Glaucoma and Yoga: What Is Safe?

April 15th, 2013

500 hour yoga certification programBy Faye Martins

In spite of Yoga’s many benefits, not every pose is good for every person. In the case of glaucoma, an eye condition that causes increased pressure in the eyeball and can lead to gradual loss of vision, there is no clear-cut way for instructors to know which postures are safe. Danger is greatest for untreated glaucoma; risk may be minimal when it is properly treated.

What We Need to Know about Yoga and Glaucoma

• Communication

Yoga teachers need to be familiar with glaucoma, but it is up to students to discuss their conditions with their doctors and share relevant information with instructors. Is the glaucoma under control? Has there been a recent surgical procedure? Are there other risks, such as high blood pressure, that make specific exercises risky?

• Information

Glaucoma refers to a group of eye conditions that causes progressive damage to the optic nerve and often goes unnoticed in its early stages. There is no cure, but prompt treatment helps to prevent loss of sight. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends thorough exams for anyone over 40 with follow-ups at various intervals, depending on factors like genetic predisposition and age. Doctors also suggest that African Americans get an eye exam between the ages of 20 and 39.

• Precautions

Students with glaucoma – depending on medical advice, severity, successful treatment, etc. – should use caution when doing inverted postures. According to glaucoma consultants.org, the safest rule is this: Avoid any pose that puts pressure on the neck veins. This can include both mild inversions and full inversions but may not apply to every student with a glaucoma diagnosis.

According to the same site, postures like Forward Fold and Downward Facing Dog are usually safe as long as they are part of a sequence and are held for less than one minute. If held for extended periods of time, it’s usually safe to substitute modified poses or stop after one minute.

• Breath

Remember to breathe! Proper breathing, especially during inversions, reduces pressure on the veins.

• Alternative Poses

In “Yoga Journal,” Iyengar instructor Dean Lerner suggests these poses as alternatives to inversions (with modifications, as necessary): Reclining Bound Angle; Reclining Hero; Bridge; Standing Forward Bend; Intense Spread Leg Stretch; twists and forward bends.

Conclusion

Anyone who suffers from glaucoma can benefit from Yoga; each person, however, requires individual consideration. Assuming yoga instructors are already familiar with the condition, they can only rely on the information that students give them. In the end, knowledge and good judgment are essential for both teacher and student.

(Yoga teachers may provide an additional service by reminding students, especially older ones, to get their eyes checked on a regular basis.)

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One Response to “Glaucoma and Yoga: What Is Safe?”

  1. […] cannot possibly describe all these in detail yet we will discuss those that are easy and devoid of any danger. Such Pranayamas can be executed by children, young and old quite easily. Hence the method of […]

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