Drooping Eyelids - a real health concern
I’m not sure if you’re in the same boat as me or not, but I’d never really thought about sagging eyelids until my mom had a blepharoplasty. And, she wasn’t the only one in my family to undergo that procedure within 30 days.
What the heck is a blepharoplasty?
Blepharoplasty is a term used to refer to several different eyelid surgeries, but in this post in particular, I’m using the term to talk about upper eyelid surgery due to sagging upper eyelids, a condition known as ptosis.
As we age, the skin above our eyes can start to sag. Sometimes, we opt for surgery because of cosmetic reasons, but, believe it or not, this sagging can actually cause real problems with our vision, most notably impacting our peripheral vision and sometimes forcing our eyelashes down into our field of vision obstructing our normal field of vision range.
I’d never even thought about sagging eyelids until my mom had a blepharoplasty. She underwent this procedure because her eyelids were pushing down on her eyelashes and obstructing her field of vision. Her first cousin had the same procedure performed in the same month.
I’m about 21 years younger than my mom, am pretty opposed to unnecessary surgery, and had never even considered sagging eyelids causing an actual health problem (I consider obstruction of field of vision to be a fairly significant health problem worthy of surgery – if you disagree, just imagine seeing your eyelashes ALL the time whenever you look at anything – be that your significant other or the incredible view before you) until my mom had to have a blepharoplasty.
I knew she’d been having problems with seeing eyelashes in her field of vision for months before her surgery, but I still hadn’t bothered to look in the mirror yet. Seeing her stitches and her swollen eyes following her surgery prompted me to pay attention to my own reflection.
I noticed my right eye was already showing distinct signs of eyelid sagging, so I started researching to figure out how I could reverse what I was seeing without resorting to surgery.
It turns out that exercises for your eyelids are a real thing and might even help improve eyelid sagging. And, gentle eye massage, yep, that might help too.
Here are just a few eyelid exercises I found (and like most).
Eyelid Massage Technique 1
- Place the pads of your fingers directly below your eyebrows.
- Gently lift and “wiggle” the skin left and right to stimulate circulation.
- Repeat three times.
Eyelid Massage Technique 2
- Starting at the bridge of your nose, pinch your right eyebrow lightly between your right thumb and forefinger (with your thumb towards the floor).
- Lightly rotate your hand skywards (the video demonstrates this perfectly) to lift your eyebrow.
- Continue with steps 1) and 2) as you move along the length whole length of your eyebrow.
- Repeat steps 1) through 3) on your left eyebrow with your left hand.
- Repeat on both sides three times each day.
You can find an excellent video demonstrating both these techniques here (Reference 4).
Resistance training for your eyelids (Reference 1)
Lower, Stretch, and Squeeze
How to perform:
- Look directly in front of you.
- Place each index finger parallel to your eyebrows and just under your eyebrows.
- Hold your eyebrows in place while you close your eyelids and feel a slight stretch.
- Open your eyes.
- Repeat steps 3) and 4) five times.
- Squeeze your eyes shut for six seconds.
- Stop squeezing, but keep your eyes closed for another three seconds.
- Open your eyes.
- Repeat steps 6) through 8) two more times.
See No Evil
How to perform:
- Place your hand fingers skyward, palm toward your face just below your eyebrows.
- Push the fingertips up slightly until you feel your eyebrow bones (yes, technical term) beneath your finger pads.
- Close your eyes and keep them closed for five seconds.
- Open your eyes.
- Repeat steps 3) and 4) five times.
NOTE: For a deeper stretch, squeeze your eyes shut each time you close your eyes.
Eyes wide open
How to perform:
- Raise your eyebrows as high as possible (if you want, you can place your index fingers above your eyebrows in parallel to keep your forehead from wrinkling or to increase resistance).
- Open your eyes as wide as possible and count to five.
- Lower your eyebrows and relax.
- Repeat steps 1) through 3) for 5 to 10 minutes.
Yoga for your eyelids?
Yoga is SO much more than the Asana style flow and Bikram classes we attend.
Yoga is a way of life and of course includes a holistic approach to our entire body, so it’s no surprise that there’s a whole host of yoga exercises and techniques where our eyes (and other organs) are the point of focus (not to be punny J).
We’re going to talk about a few Trataka yogic eye exercises below.
And, we’re also going to talk about the technique of palming, which is an extremely gentle version of cupping for your eyes.
Trataka yogic eye exercises
Trataka means to gaze.
There are several variations (poses) in Trataka exercise, and we’re going to start out with a step-by-step guide to perform candle gazing, then we’ll walk through some additional Trataka exercises.
For both candle gazing and Bahiranga Trataka, sit in any meditation pose you choose. Here are a couple recommended ones:
- Sukhasana: cross-legged on the floor with palms down on your knees
- Vajrasana: kneeling with palms down on your knees
For both of these positions, you can place a blanket or yoga mat beneath you.
If you find it difficult to sit on the floor in either of those positions (whether due to sciatica, pain in your knees, or just because it’s uncomfortable), that’s totally okay. Just find a straight back chair (it’s important to keep your back straight throughout these exercises), place your feet on the floor, and palms down on your knees.
Candle Gaze (Trataka)
- Sit in front of a candle that’s about arm’s length away from you with the wick at the same height as your chest (you in meditation pose on the floor with the candle in front of you on a coffee table generally works).
Placement of the candle is important because we can create eye strain if the candle is placed too high.
- The candle flame should be still (no draft).
- Close your eyes and repeat your mantra (if you are looking for one, try JUST ONE of these:
- I am enough
- I am centered
- I am grounded
- I am strong
- I am present in this moment
- Open your eyes and look at the flame.
- Concentrate on the part of the flame where it is at its brightest.
- Close your eyes again. If the image of the flame appears with your eyes closed, gently concentrate on that image.
- Repeat steps 3) through 7) three times.
Initially, you’ll look at the flame for only about 10 to 15 seconds. As you continue to practice, increase the amount of time you look at the flame until you look at it for up to 1 minute and then concentrate on the image with your eyes closed for 4 minutes. It is not recommended to exceed these time limits.
You can practice candle gazing daily for between 2-5 minutes depending on your comfort level and available time.
If you feel the need to blink, just blink. No judgment and no discomfort here.
Modifications: If you are not able to keep the candle flame still, you can practice Trataka by focusing on a single white point on a black piece of paper or on a single black point on a white piece of paper. If you opt for paper over a candle, you will likely see inverse colors in your imagery, and this is totally normal.
What does candle gazing do? It “purifies” the eyes, strengthens the eye muscles, and improves intuition and willpower. It is purported to help us further develop our visualization abilities. It’s not just for those of us interested in lifting our droopy eyelids either. This technique is recommended for anybody who has trouble concentrating regardless of age (Reference 5 and Reference 6).
One health note here: If you have glaucoma or are extremely myopic (near sighted and not wearing corrective lenses), candle gazing is contra-indicated.
Okay, a second health note here: Candle gazing is also contraindicated if you’re schizophrenic, suffer from hallucinations, or have other psychic disorders.
Bahiranga trataka targets the muscles responsible for eye movement. In this series, we’re not just targeting the levator palpebrae superior (the muscle responsible for lifting our eyelids), we’re targeting a wide number of muscles around our eye, and this series can help strengthen all of those muscles.
Even though you’re directed not to blink when your gaze is resting away from your center point, just remember to be kind to your eyes and take the time to blink as much and as often as needed at the center point.
Like all yoga, this series focuses on slow, controlled, mindful movements throughout, and we really want to avoid sudden eye movements when redirecting our gaze at each step.
And, remember to breathe throughout.
I’ve added a few cues in the list below to remind you of this, and (just because I need every reminder I can get not to hold my breath), I’m putting that vital piece of information up front here too before we get started with the steps of Bahiranga Trataka.
- Sit in any meditative pose you choose.
- Be mindful of your posture (head straight above a straight back).
- Gaze ahead at one point at the center of your field of vision.
- Without moving your head, move your eyes towards your right shoulder in a slow, controlled, and continuous movement.
- Allow your gaze to rest on your right shoulder for a few seconds without blinking.
- Slowly return your gaze to your center point and continue moving your focus to your left shoulder.
- Allow your gaze to rest on your left shoulder for a few seconds before returning your focus to the center.
- Allow just your eyes to travel upwards towards the ceiling (or the sky) and hold for a few seconds without blinking (remember to breathe).
- Control your eyes return to center and continue to move your focus down to the earth beneath you (being mindful not to move your head).
- Allow your focus to rest here for just a few seconds and then return to center.
- Focus both eyes on the tip of your nose.
- Gaze at the tip of your nose for a few seconds and then close your eyes for a brief reprieve.
- Open your eyes again and gaze once more at that center point.
- Allow your eyes to travel to peer at your third eye (yes, I know that’s not possible, but allow your eyes to focus on that space between your eyebrows).
- Maintain your gaze towards your third eye for a few seconds and note how this feels in your head (and in your body).
- Close your eyes again and breathe.
- Open your eyes and gaze at your center point.
- Rotate both eyes in a full circle clockwise and then rotate both eyes in a full circle counter-clockwise controlling the full rotation in each direction and returning to your center point between rotations.
- Gaze ahead again and try to look as far as you can left and right simultaneously while maintaining your focus on your center point (we’re exercising our peripheral vision on this step).
- Now look into the distance far past your center point and close your eyes.
- Open those beautiful eyes of yours and blink a few times.
- Open them as wide as possible and then squeeze them tightly shut.
I know this is a pretty extensive exercise series, but it doesn’t take long to perform. It’s recommended to practice 1 to 2 rounds of all these steps pausing at the end of each round to palm your eyes.
If you’ve done this a few times and just need a quick reference on the flow, here it is:
Center > Right Shoulder > Center > Left Shoulder > Center > Sky > Center > Earth > Center > Nose > Center > Third Eye > Center > Close your eyes > Open your eyes > Center > Full Rotation Clockwise > Full Rotation Counterclockwise > Expand your peripheral vision > Gaze into the distance
You may see palming referred to as cupping, but cupping is SUCH an incredibly intense practice that we’re going to refer to it as palming here. This practice helps relax our eyes after eye exercises and after candle gazing. It’s also common to palm the eyes after meditation before you open your eyes.
- Your eyes should be closed.
- Warm your palms by rubbing your hands together.
- Place your palms so that they rest on your eyebrow ridge (highly technical term) and your cheekbones (your palms won’t actually touch your eyelids, they are suspended away from your eyelids by these two bones). Your palms are effectively shielding or cupping your eyes in this step.
- Hold your palms in place for 5-10 seconds.
- Remove your palms from your face and open your eyes (you can also repeat steps 1) through 4) if you’d like, just lift your palms for 5-10 seconds and then repeat just once if you’d like).
If you want to read more about yoga techniques for supporting your vision, I really encourage you to read Yoga Journal’s Insight for Sore Eyes.
Reference 4. https://youtu.be/U2-1NBCwQT0
Reference 6. https://theyogainstitute.org/trataka-yogic-eye-care/
About the Author
Brandy Searcy is an outdoor girl who loves hiking, gardening, bird-watching, and body boarding. Her innate curiosity means she's constantly researching something, and she's likely sharing what she's learned here on the blog.
Nearly obsessive about her skincare, she started developing products to pack with her on day hikes and soon realized her backpacking friends were searching for a portable skincare routine as well, and that's how Rain Organica started.
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