You don’t need to be an expert to know that the pandemic has placed increased strain on our eyes. From working from home to hosting Zoom drinks with friends and binge-watching Netflix, I’d hate to know how much screen time I’ve clocked up over the last 12 months – and what impact that’s had on my eye health.
You see, as someone who has been blessed with good eyesight, I’ve never really had to think about keeping my eyes healthy before. But with working from home and virtual socialising set to last for at least another couple of months, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried about the long-term impact this period might have on my eyes.
So, when Stylist’s fitness editor Meriam Ahari asked me whether I’d be interested in giving ‘eye yoga’ a go, my interest was piqued. I’d heard a lot about it over the last couple of months (one friend’s dad swears it’s the reason his eyesight hasn’t deteriorated as he’s grown older), and it seemed relatively straightforward – even if the whole of idea of exercising your eyes does feel kind of silly at first.
What is eye yoga?
In its simplest form, eye yoga is about completing exercises which condition and strengthen the muscles in your eyes to keep them healthy.
To get started, I used this video from YouTube yoga instructor Rashmi Ramesh because it was simple to follow and included a good range of exercises, but there are plenty of different routines available online.
In total, Rashmi’s routine comprises of 10 ‘sets’ of exercises – all of which require you to move and manipulate your eyes in a different way, from looking left and right without moving your head to squeezing your eyes closed as tight as you can.
What are the benefits of eye yoga?
To find out how my screen use during the pandemic might have impacted my eyes – and how eye yoga could help with this – I reached out to Roshni Patel, an expert optometrist at Lenstore.
“Spending all day staring at the screen can cause computer vision syndrome, which is also known as digital eye strain,” Patel explains. “When we look at our screen we tend to blink less and staring at our device, which is at a fixed distance, makes us work harder to focus. Additional strains can come from the improper positioning of our screen and glare sources. Eye fatigue, loss of focus, dry eye sensation and headaches are just some of the effects that prolonged screen time can have on our vision.”
Patel warns that eye yoga won’t improve your vision if you have pre-existing conditions, but it will reduce the impact that digital eye strain can have on your long-term eye health.
“Doing eye exercises like eye yoga on a daily basis is a great way to help reduce the impact of eye strain caused by screen usage,” she explains. “Eye exercise can improve blood circulation and muscle tone around the eye. This will in turn help to minimize eye strain allowing your eyes to work to the best of their ability.”
My eye yoga experiment
To see whether eye yoga could make a difference to my screen-tired eyes, I decided to give it a go for seven days after work. Here’s what happened.
Sitting down to do eye yoga for the first time, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t feeling a bit silly. I decide to do it after my workout (I’m on week six of the Strong Women Training Club beginner’s plan), so I’m feeling pumped up and raring to go, which makes the relative stillness of the eye yoga feel a little strange.
Nevertheless, the workout is easy to follow and complete – although all the eye-rolling and movement did make me feel a little nauseous, which I didn’t expect.
You don’t realise how little you actually move your eyes on a day-to-day basis until you make an active decision to move them. Although we move our eyes around the screen while we’re working, it is still relatively little movement compared to what your eyes are actually capable of.
After completing the exercises, my eyes actually feel like they’ve had a workout (if that’s a thing?), and I’m tempted to say that my eyesight feels less strained as I go about my evening.
My eyes are feeling extra tired today (I have a lot of Zoom meetings on Wednesdays), so I’m interested to see how the routine helps my eyes in the short term.
Although there’s no big miraculous difference after I complete the routine, I will say that my eyes felt a little more relaxed and not as strained – kind of how they feel when you’re ready to go to sleep at night.
I have a Zoom call with friends after work (yay, more screen time), so I do my routine a little later in the day than on previous days.
Again, my eyes feel a little tired and dry in places, so I don’t feel like I’m able to move them as freely as I did back on day one (especially when it comes to moving your eyes in a circle, that takes more concentration than you think!).
As someone who gets stressed out easily, I’m really enjoying how eye yoga forces me to pause and take a few deep breaths at the end of the day.
Not only is it nice to know I’m doing something good for my eye health (even if the benefits aren’t immediately apparent), but it’s an easy way to incorporate self-care into your routine if you usually struggle to find the time.
I almost forgot to do my eye yoga because it’s the weekend, so I squeeze in a few exercises while I’m sitting in bed.
Because I’ve been paying attention to my eyes all week, I can feel they’re less strained than during the week (I try to stay off the computer at the weekend), but the exercises still help me to wind down before bed.
It’s the final day of the challenge, and I’m feeling good about how it’s gone.
Completing the final session, I realise how much easier doing the exercises has become – I don’t feel nauseous anymore, and I don’t have to think so hard about what I’m doing.
Although I wouldn’t say I saw any noticeable difference in my eyesight throughout the challenge, completing the routines after work definitely helped me to relax.
It was also nice to know I was doing something proactive to counteract the impact of my screen use on my eyes.
If I’m being completely honest, I probably won’t continue with the eye yoga on a daily basis. However, it’s definitely something I’ll be doing when my eyes feel extra tired or strained – and it’s a nice way to incorporate self-care into my routine when I’m short on time or energy.
As Stylist’s junior digital writer, Lauren Geall writes on topics including mental health, wellbeing and work. She’s also a big fan of houseplants and likes to dabble in film and TV from time-to-time.