11:31 am - Wednesday November 4, 2015

Exercises for better eyesight

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In the time it will take you to read this page (five minutes, we anticipate, for the slow reader), you would have blinked 60 times. Of all the muscles present in your body, those that control your eyes are the most hardworking.

Yet, when was the last time you exercised your eyes?
Nahur resident Rajesh Arjun Chavan, 38, spends 10 minutes every day doing just that. The marketing professional was diagnosed with macular degeneration, a condition that results in steady loss of vision in the centre of the visual field due to damage to the retina, in both eyes. By the time he was eight years old, his wore spectacles with a lens power of minus 18. “It got to a point where the firm I worked with asked me to resign,” says Chavan. The ophthalmologists he consulted weren’t sure surgery would help.

Then, he decided to trust his eyes to yoga. Viram Agrawal, a vision yoga trainer with 18 years of experience in the field, took on Chavan as student. A set of exercises that he prescribed take up 10 minutes of Chavan’s day, but are well worth it because in the last year, his vision has improved from 10 to 80 per cent, says his ophthalmologist.

Chavan, who now works as a marketing manager with a private firm in Chembur calls it a miracle, but Agrawal says the therapy has a basis in the science of anatomy.

Muscles need exercise
Constant exposure to pollution, harsh lights from tele vision and computer usage, poor sleeping and eating habits all come together to affect the health of our eyes, says 46-year-old Agrawal. The only way to counter this, is through exercise. Vision yoga exercises involve movements that massage the eye ball, work out muscles that control eye movement and provide relief to the overworked organ.

“When you do yoga for your eyes, you are exercising both, voluntary muscles (rectus muscles that hold the eye ball in place) and involuntary muscles (ciliary and oblique muscles that control eye movement),” he says, adding, “even the optic centre and optic nerve, that make up the optic pathway, are influenced.”

Ditching lenses
Among those who visit Agrawal is 18-year-old Aurangabad resident Piyush Kamlakar Shivdas whose poor eyesight was affecting his chances of a career in the Air Force.

“In the two weeks that I’ve been practicing vision yoga, my power has dropped to half from minus one in both eyes. I hope to correct it completely in the next two weeks,” he says.

Agrawal drafts a customised routine for his students after an examination. Problems with the eye, explains Agrawal, can be refractive (minus and plus numbers for which a patient needs reading and cylindrical glasses). This includes myopia, hypermetropia and astigmatism. Organic errors include lazy eye, nystagmus and retinal prob lems. “The eyeball lens can be altered through yoga, hence most refractive cases can be dealt with completely, while organic problems can be improved substantially,” Agrawal claims.

Interestingly, like all other types of yoga, this too helps battle stress. “Has there been a day when you haven’t physically exerted yourself but you feel dead tired anyway?” It’s because the eyes never stop working, and contribute to stress build up in the body.

To counter it, Agrawal suggests the following be done while you are at work: Every 30 minutes, shift your gaze and look as far as you can while blinking for two minutes. Cover your eyes with your palms for five minutes every few hours. Keeping your screen slightly below eye level ensures your eyelids are a wee bit shut all through.

For your eyes only

Sun Swinging
Swing your body from side to side with your eyes shut in front of a light source or under the sun. Do this for 5 minutes. Benefits: It massages the eye ball

Pendulum exercise
Make the eye focus shift from side to side, tailing a moving object like a pendant on a chain.
Benefits: It works the oblique muscles and helps the lens focus

Snellen’s chart
Read an alphabet chart, tracing a path across it.
Benefit: It improves the central fixation at distant objects

Eye wash
Place an eye cup filled with water, over your eyes and blink 10 times.
Benefit: It tones voluntary and involuntary muscles

Swing Focus on a ball that’s being pulled towards you and pushed away.
Benefits: It strengthens eye muscles

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