You may have heard of the new ‘eye yoga’ trend that claims to support your eye health and even improve your vision — but does it work? This article will clear up the rumours surrounding eye yoga, and advise you on some eye exercises that can help to combat eye strain.

What is eye yoga?

Eye yoga (or yogic eye exercises) are eye movements that some have suggested can help to improve or strengthen the muscles in the eye. In turn, these exercises are claimed to enhance your vision by treating conditions like myopia (short-sightedness) and symptoms of eye strain and dry eye

It’s called yoga for a reason — effectively, you are supposed to be stretching and strengthening your eyes as you would do with your body during a yoga session. Palming, blinking, and eye-rolling are some techniques that yogis claim help your vision.

Does eye yoga work?

The short answer is no. There is no scientific evidence to suggest that eye yoga improves your vision, nor will it correct short-sightedness (myopia), long-sightedness (hyperopia) or astigmatism. It also cannot help to treat conditions such as cataracts, glaucoma or macular degeneration.

Can eyesight be improved by eye yoga?

Eye yoga will not improve your eyesight or reverse any eye conditions you may have. A clinical study into the impact of eye yoga on people with vision conditions, such as presbyopia, found that 93% of participants saw mild to no improvements in their vision as a result of the yoga.1 Therefore, further research is required to show that eye yoga can improve your eyesight, as currently there is not enough evidence to suggest it’s an effective treatment. 

The good news is that it does no harm and exercising eyes may help them to feel more comfortable.

Can eye exercise help reduce eye strain?

Eye exercises do have practical applications for your eye health. If practised carefully and regularly, certain exercises may be able to help delay the onset of some conditions for certain people and reduce symptoms of digital eye strain.

For instance, people may experience convergence insufficiency from strenuous studying or a job that requires lots of screen time. Convergence insufficiency is a condition that occurs from the weakening of your eye muscles, making it difficult to focus both eyes on a close-range object. 

Eye exercises, which can be practised at home, are recommended to help reduce symptoms of convergence insufficiency.2

Eye strain issues are particularly common at the moment; 1 in 3 people have noticed a deterioration in their eyesight as a result of increased screen time during the pandemic. If you want to find out more about how the pandemic has affected eye health, read our Hindsight Report. Or, if you are particularly concerned about your child’s eye health with increased levels of online learning, read our article on screen time for kids.

20:20:20 Rule

This technique is recommended for all screen users. If you spend a lot of the day looking at a screen, you should try out the 20:20:20 rule. This rule simply means you should take a small break every 20 minutes to focus your eyes on something 20 feet away, for at least 20 seconds. This will help your eye muscles relax, and reduce the likeliness of digital eye strain. 

Relaxation

While eye exercises are important in improving your vision, it is equally important to give your eye muscles a rest. 

You should avoid exercising your eyes when they are particularly tired or you are unwell. Also, after you do exercise, you should close your eyes for at least a minute to rest after such hard focusing. You could also try looking far into the distance (maybe out of a window or something) to relax your gaze after focusing at such close range. 

Remember: relaxation is just as important as practising the exercises themselves.

Eye exercises to help ease eye strain

Wondering exactly what eye exercises you can do to reduce eye strain? Here’s a run-down of some simple exercises that are used to benefit eye health in some people. If you are having any issues it is always best to contact your optician in the first instance to seek advice.

Convergence to a pen

For this exercise, you will need a pen or something like a wooden lollipop stick with a small picture attached to the end:

  1. First, straighten your head, and hold the pen at eye-level and at arm's length in front of you. Focus your gaze on the tip of the pen, making sure it’s clear. 
  2. Then, start to move the pen towards your nose slowly, ensuring the pen remains clear the whole time.
  3. If the pen becomes doubled or blurry at any point, stop moving it. Continue looking at the pen and try to focus the image — the muscles in your eye should pull the blurred pen into focus.
    **An important note here: If the pen becomes blurry, do not close one eye, blink, or look away to refocus your gaze. You should keep your eyes on the pen at all times and try your best to exercise your eye muscles and regain your focus. 
  4. If you can make the image clear again, continue to move the pen towards your nose. When it becomes blurry, repeat Step 3 to regain your focus. 
  5. If you cannot get your eyes to focus on the pen once it becomes blurred, try moving it back a bit (perhaps 2 to 3 centimetres) to help your eyes focus again.

The goal of this exercise is to be able to bring the pen forward to touch your nose and keep the image clear. The closer the pen is to you, the harder this will be.

Jump Convergence

To practice jump convergence, you will need a fixation point about 3 to 4 metres away, and a near point (like the pen held at arm’s length used in the previous exercise):

  1. First, hold out your pen, and focus your gaze on your far fixation point. 
  2. Next, quickly ‘jump’ your focus onto the pen, making sure the pen appears clear. If the pen is blurry, pull your eyes in to focus your gaze. 
  3. Once the pen is clear, jump back to your far fixation point. Continue switching from close to far until both images remain in focus every time you ‘jump’.
  4. When this becomes easy, move your pen slightly closer to your nose and repeat the process, ‘jumping’ from near to far and focusing your gaze.
  5. Continue the exercise until the pen is almost touching your nose. 

This exercise is aimed to help control and strengthen your gaze when moving your eyes between close and far distances.

What’s next?

While these exercises may help relieve some strain on your eyes, they are not a permanent solution. If you are having trouble with your vision or feel a constant strain or pain in your eyes, we recommend booking an appointment to see an optician who can provide more reliable and expert advice about your eye health. 

Find your nearest store and book an eye test here.

References

1. G. Gopinathan et al., ‘A clinical study to evaluate the efficacy of Trataka Yoga Kriya and eye exercises (non-pharmacological methods) in the management of Timira (Ammetropia and Presbyopia)’, An International Quarterly Journal of Research in Ayurveda 33:4 (2012), pp.543-546. [online] [Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3665208/ ].

2. Orthoptic Department, ‘Home Exercises to Improve Convergence Insufficiency: Patient Information’, NHS Foundation Trust (Published November 2019, to be reviewed November 2021).

3. Daniel Hardiman-McCartney FCOptom (2021), ‘How helpful is eye yoga?’, The College of Optometrists [online]. [Available at: https://www.college-optometrists.org/the-college/media-hub/news-listing/how-helpful-is-eye-yoga.html].