Not everyone closes their eyes during yoga, but why do some and what are the benefits?
We do a lot of “weird” stuff in yoga. This post deals with one of the most important: closing your eyes while practicing yoga. We don’t close our eyes when practicing other activities, so why here?
Maybe you have been to a yoga class, maybe not. Just like ice-cream there are a thousand and one different flavors of yoga, particularly as it has become more popular in the West.
Look on YouTube and you will find thousands of yoga videos promoting its health benefits. There truly are many health benefits to incorporating yoga as a regular practice in your life. The biggest problem yoga faces, it cannot be patented by a drug company.
Anyway before I digress down the many rabbit holes I can explore let’s get back on point with a little experiment. As with all yoga exercises, you must first open your mind to possibility, be curious, and free of judgement before this little experiment.
Picture your favorite food.
See it in front of you.
Imagine taking a bite, feel the flavors exploding in your mouth.
Feel the sensations of the food within your body. How does it taste? What’s the texture like? How does it feel against your teeth?
Are your eyes open or shut while you eat it? Did you bring imagery into play? What color is it? Are there any marks or imperfections?
Keep your eyes open.
Repeat the above experiment with your eyes open.
How do you feel? Were your eyes open in both experiments? If your eyes were closed in experiment 1, but open in experiment 2, did you notice a difference?
Repeat this little exercise with your eyes closed.
Again, did it feel different or exactly the same?
Naturally I hope you say there was a difference, that the experience with your eyes closed was more satisfying. Your sub conscious awakens with closed eyes making you feel a more fully realized sensation. This means that you can go deeper into the flavors, taste, colors, experience of digesting your delicious food when your eyes are closed.
By removing the sense of sight, your imagination is allowed to open up. When doing yoga, you can picture yourself looking beautifully aligned in your mind, and what the mind sees the body’s intelligence experiences. The cells in your body will respond to your visualization. AND you stop comparing how you look with how everybody else doing yoga looks. Our beautiful bodies are all unique and we need not compare ourselves to others. You may be able to get into one yoga asana (pose) very easily while the person who looked fabulous in the last asana struggles. Even doing yoga at home on our own, we compare how we look between one pose and the next. Closing your eyes allows you to remove this judgement. We are continuously too hard on ourselves, always judging. Closing our eyes allows you the opportunity to leave this judgement behind while on the yoga mat. With your eyes closed you are creating a much greater sense of ease in your practice.
Everybody is always offering up advice and best practices for us to follow. I am happy to listen to this advice then listen to my own human laboratory and figure out what works best for me in my body. Don’t just take my word on this being the way to go, try it out for yourself. You don’t need to do anything fancy, just a few minutes of your time.
- Sit upright in a chair with both feet flat on the ground and close your eyes
- Visualize your breath coming deep into your body, down to your belly
- Take a couple of breaths in this way.
- Close your eyes and take a few more breaths, feel your body start to relax.
- With your eyes still closed raise your right leg up keeping your knees aligned.
- Bring your focus to your outstretched leg, feel your left foot on the ground.
- Lower the right leg to the ground and repeat on the other side.
- Keep your focus on the sensations in your body as you repeat this exercise.
- Open your eyes.
How was this experience for you?
I could look at this picture and say with my judgement head, that my left leg is not at 90 degrees, my back should be off the back of the chair, blah blah blah, but instead I choose to focus on the fact that it felt great to stretch that right leg out and boy oh boy I looked and felt like a million dollars with my eyes were closed. Who cares if I could have raised it slightly higher? Judgement is not part of my yoga!
If you are self-conscious and this is taking you into uncomfortable territory start slowly with closed eyes and breathing into your belly then build up to going into poses with your eyes closed. It really doesn’t matter if you are not achieving picture perfect form. Visualizing yourself in the pose with closed eyes is very powerful for your body.
Have fun with it, always keep your sense of humor, and yoga on!
Margaret Taylor – AnyONECanYoga.com