Yoga has numerous benefits which include reducing stress, heart rate, blood pressure and relieving anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Physical benefits include building fitness, strength, and flexibility.
A recent study published¹, the authors studied four common yoga poses. The first two yoga exercises are head-down positions. The increase in eye pressure was significant and happened rapidly. The immediate rise was similar to that at the end of the two minute hold. Eye pressure increased from 17 to 29 and 18 to 26 respectively. The third and fourth yoga exercise also elevated the eye pressure but not as drastically. One can see that those positions would have a similar effect to that during sleep. This study looked at 10 patients with glaucoma and 10 patients without glaucoma. Thankfully, the eye pressure returned back to normal after the patients finished the pose and resumed a normal sitting position.
It is unknown whether this transient rise in eye pressure has long term deleterious effects. Most eye doctors would not be comfortable with that 8 to 12 point rise in eye pressure, even for a short duration. Patients with glaucoma are at further risk of losing sight since a rise in eye pressure is opposite the treatment goal of lowering eye pressure to minimize damage. Similar to diabetes where blood sugar levels should be lowered and kept from large fluctuations, eye pressure should also be kept low and not be rapidly raised and lowered so as not to stress the delicate nerve fibers of the eye.
We recommend annual eye exams for all ages to have your eye pressure checked as a well as full evaluation of your visual system. Please note on your health history form or let your optometrist know if you participate in yoga exercise at least once a week.
1. Jasien et al. Intraocular Pressure Rise in Subjects with and without Glaucoma during Four Common Yoga Positions. PLoS One. 2015 Dec 23;10(12):e0144505.
~Justin Kwan, OD