Our eyes filter and absorb an endless stream of visual stimuli day after day. We often take them for granted, but when we strain them the pain can be acute. According to ayurveda, the eyes are a seat of the pitta dosha (the fire principle), and most eye problems result from a pitta imbalance. If you have pitta-type eyes (medium in size; either light blue, light gray, light green, or hazel in color; and characterized by an intense luster), your chances for eye irritation and strain are higher than people who don’t. And if you’re around 40, you’re more susceptible to eye problems because alochaka pitta (a subtype of pitta that governs vision) tends to decrease at that time. Stress, anger, anxiety, alcohol, spicy food, pollution, and direct sunlight will also increase your risk for eye irritation. Here are five ways to relieve common eye problems and put the sparkle back into your eyes.
Relax & Meditate
Ayurveda says the mind and vision are intertwined. That’s why meditation and systematic relaxation are the best remedies for eye irritation. As Ayurvedic Beauty Care author Pratima Raichur states, “When the mind is tired or strained, nothing can rest the eyes; and when the mind is at rest, nothing can tire the eyes.”
One of the most effective remedies for eyestrain and for burning eyes is massaging the scalp and feet nightly with one teaspoon of castor oil. (If the weather is hot or if you have a pitta imbalance, use brahmi or coconut oil instead.) The oil pulls heat from the eyes and promotes sound sleep.
Try this ancient yogic remedy for tired eyes. While sitting comfortably, rub the palms of your hands together rapidly for 10 seconds. (If your eyes are burning or if it’s hot outside, omit this step and instead place thin, wet, cold cotton pads on the palms.) Close your eyes and cup your hands over them, blocking out all light without placing any pressure on the eyeballs. Tilt your head forward and rest your elbows on your knees. Breathing smoothly and deeply, relax in this position for 1 to 10 minutes, up to five times per day. If images or light appear in your mind’s eye, stay here until you can surrender to the “blackout” without straining. Palming relieves eyestrain and bloodshot eyes.
For dry and itchy eyes, put a drop of organic, unrefined sesame oil in each eye just before you go to sleep. For irritated eyes, try a drop of pure castor oil. For burning eyes, put a drop of lukewarm liquid ghee (clarified butter) or three drops of organic rosewater in each eye.
Former Yoga International editor-in-chief Shannon Sexton writes about food, travel, yoga, and natural health.