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Strain from too much screen time: The eyes have it

Thursday, April 22, 2021 @ 12:31 PM | By Rachel Goldenberg

Rachel Goldenberg %>
Rachel Goldenberg
It has been exactly a year since I wrote an article for The Lawyer’s Daily on the struggles of being a working parent at home while homeschooling children who are supposed to be learning on Zoom (but are, let’s face it, either playing video games in their room or hiding in their bed). Things were tough, but they were going to get better. After all, there’s no way these kids would still be virtual learning a year from now, right?

How wrong I was. A year later, we are still home, and despite a few brief reprieves, most kids are home as well. We spend a minimum of eight hours a day on screens — the adults for work, the kids for school. And when 3 o’clock rolls around and schooltime is over, the adults still need to work, so they do what any other reasonable parent would do: they give their kids a screen so they can get some work done.

We spend almost our entire day on screens. No more in-person meetings or chats at the water cooler. No more playing and interacting with other appropriately aged children.

My eyes are always tired now. In fact, many people have reported that since COVID-19 started, they are increasingly suffering from blurred vision, eye fatigue, squinting, rubbing eyes, headaches and double vision. A lot of this is the direct result of the drastic increase in screen time.

And the reality is, screen time isn’t going away. We are still working from home and the kids are still learning online. So what can we do for some relief?

Eye yoga.

That’s right, I said it. Eye yoga. Eye yoga is becoming the latest wellness trend, although it has been around for many years and is built on an ancient practice. Eye yoga consists of movements to strengthen and condition the muscles in your eye structure.

Some of the purported benefits of eye yoga include:

  • It helps with the ability to focus your eyes.
  • It helps to relieve eye strain symptoms, such as fatigue and blurred vision.
  • It can ease the muscles and reduce tension in your face and eyes.
  • It can reduce stress, calming you down and bringing peace to your body.
  • It supports a general state of mindfulness, where you turn your attention inward and focus on your well-being.

Some have claimed that eye yoga can improve eyesight and correct conditions such as nearsightedness or astigmatism. I don’t know if that is true (nor have I seen any evidence to prove it is true). But I have read that increasing your ability to focus your eyes has been shown to improve the brain’s response to the way it interprets what you see. So you are not necessarily seeing better, but you may be paying better attention to what you see.

I am by no means an expert in the field of optometry (or even yoga, for that matter), but I find the concept of eye yoga fascinating and I intend to try it out. It reminds me of vision therapy, a practice that I have been working on with my daughter for eight months now. Through the practice of eye exercises and games, working on converging, diverging, perspective and tracking, we have seen marked improvements with her vision and visual processing, thanks to her amazing developmental optometrist and vision therapist.

Some of the yogic eye exercises are similar to what my daughter is doing in her vision therapy sessions: focus shifting, where you focus on objects both near and far away; eye rolling, where you move eyes up and down, left and right; nose-tip gazing; focusing and unfocusing on an object for an extended time without blinking; and palming, where you warm your hands and place them over your closed eyes, allowing the darkness in as a break from the bright lights that constantly stimulate us.

This all sounds amazing to me. Again, I am not a doctor and am not suggesting that eye yoga can replace regular eye exams and other forms of eye care. Wear sunglasses, try to reduce screen time, eat carrots! But eye yoga may be used to supplement these activities and bring an overall sense of peace and mindfulness to the body.

While my experience with yoga these days is generally limited to Savasana, I think I am going to try eye yoga. In fact, I’m focusing and unfocusing my eyes right now while I type this. I hope you do the same as you read it.

Rachel Goldenberg is a content lawyer at LexisNexis Canada.

Photo credit /  MangoStar_Studio

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