Exercise: Let the Eyes Have It, Too

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I looked up into the sky and witnessed the effortless gliding of a red-tail hawk making circles as he lifted higher and higher into the blue depths.

I kept watching until the pinpoint dot vanished and my eyes only saw sky. The crazy thing is, the hawk, if he was staring at me, could still see me perfectly well, and I wondered what that would be like: to see something a mile away with an acuity eight times my own.

I’ve been nearsighted ever since I was in second grade and have accepted it as a fact of life. And now with far-sightedness making the scene I thought it best to really dig into eye health.

Our 21st century lives are filled with straining eyes focusing on certain objects for long periods of time  computers, text messages and the ceaseless flow of paperwork. But really our eyes are designed to shift focus between near and distant objects on a regular basis to keep them limber and flexible.

Tight eye muscles are, well, no good. Yet it really never occurred to me,and was never mentioned by my eye doctor either, that a constant focus on one thing tightens the eye muscles and can cause problems. Makes sense to me. Hold any muscle in your body in one position for several hours and see how it feels. The eye is really no different.

So if there is yoga for our body what about our eyes. Absolutely. Enter eye yoga. Eyes have muscles like the rest of the body, and they, too, need to be flexed and stretched in order to keep them working properly. There are several simple exercises to perform for the eye every day, which to me is a piece of cake because it doesn’t require any weightlifting or cardio. Here’s the best part. You can do it sitting down.

The exercises are basically following how the eye moves, up, down and around. It’s important to note you don’t want to do this while sipping your latte in a coffee shop. Pull up a chair at home, or sit up in bed in the morning and get your eye moving.

Keep the head straight and facing forward. Then start by looking up for a count of three, then sweep your gaze down, stopping a second to look straight ahead, then continue to look down for another count of three. Then look up again, then down. Up and down three times with three second counts a piece.

Now take the eyes and move them side to side. Take your eyes and look to one side for a count of three, look straight ahead, then to the other side for three seconds. Side to side three times with three second counts a piece. Already you can feel the eyes limbering up.

OK, work the diagonals by looking up to the right for three seconds, then down to the left for three seconds. Repeat three times then switch and look up to the left side for three seconds and then down to the right for three seconds.

With the ups and downs and diagonals done, it’s time to move on to circles. Again, keep the head straight, then look up and start drawing a circle with your eyes in a clockwise motion moving from the 12 o’clock position all around and back. Three times. Reverse the motion and go counter-clockwise three times.

Continue on with a couple more moves. Hold the finger arm’s length, look past it, and focus on something across the room, then switch focus back to the finger. Continue several times focusing far, then close.

And for the warm-down eye exercise, look straight ahead, then focus both eyes on the tip of your nose. Repeat several times.

All this takes about five minutes and ensures the eye muscles are primed for the day’s events.

During the day, to prevent eye strain, try palming. Take the palms of your hands and cup  them gently over your eyes. This is to block all the light and let your eyes truly relax. Take several deep breaths and release the air slowly as the eyes rest gently in the darkness.

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