To see this beautiful world, God has gifted us with eyes. The eyes, as they say, are the mirror of one’s emotional state. They are so expressive and alive that they could influence one’s social interaction with fellow beings. Apart from these attributes, the eyes are a very important tool for us to interact with the outside world and acquire experiences, knowledge, and memories. Ayurveda emphasizes the care of the eyes and describes in detail the causes, pathogenesis, signs and symptoms, and preventive and curative treatments of many eye disorders.
Ayurvedic seer Vagbhata is straightforward in putting forth the importance of the eyes and says that the eyes are the most important sense organ among the five sense organs, others being the nose for smell, skin for touch, ears for hearing, and tongue for taste. He goes on further to say that for the period one likes to live, the eyes should always be cared for, as for a blind person the day and night are the same and the world is meaningless even if there is a lot of wealth1.
As per Ayurveda, the eye has elements and properties of all five states of matter called Panch (five) Mahabhuta (primordial elements)2. The fleshy part of the eye is made from the essence of the earth element, the blood tissue from the fire element, the iris from the air element, the sclera from the water element, and the lachrymal ducts from the space element3. However, among these the dominant is the fire element or the tejas (the lusturous property of the fire element) to be precise.
According to the revered ayurvedic surgeon Shushruta, the eye is supplied by 10 channels that carry Pitta4 and the eye is the seat of one of the subtypes of Pitta, the alochak Pitta, that is responsible for vision. Revered ayurvedic physician Charak also adds to it saying that the eye is dominated by the tejas and always must be saved from the onslaught of the Kapha dosha, whose properties are opposite to the tejas (or Pitta and its subtype) leading to many eye disorders.
Hence, all Kapha balancing activities act in favor of the health of the eye and the vision5. This statement is to be interpreted from the preventive aspect of eye disorders and maintenance of vision. Otherwise, all three doshas, Vata, Pitta, and Kapha and even blood can cause eye disorders if vitiated6.
Ayurveda believes that when the doshas, i.e., Vata, Pitta, and Kapha get accumulated under the influence of respective causative factors, followed by aggravation, they can spread either to the upper body (as in the case of eye disorders) or downwards, or diagonally towards the periphery. All these three directional spreads of dosha cause diseases and is abnormal. This statement will be more relevant when we look at the general causes mentioned by Sushruta that trigger this abnormal spreadand affect the eye.
But Sushruta says that excessive vomiting can also cause eye disorders. While one should let out the vomit and not suppress it if it is restricted to one or two episodes, but if it is going on uninhibited; one may take medicine to control it.
This is not to be confused with the Vamana procedure (induced vomiting) in which the body is prepared for several days to get the aggravated dosha out of the stomach and on the day of the procedure, large amount of fluid is drunk before the vomiting is induced. It leads to several bouts of vomiting without any harm. This is of course done under the supervision of an Ayurvedic practitioner and is an important procedure of five purification procedures called Panch (five) Karma (procedures).
So, we can see that Vata aggravation is primarily involved in many causes that further take Kapha and Pitta (if present in an aggravated state) to the eyes and cause disorders. These causes are also responsible for making the eye prone to the onslaught of dosha. If one is cautious with their eyes and proper care is taken, the stage of ‘proneness’ toward falling victim to the aggravated doshas taken into circulation due to the abnormal motion of Vata, can be avoided.
I must reiterate that this pathogenesis is involved in the genesis of serious eye disorders and needs diagnosis by an expert along with intensive therapeutic measures.
However, for general care of the eye and to preserve the visual acuity, one should avoid Vata aggravating practices, nurture the Alochak Pitta or the Tejas element – in order to protect the eye from the onslaught of Kapha.There are many practices mentioned in Ayurveda that can take care of the aggravated Kapha dosha affecting the normal function of the eyes (please refer to the later sections).
An interesting thing to note is that though the eye is dominated by Tejas, one may argue why one shouldn't indulge in measures that can increase Pitta dosha and thereby the Tejas -- As Tejas originates from Pitta, both being similar in properties (as per 'like increases like' ayurvedic principle). Tejas is an inherent element of the eye (we may relate it to the light sensitive retinal cells) and it does not need enhancement directly but protection from the onslaught of Kapha which has properties opposite to Tejas or Pitta and thus can diminish it. Hence, taming Kapha will automatically enhance Tejas. There are several measures by which it can be achieved. Read on to know how it can be done!
But first let’s talk about the preventive measures because ‘prevention is better than cure’ as they say. Taking up following simple measures can protect your eye and the eyesight from deteriorating:
4. Avoid lying and reading in lateral or prone position as far as possible, as both the positions increase intraocular pressure which could be further harmful if one has glaucoma14
5. Don't pass cigarette smoke from your nose. This is considered harmful for your vision as per Ayurvedic seers15because the path taken by the smoke being let out through nose, is considered misdirectional and can affect the vision. In another context, let me mention that during the procedure of dhoom (smoke) paan (use), a purification process of Ayurveda that involves smoking of herbal cigarettes, the smoke is either taken in by a nostril or mouth but always let out by mouth.
6. Avoid late night sleep and sleeping during the day, because this aggravates Vata and Kapha respectively and can affect the eye.
7. Don't suppress your natural urge for urination, defecation, vomiting, tears, etc. (although excessive crying is discouraged, it is perfectly fine to vent out your emotions of excessive grief, gratitude, or happiness). Continuous looking at minute objects should be done in good illumination and in intervals to avoid eye strain. One should look at distant objects in between to relax the ciliary muscles, and appropriate magnifying glasses should be used.
8. Use only distilled or RO water for washing your eyes and wear closed glasses while swimming.
9 Blink your eyes rapidly for a few seconds when you are working on screens or reading for a long time - repeat this every hour. Do palming a few times while working to relax the eyes.
READ MORE: Reverse The Look Of Aging Eyes The Ayurveda Way
Written by: Dr Upasana Bhanot. She completed her bachelor's degree in Ayurveda (BAMS) from Kurukshetra University, Haryana, India and has been practicing since 25 years. She endeavors to simplify the complex concept of Ayurveda through her writings, practical solutions for promotion of health, through Ayurvedic diet, herbs and lifestyle interventions.
She has been recently awarded for her contributions to the Ayurvedic world, by a prestigious association of Ayurvedic practitioners in India.
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