Screen time overload? Combat eye strain with this restorative yoga sequence

Do you feel tired, anxious, or grumpy after long hours in front of a computer? Screen time dominates our days and evenings and can destroy our eyes and nervous system. Instead of reaching for your phone to scroll through social media at the end of your work day, grab your yoga props. This restorative yoga sequence from DC instructor Tara Lemerise uses a head covering to relieve eye strain and keep you feeling grounded and refreshed.

Many of us have tired eyes and uncomfortable headaches after focusing on a screen all day. Asthenopia, the medical name for eye strain, is also aggravated by stress, fatigue, and lack of sleep. With many of us quarantined in our homes for work, school, and play, our screen time has only increased. In an August 2020 report by Nielsen, it was estimated that the average time an American spent on a screen has increased by 60 percent to nearly 13 hours a day since the emergence of COVID-19 in the US.

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Restorative yoga and pratyāhāra or withdrawal of the senses are the perfect practices to reset our overstretched eyes and frayed nervous system. The Sanskrit word prati means towards and āhāra means to approach or to fetch. While practicing Pratyāhāra, we want to separate ourselves from the input we receive from our senses. Wearing a head covering or an eye bandage is an easy way to create the right conditions for pratyāhāra as it temporarily affects our vision (and hearing, depending on how you position the bandage). In essence, we are moving our awareness away from external input and turning it inward. This gives our eyes a break and reduces brain stimulation. We begin the shift from the highest alert state to the resting and digestive side of our nervous system.

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The headgear, along with the prop stacks used in this sequence, create a safe and supported place to rest. Restorative yoga poses are not aimed at building strength or promoting flexibility, but rather are designed to help you feel open, serene, and calm without stretching or straining.

Also, keep in mind that it takes time to change habits. When we find ourselves in stressful patterns and excessive use of our eyes, it is better to practice fewer postures with longer holding times. Remain in the poses for at least 8 minutes and up to 20 minutes. Set a timer with a pleasant alarm to signal you to transition to another pose. If you can’t go through the entire sequence, don’t worry! Just do what you can and remember that sometimes less is more.

Please note that if your eye strain or headache does not improve after using this practice, you must see a doctor.

The headwrap or eye tape shown is a Pune headwrap. You can also use a medical bandage. Choose one that has as little stretch as possible. You don't want the bandage to put excessive compression on your head or eyes. No matter what type of head wrap you choose, wrap your head lightly. Start with the loose end of the bandage behind one ear. Unwrap the bandage as you wrap it around your head and eyes. You can even position the bandage to cover your ears if you want. When you get to the end of the bandage, depending on the length of the fabric, tuck the end behind your ear where you started or on the other side. Avoid tucking it at the back of the head or at the temples. You can slide the bandage over your eyes to set up your props for your poses, and then slide it back into place as you rest in each pose.

The headwrap or eye tape shown is a Pune headwrap. You can also use a medical bandage. Choose one that has as little stretch as possible. You don’t want the bandage to put excessive compression on your head or eyes. No matter what type of head wrap you choose, wrap your head lightly.

Start with the loose end of the bandage behind one ear. Unwrap the bandage as you wrap it around your head and eyes. You can even position the bandage to cover your ears if you want.

When you get to the end of the bandage, depending on the length of the fabric, tuck the end behind your ear where you started or on the other side. Avoid tucking it at the back of the head or at the temples.

You can slide the bandage over your eyes to set up your props for your poses, and then slide it back into place as you rest in each pose.

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