework, on dark winter nights, by candle-light. This would “spoil their eye-sight” over time.
Nowadays it is the two-dimensional, blue-light world of the screen which causes havoc. Our eyes were not designed for it.
Yogic eye movements are amongst the easiest and most accessible movements in yoga, and they are surprisingly strong and effective. The optic nerve is connected with the vagus nerve, a crucial nervous pathway connecting our gut and our brain, hence the eyes affect our overall sense of wellbeing.
We will also be experiencing Tratak, or candle-gazing, a beautiful and – again – very simple meditation technique. Every time you gaze at a candle for about a minute without blinking, your eyes recharge by absorbing some of the “prana” (life energy) of the flame, and if they start to tear a bit, this becomes a cleansing which is part of the yogic “kriyas” or purification techniques.
There is so much to learn about yoga beyond asana! I hope you’ll be curious enough to come and experience the “For your eyes only” workshop at the West London Buddhist Centre on friday, 12th of January, at 7 pm. Combined with some ayurvedic massage tricks and a nice relaxation, the eye yoga will give you a fresh outlook on 2018!