Break Up with Stress – Part One – Soften Your Eyes
Did you know that your body responds to stress involuntarily by tensing your muscles?
Over time tightness builds up, restricts your movement, and causes you not to feel free in your body. Holding on to that stress around for a while starts to wear on your nervous system. It’a a heavy load for your body-mind to carry around. It affects your breathing pattern, your mind’s ability to focus, and your ability to sleep soundly. All these things inhibit your health and well-being.
The good news is that you can teach your body to unwelcome stress from sticking.
Welcome to my four part series, “Break Up With Stress.” Each week I will share techniques you can use to discard stress and improve your health and well-being.
This newsletter series leads up to my annual Summer Solstice workshop, Dynamic Rejuvenation. Join me for a practice of active restorative poses on Sunday, June 18. Here you will learn how to slow down, unwind stress, and relax deeply.
But for now, try this…
Break Up With Stress, Week One, Trataka:
Your eyes are one of the most complex organs in your body and arguably the most powerful of the sense organs. In addition, they have a direct connection with your brain. Because your mind is often busy there are micro-movements in the eyes. Erratic eye movements limit the ability to focus. This can increase the feeling of stress and overwhelm and turn on your fight or flight response.
1. over half of your brain is dedicated to vision and seeing.
2. 80% of the sensory data you process is taken in through your vision.
Western medical science shows that your mental health and well-being, your eye movements, and your breathing patterns are all connected. That means you can work with your eyes to influence your mind. When you still your eyes, you still your mind.
Yogic texts that compile the practices of Hatha Yoga, such as the Hatha Yoga Pradipika and the Gheranda Samhita, instruct a concentration/meditation practice called Trataka. This practice involves gazing at an external point to induce a quieting of the mind.
A candle flame is the most common item to gaze at but you can also use an image such as a yantra, a blank wall, or even a black dot.
Most of the research on this is anecdotal. But here are some of the proclaimed benefits: improved concentration and memory, clears and calms the mind, soothes the cranial nerves, balances the right and left brain hemispheres, strengthens the eyes, and improves eye sight. Personally, I find this practice helps to get my mind off something that is agitating me. And it is calming and deeply relaxing.
Here’s how you do it: First choose your point of focus. Gaze on the point for 1-3 minutes. Your eyes will get tired and may even tear up. If this happens close your eyes and let them rest then do another round. Practice for up to 10 minutes then rinse your eyes with cool water.
Over time this practice this becomes internal and you no longer need to use an external object. Instead you will be able to stare at the void within.
A few important tips: Make sure the object is directly in front of you at eye level, don’t strain, blink when you need to, relax your eyes as much as possible, practice in a dimly lit or dark room – especially if you are using a candle flame.
Let me know how this practice goes for you and watch your inbox next Tuesday for another tip on how to break up with stress.
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Stacey Rosenberg, E-RYT 500, YACEP, C-IAYT / Namastacey Yoga, LLC
Local and private yoga classes, workshops, + teacher training in San Francisco.