Yogic eye exercises, also called eye yoga, are movements that claim to strengthen and condition the muscles in your eye structure. People who practice eye yoga are often hoping to improve their vision, treat symptoms of dry eye, and decrease eye strain.

There’s no evidence to support the claim that eye yoga can actually correct conditions like astigmatism, nearsightedness, or farsightedness. No exercise has been discovered that can definitively give your vision more clarity.

That doesn’t mean eye yoga serves no purpose. There’s some evidence that eye yoga might actually be able to help with your ability to focus your eyes and help relieve eye strain symptoms.

This article will cover what the science says about eye yoga, as well as information about eye exercises that can help your eyes function better.

The research on the benefits of eye yoga is mixed. There are some conditions that it appears to help, while others it most likely doesn’t work for.

To improve your eyesight

There’s no evidence to suggest that eye yoga or any eye exercise can improve nearsightedness, known as myopia. A 2012 study of eye yoga techniques for people with astigmatism and refraction errors showed little to no objective improvement.

The authors of this study believe that more research is needed to rule out eye yoga completely as a complementary treatment for eyesight.

For glaucoma

Some claim that eye yoga exercises may help to bring down the intraocular pressure (IOP) inside your eye. If so, this may slow the progression of glaucoma, a condition that erodes your optic nerve.

A 2018 proposition in the International Journal of Yoga compiled evidence to make the case that eye yoga could work to bring down IOP. So far, no clinical trials have been done to prove this theory.

For dry eyes

There’s no evidence that suggests that eye yoga exercises can help with the symptoms of chronic dry eye.

After cataract surgery

Some people claim that doing eye yoga after cataract surgery can help rebuild ocular strength. It isn’t a good idea to try this immediately after having a cataract removed.

Your eye needs time to heal and adjust to the artificial lens inserted during cataract surgery. Speak to your ophthalmologist before you attempt any kind of eye exercise, or exercise in general, after cataract surgery.

For dark circles under eyes

Eye yoga will most likely not increase the blood flow underneath your eyes in any significant way and won’t help with dark circles under your eyes.

For eye strain

Eye yoga may work to prevent and relieve the symptoms of eye strain. In a study of 60 nursing students, 8 weeks of eye yoga practice was shown to make eyes feel less tired and fatigued.

Eye strain is related to stress, so practicing eye yoga may work in two ways: by actually stimulating the muscles that move your eye and strengthening them, and by bringing down stress levels and helping the students to remain centered and focused.

There’s more science to support the practice of eye yoga than you might expect, though much more research is needed to back up the many claims its supporters make.

Eye yoga involves focusing on objects both close at hand and far away. It also involves moving your eyes from the left, upward, to the right, and downward. These focusing movements and muscle training serve two purposes.

First, tending to small, purposeful movements through any kind of yogic practice calms your body down. Bringing peace to your body through healthy stress coping mechanisms helps treat hypertension, which is linked to glaucoma, headache, and anxiety, all of which can make eye strain and other optical conditions aggravated.

Second, practicing focus may help improve your brain’s response to the way it interprets what you see, even if your eyes tend to send what’s called “refraction errors” that make images difficult to make out. You might not actually be seeing better, but you might be becoming more attentive to what you see.

That could be why, in one study, no improvement in eyesight could be objectively measured but participants felt like they were seeing more clearly.

A 2013 study of 60 participants noted that simple eye exercises improved response time to what the study group was seeing. In other words, eye exercises helped them to more quickly identify what they were looking at.

Eye exercises, including eye yoga, may work to help with eye strain as well as a decrease in stress. Feeling less stress can help you focus better, so while you may not be “healing” or fixing your eyesight, you may be better able to see and recognize what’s going on around you.

You may want to try these exercises on days when you have been looking at a screen for several hours to see if they help relieve discomfort. If you wear contact lenses or glasses, you’ll want to remove them before trying these exercises.

Focus shifting

This exercise trains eye muscles while also working to improve your ability to focus.

  1. Stick your left hand out as far as it will go and raise your thumb in a thumbs-up posture.
  2. Sit up straight with your eyes looking straight ahead. Focus your eyes on your thumb.
  3. Move your arm slowly to your right as far as you can, with your eyes following your thumb.
  4. Move your arm back in the other direction, following your thumb as far as your eye will go without moving your neck or chin.
  5. Repeat this movement several times.

Eye rolling

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Illustration by Alexis Lira

This is another eye exercise meant to help with eye strain.

  1. Sit tall in your seat and take a deep breath.
  2. Slowly look up to the ceiling, letting yourself focus above.
  3. Roll both of your eyes so that you’re looking all the way to your right.
  4. Roll both of your eyes so that you’re looking all the way down.
  5. Roll both of your eyes so that you’re looking all the way to your left.
  6. Come back to looking at the ceiling, then look straight ahead and take a breath. Repeat several times before switching direction and moving your eyes counterclockwise.


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Illustration by Alexis Lira

You may want to finish your eye exercises with a few moments of palming, which are meant to calm you down and help you focus.

  1. Rub your hands together to get them warm.
  2. Place both hands over your eyes, as if you were going to play “peek-a-boo.” Rest your fingertips on your forehead and don’t let your palms touch your eyes — they should be slightly cupped away from your face, with your palms resting on or around your cheekbones.
  3. Breathe in slowly and clear your mind. Try not to think about anything as you look into the darkness of your hands.
  4. Repeat for several minutes as you take deep breaths in and out.

Beyond trying out eye yoga, there are many research-backed ways to keep your eyes healthy.

  1. Get regular eye exams. This is essential for the early detection of conditions like cataracts and glaucoma. It also gives you the opportunity to talk to your doctor about any concerns you have about your vision. After age 60, you should go to the eye doctor every year, even if you have 20/20 vision.
  2. Protect your eyes from ultraviolet light by wearing sunglasses.
  3. If you work at your computer or use screens often, take stock of your screen time and take 5-minute breaks every hour or so.
  4. Drink plenty of water to keep your eyes (and the rest of you) lubricated.
  5. Eat green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, and kale, as well as oranges and carrots.
  6. Don’t smoke or vape and avoid cigarette smoke.

We need more research to back up the many claims that people make about eye yoga. There’s reason to believe that eye yoga and other eye exercises might help with eye strain by decreasing stress and improving your focus, but the truth is that we don’t have a lot of definitive science to support that one way or another.

If you want to give eye yoga a try, there’s very little risk, no minimum fitness level, and at the worst, you’ll lose a minute or two of your time.

Speak to your doctor if you’re concerned about diminishing eyesight, dry eye, cataracts, or frequent eye strain. Eye yoga and other eye exercises aren’t an acceptable form of treatment to replace medical advice from an eye doctor.