Eye Health in Ayurveda
The whole range of colours and shapes, the interplay of light and dark – our eyes perceive all of that. The fact that 70 to 80 percent of all our perception is transmitted through the eyes, shows how important they are. It’s no wonder that our sense of sight is of great importance both in conventional medicine and in Ayurveda. This is also reflected in the assignment of doshas and subdoshas. Each of the three doshas (vata, pitta and kapha) is divided into five subdoshas. While normally each subdosha is responsible for several functions in the body, in pitta dosha we find a particular subdosha which is assigned exclusively to the eyes. There are also other subdoshas that additionally influence the function of the eyes.
The value of caring for your eyes!
Long ago, our ancestors’ eyes were constantly on the lookout for distant game, fruits, etc. Today, we spend most of our days looking straight ahead – and much too often and for too long at a nearby screen or our smartphone. Just as we know this from other one-sided postures and movements, when we no longer use the full range of our natural movements, sooner or later that can impact our eye muscles. Blood circulation in eye muscles and the optic nerve decreases.
Dry, burning eyes, eyestrain, worsening vision, increasing nearsightedness in children – all are possible consequences.
But it doesn’t have to be this way, not when we start to give our eyes the attention and care they deserve!
Eye problems from an ayurvedic point of view
Just as with other health issues, eye problems are an expression of an imbalance of the three doshas that need to be harmonised.
We spoke with Ms. Stephania Lorenz, M.D., who is an eye specialist, a trained Maharishi Ayurveda doctor and a long-time member of the Board of Directors of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Ayurveda [German Ayurveda Society].
Dr. Lorenz states: “Ayurveda describes precise processes according to which eye issues are typically manifested”.
Our eyes as a reflection of the body and soul
Anyone who has looked into the glassy eyes of a feverish child or the bright eyes of a happy person knows that the eyes can tell us a lot about a person and their well-being. In conventional medicine, too, looking in the eyes is used to gather information about illnesses, even those that go far beyond the eyes.
What’s fascinating is how precisely eye problems were differentiated in traditional ayurvedic scriptures 3,500 years ago – without using the technical devices that eye doctors have access to today. The Sushruta Samhita alone identifies 64 different eye diseases and the Vaghbata Samhita even 94.
Treatment of the eyes in Maharishi Ayurveda
As customary in Ayurveda, the treatment of the eye diseases is never directed solely at the diseased organ. It is rather a matter of improving the dosha balance overall, which, besides the eyes, benefits a person’s entire health. Based on the results of ayurvedic diagnostics, the typical spectrum of ayurvedic approaches is used.
Furthermore, the ancient Vedic scriptures suggest the following, specifically for eye health:
- Caution when sunbathing
- Avoiding overworking the eyes
- No rapid temperature changes from hot to cold
- No staring at a specific spot for a long period of time
- Good night’s sleep, not sleeping during the day
Other Vedic treatments for the eyes are described in the Shalakya Tantra and the Netra Chikitsa:
- Treatments with medicinal oils or ghee
- Linen bags
- Nasal reflexology
- Panchakarma for inner cleansing
- Ayurvedic kohl
Moreover, kohl as a treatment for the eyes is found not only in Indian but also in the Arabic tradition of Egypt.
In Ayurveda, a particularly important healing plant for the eyes is the amla fruit (amalaki), which vitalises the eyes.
The amla berry regulates pitta. Since the eyes are connected to pitta, besides amalaki, other pitta-balancing means such as spice mixes are suggested to help the eyes.
From an ayurvedic point of view, a good eyecare method is ghee. In Ayurveda, it is used as an eye wash for dry eyes. Dr. Lorenz suggests to her patients with dry eyes to put one drop of warmed ghee in their eyes before going to bed. The excellent effects of this self-treatment on the eye were validated by Prof. O Schmut in a study from the University of Graz (S. Mathew, E. Kettler-Schmut, O. Schmut (2008)).
For eyes that are prone to inflammation, Dr. Lorenz suggests using rose or triphala water during the day.
Cooling, soothing compresses with Triphala water for dry, red or irritated eyes.
- Boil 1 teaspoon of Triphala powder (or 1-2 finely ground tablets of Triphala Plus) in water
- Leave the mixture overnight and filter in the morning
- Dip 2 cotton pads in the Triphala water, squeeze gently and place on both eyes for about 5 minutes.
According to the holistic understanding of Ayurveda, the described treatments never have an effect only on the eye but always on the entire person. Conversely, everything that helps the overall dosha balance in the body also benefits the eyes. Typical ayurvedic recommendations accordingly also apply for eye diseases. Dr. Lorenz puts particular emphasis on the value of yoga asanas and “Pranayama”, the yoga breathing exercises (in particular alternate nostril breathing) to balance the doshas.
Ayurvedic morning ritual for all senses
The ayurvedic morning routine is of great importance in the context of self-care. Tuned to the five senses, for Dr. Lorenz this means:
- Waking up early
- Drinking warm water
- Oral hygiene
- Cleaning the nose
- Cleaning and taking care of the eyes (put cotton wads soaked with rose water on the eyes and splash cold water on your face in the mornings (with your eyes closed))
- Taking care of the ears with sesame oil
- Bathing (if necessary with previous Abhyanga)
Here are a few more tips and exercises from our Maharishi Ayurveda Europe editorial team:
- Take a break from work at your computer at least every hour or 90 minutes. Stand up and look out the window, at nature if possible.
- Use these short breaks to refresh yourself and relax your eyes.
- Eye compresses using Pitta tea provide pleasant relief for irritated eyes. Simply let used tea bags cool and lay them on closed eyelids for a few minutes.
The following daily eye exercises are a boon:
- The “pencil exercise” to improve vision
Pick up a pencil (or use your thumb), fully extend your arm so that the pencil or your thumb are perpendicular and at eye level. Then bend your arm, slowly moving your hand toward your eyes (be careful not to touch your eyes) before slowly extending it again. Breathe calmly while you repeat this movement. Focus your gaze on the pencil or the top of your thumb the entire time. You can do this movement up to 20 times (slowly). Afterwards release your hand, close your eyes, and relax.
- Exercise for dry, tired eyes
Relax the muscles in your face, then open your eyes as wide as possible. Keeping your head still, move your eyes as far to the right as possible. Then rotate your eyes clockwise very slowly and gently, making a complete circle until you return to the right side. One circular movement should take at least five seconds. Close your eyes, relax briefly, then repeat.
Next, do the same exercise twice, this time moving your eyes counterclockwise.
You can also simply close your eyes if you prefer.
Finally, you can perform a relaxation exercise for the eyes. This exercise is also particularly beneficial for tired eyes and can be practiced separately as well.
Rub your palms against each other until you feel warmth. Close your eyes and place your palms on your eyes. Feel the warmth and relax your eyes. Bend the head towards the floor. Support the head with the hands so that the head can relax. Breathe evenly and hold this position for 10 seconds. You don't have to put your hands directly on your face if you feel uncomfortable, but you should feel the warmth of your hands. Make sure the palms cover the eyelids, not the fingers.
Combining conventional medicine and Maharishi Ayurveda, Dr. Lorenz is well equipped to holistically strengthen people with eye problems and to help them improve their view of things in every respect.
We thank Dr. Lorenz for her expert support with this article!
Stephania Lorenz, M.D.
During her medical studies in Halle-Wittenberg, Dr. Stephanie Lorenz discovered her love for complementary medicine. She then pursued her career through education in acupuncture, herbal medicine and Ayurveda. After 27 years of working in her own ophthalmic practice, she is now practises exclusively according to Maharishi Ayurveda.