How would one experience the beauty of the world and the essence of life when the eyesight is poor? Ayurvedic seer Vagbhata furthersays 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 wealth.
With our present lifestyle and diet, not just our skin, heart, and hair, get affected but our eyes - one of the most useful yet neglected body parts face the brunt too! However, the 5000-year-old life science offers several precautionary ways to counter eye-related disorders and some practices that can be included in our daily routines to help reduce or treat the prevailing eye disorder.
Now, why do these eye disorders occur? When the doshas, i.e., Vata, Pitta, and Kapha get accumulated under the influence of respective causative factors, followed by aggravation (usually the aggravation or the imbalance occurs due to poor lifestyle, improper diet, pollution, excessive exposure to screen, or underlying health condition), they can spread to the upper body and cause eye disorders. To know in-depth about eye disorders, their root causes, and much more! click here: Eye Disorders + Causes + Ayurvedic Ways To Improve The Eyesight
Let us look at specific measures/routines advocated by Ayurveda to keep your eyes and vision healthy:
1. Intake of water through mouth or nose in the morning: Daily intake of water through mouth and/or nose in morning ensures good vision as per Bhavamishra1.
2. Eye wash: Splashing your eyes and face with room temperature water (clean drinking water or distilled water only to be used) is advocated in Ayurveda after brushing the teeth in the morning2. Fill your mouth with water and then splash some water into the eyes gently. Do it 2-3 times and then release the water held in the mouth. This helps to clear the muck out of the eyes and gives the eyes a refreshing feeling.
3. Yogic eye exercises3: These include exercise for the extra ocular and ciliary muscles which relaxes the eyes.
4. Palming: Sit quietly and close your eyes. Rub your palms together till they become warm. Place them over the closed eyes and let the warmth relax your eyes. Repeat 3-5 times.
5. Blinking: Blink the eyes quickly 10 times. Stop and relax taking 5-6 deep breaths. Repeat 5 times.
6. Exercise for the extra ocular muscles includes sideways viewing, front and diagonal viewing, rotational viewing, preliminary nose-tip gazing, near and distant viewing, and concentrated gazing (Trataka). I would like to recommend reading this book by Swami Satyananda Saraswati where he tells his experience on easy to follow, step by step guidelines for all these exercises.
These yogic eye exercises in a study have shown decrease in the intra ocular pressure (an important factor involved in causing glaucoma)4. In another study in which Kapalabhati pranayam (forced expiration breathing exercise) was added to these regimens, the subjects showed a decrease in visual response time to red and green light an important function required in day to day life, like responding to traffic lights5. In another pilot study yogic eye exercise in combination with other natural therapies showed encouraging results on visual acuity6.
7. Bathing: Yes, a simple routine like bathing is beneficial for the eyes. The temperature should be just a little lower than the body temperature and bathing should include the head bath as well. However, do not use water higher than the body temperature for the head, as it is considered bad for the eyesight. A warm water shower for the rest of the body is ok7.
However, in a very cold season, lukewarm water can be used for head bathing or hair wash. Increased ambient temperature of the eye is linked to a change in the proteins of the lens and thereby to increased incidence of presbyopia (inability to focus on near objects) and cataract8. On the other hand, a head bath with cool water (not cold) may lead to compensatory vasodilation and increased blood flow to the deeper tissues including the eyes, to maintain a constant deep tissue temperature9. Increased blood flow to the eyes means increased supply of oxygen and nutrients to the eye, both being good for the health of the eye.
8. Foot massage and foot care in general for eyes: Foot massage with oil has been advocated by Ayurvedic seers, Charak, Sushruta, and Vagbhata, and is touted to be good for a bright and clear vision10. Seer Vagbhata identified two major Sira (channels) in feet that connect to the eyes. Hence, the effect of any modality like oil or herbal paste applied to the soles of the feet reaches the eyes. Similarly, heat, undue pressure on the soles, and soiled soles also have a negative effect on eyesight. Hence, Vaghbhata dictates the use of good quality footwear, washing of feet, and regular foot massage for good eyesight11.
10. Nasya (putting a few drops of oil in the nostrils): Charaka advocates the use of an herbal nasal drop Anu Tailam (or you may use organic sesame oil as well) daily. It helps to nourish and strengthen all sense organs including the eyes13.
11. Use of collyriums (anjana): Various herbal collyriums are suggested to drain the eyes of the Kapha as it is responsible for diminished vision. Sauveeranjana (made from naturally occurring compound of antimony) is to be used daily in the morning while Rasanjana (made form Berberis aristata) is to be used once a week after sunset. Practically speaking, these two are not available easily. In my experience use of pure honey (1 drop instilled in the lower conjunctival sac of each eye) gives good results. Honey is considered good for the eyes14. It stings a bit and makes the eyes lachrymate but after a while the eyes feel good and clear. You may make a 60% solution in distilled water or pure rose water and use it. I would prefer its use once or twice a week in the evening. If there is an eye condition, it may be avoided or used only after consulting your ophthalmologist.
Foods those are good for the eyes:
There is evidence that dietary antioxidants and anti-inflammatories may provide benefits in decreasing the risk of age-related eye disease. Nutrients of interest are vitamins C and E, β-carotene, zinc, lutein, zeaxanthin, and the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid15.
Ayurveda also suggests various foods that are good for the eyes and also lists foods that are not good for the eyes16. The bad foods either interfere in the absorption of the nutrients good for the eyes or aggravate the dosha that cause disorder of the eyes.
Here is the ready reckoner:
Cereals: Use of cereals that are at least one-year-old postharvest are to be used. Wheat, rice, and barley are good. Use of freshly harvested cereals in any form is not advocated.
Beans: Green or yellow mung beans are considered.
Green leafy vegetables: Green leafy vegetables like Jeevanti (Leptadenia reticulate), Punarnava (Boerhavia diffusa), Vastuka (Chenopodium album), bitter gourd leaves (Momordica charantia), pointed gourd leaves (Trichosanthes dioica), Kakamachi (Solanum nigrum) cooked with cow ghee are considered good. You may use turnip greens, spinach, moringa leaves, and curry leaves (in small quantities in dishes). Mustard greens are not advised as they are considered abhishyandi (one that blocks the channels)
Milk and milk products: Cow milk, cow ghee, and butter milk are considered good. Too much intake of yogurt is discouraged as it is also considered abhishyandi.
Fruits: Use of Amlaki, Triphala, dried grapes, and pomegranate is suggested. All fruits in general are good.
Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha, By Swami Satyananda Saraswati, 2013 Glden Jublee edition, Yoga Publication Trust, Munger, Bihar, India, Pages 77-84.
Effect of yoga ocular exercises on intraocular pressure, Satish Kumar Gupta, S Aparna, Department of Optometry, Sankara Academy of Vision, Sankara College of Optometry, Sankara Eye Hospital, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India, Yoga Mimansa, Year : 2019, Volume: 51, Issue : 2 , Page : 48-53
Effect of Various Eye Exercise Techniques along with Pranayama on Visual Reaction Time: A Case Control Study, Nitin B. Gosewade,1Vinod S. Shende,2 and Shriniwas J. Kashalikar, Journal of Clinical Diagnostic Research. 2013 Sep; 7(9): 1870–1873.
A pilot study on Effects of Eye Yogic Exercises & alternative Therapies on Eyesight Improvement, Kailash Mehra, Dr. Navneet Gaur, Prateek Singh, Gautam Kumar, December 2020 International Journal of Scientific and Research Publications (IJSRP) 10(12):495-504.
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.