Practicing yoga offers many health benefits for us, but a hidden health benefit of yoga that is often overlooked is its impact on our eye health. In a recent study, researchers found that eye yoga and mind-body relaxation techniques can significantly improve visual acuity non-pharmacologically. This has become a viable, non-medical alternative to treating symptoms of digital eye strain and maintaining healthy visual acuity.
Why is this important? For kids in particular, the pull of digital screens for leisure, entertainment, and educational purposes has led to significantly increasing screen time. While it's good that parents try to limit screen time for kids, it's also important to recognize the symptoms of digital eye strain — from watery or overly dry eyes to headaches and trouble focusing on words or pictures on the screen.
Besides limiting digital screen time, practicing eye yoga can help children adopt eye exercises and mindful relaxation techniques that benefit their eye health. Below, we'll take a closer look at the importance of eye health for children and how eye yoga can help maintain it:
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Eye health for kids
As mentioned above, the increase in digital screen time among children can negatively affect their eye health. Research shows that children aged eight and under average over two and a half hours of screen time per day — more than double the World Health Organization's recommendation. Studies also show that 86% of parents are worried about the eye health impacts of devices.
While experts recommend preventive practices like encouraging "green time" outdoors to balance screen time and reduce screen time in general, it's also important to routinely monitor a child's eye health. Getting an eye test regularly is crucial for detecting any changes in a child’s eye health and vision. It can also help identify any symptoms of potential illnesses or health conditions. Routine eye tests are also important if a child already wears glasses, as some eyewear providers offer access to your eye test history so you can easily get new eyewear to match your child's new prescription.
Aside from reducing screen time and monitoring eye health through regular eye tests, teaching children to practice eye yoga can be a fun and healthy exercise to help improve or maintain their eye health.
How eye yoga can help
In a previous post on teaching children relaxation techniques, we highlighted some fun exercises to help children feel more calm — and, subsequently, more ready for some eye yoga. The spaghetti test is a great way to get kids working in groups and to understand what getting themselves relaxed should look like. Similarly, the squeeze and relax practice is also good if you're working one-on-one, teaching kids to be more aware of their bodies, one part at a time.
As for eye yoga specifically, exercises should be focused entirely on the eyes as muscles. For warmup, you can try palming, where kids rub their hands together to generate heat and place them gently over closed eyes. This will help them get relaxed and enjoy the warmth, allowing their eyes to rest after hours of digital screen time.
Blinking is also an essential part of eye yoga. Teach kids to blink to help lubricate and refresh the eyes regularly. To get kids more engaged in the exercise, you can promote a blinking contest — which is the exact opposite of a staring contest, challenging each other to blink rapidly. Of course, you should also alternate rapid blinking (to avoid dizziness) with slow, regulated blinking can help kids feel more relaxed.
Finally, once the kids have their eyes relaxed, you can try some Around The Clock Eye Rolling, during which they slowly roll their eyes in a circular motion clockwise and then counterclockwise. Doing this five to ten times in each direction can help exercise the kids' eyes like they would with other muscles and helps provide eye movement after hours of staring at screens. You can also teach them to trace an imaginary figure eight or infinity sign (∞) about ten feet away. Following the path smoothly and slowly will help keep their eyes moving and focused without causing dizziness.
Article contributed by Janet Rosum
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