Tratak and eye exercises
These are fairly new to my practices. I’ve been studying pranayama with Robert Moses and he introduced a few eye exercises in his classes (mostly related to the vagus nerve), then in the Pranayama Teacher Training Certification I did with Robert Moses and Eddie Stern, tratak and eye exercises were introduced among other kriyas, or cleansing exercises. I like the eye exercises, and have included them into my practices.
Eye exercises, which involve exercising and stretching your eye muscles, may improve vision and delay the need for glasses or contacts in some people, however there is not a lot of credible resources showing eye exercises can correct underlying conditions that affect eyesight.
Vision is affected by a number of physical and environmental factors—some must be treated with corrective lenses and others can benefit from eye exercises or vision therapy.
Eye exercises can be beneficial for a number of eye problems, including:
- Reducing eye strain
- Strengthening the focusing muscles that control eye alignment
- Improving eye-tracking problems
- Stimulating blinking can reduce dry eye symptoms associated with computer viewing
Perform 1-2x / week Can do anytime, full stomach or not, morning, noon, evening.
Stare at 1 spot (or a flame) — try not to blink or jerk eyes — til they tear.
1-3 minutes (some may even be able to do this for up to 12 minutes, however most will stay at 1-2 minutes).
End with palming – rubbing your palms together until they are warm then placing them over your eyes for a moment.
Try tratak near a waterfall or stream; stare at the moving water for about 2 minutes. Then look at the banks or mountain — it will look like the land is moving upward. This is a lesson in understanding how the senses can fool your brain. You can’t believe everything your brain tells you about what your senses are sending in, obviously its not the land that is moving but the water.
The tears from tratak are very cleansing to the eyes. Their chemical composition is different from emotional tears which carry more hormones and protein.
Tears are made from water and electrolytes, mucus, and oil. Our tears also contain natural antibiotics called lysozymes. Lysozymes help to keep the surface of the eye healthy by fighting off bacteria and viruses.
Because the cornea has no blood vessels, the tears also provide a means of bringing nutrients to its cells.
Reflex Tears From Irritants
When your eye is irritated, it produces reflex tears to wash out the irritants. You’ve probably shed a few tears when chopping onions or when you get dust in your eyes. These tears tend to have a higher water content.
The tears you shed when overcome with emotions have a higher protein content than the tears shed from irritants. Emotional tears have been found to have more hormones, including prolactin, adrenocorticotropic hormone, and leucine enkephalin.2
Tears When You Sleep
When you sleep, your glands add less water and protein to your tears, and they increase the number of antibodies present, while infection-fighting cells also migrate to the conjunctival sac. This is why when you awaken with “sleep” in your eyes it is crusty.
Eye exercises for all 6 sets of eye muscles, in between each exercise squeeze your eyes shut for a moment and release.
- Holding head steady: Eyes only moving up and down. Start slowly then pick up pace for 30 seconds – 2 minutes
- Repeat as above: left to right keeping eyes in the horizontal plane and parallel to the floor or ground
- Repeat as above diagonal – Up Right Down Left
- Repeat as above other way diagonal – Up Left Down Right
- Clockwise, start slow and try not to cut out your corners: Up, right, left, down
- Counterclockwise: Up, left, right, down
- Use thumb or pen, extend arm at eye/nose level, inhale and slowly move object toward the tip of your nose, pause, then exhale and slowly return it.
End with palming.