Over Pressure

Green yoga mat rolled up against a wallMore presidential election year drama. Continued global violence. Still no plan for dinner. It all makes me want to hide my head under a pillow, block it out. During a problem, people need reliable ways to relieve stress. Stress can’t be brushed under the rug of consciousness. It will build and build and erupt in a flow of poor health, spewing bad attitudes.

Exercise kills stress. Walking my dogs around the block helps short-circuit unhappiness. Alternatively, when I want solitude, I turn to yoga. It’s something I’ve done for years–even though no matter how many sun salutations I perform, my hamstrings refuse to lengthen. Aside from the tight hammies, after 20 or 30 minutes of yoga poses, I feel calmer and relaxed. Peaceful.

Until I notice headlines flagging glaucoma as a contraindication for yoga. Cue increase in stress. I love yoga. I don’t do anything advanced like headstands. But advice from the American Academy of Ophthalmology said inverted poses, for example downward dog, can increase pressure in your eyes. No no no.

When eye pressure exceeds healthy levels, you risk sustaining optic nerve damage. According to the NIH, glaucoma causes pressure and hurts the optic nerve and can lead to permanent vision loss. Yikes.

Years ago, my doctor prescribed eye drops to manage my intraocular pressure (IOP) due to suspected glaucoma. The doctor tests my IOP every eye exam. I realize pressure stability is important, so I couldn’t stop worrying in the back of my mind about the possibility I might be hurting my eyes with yoga. I logged onto my online medical account to contact my eye doctor.

I can overthink things. My mind spins, searching for answers. Unless I distract myself I slow burn bothersome ideas for too long. The easy option to combat stress like this is to do activities like yoga, but apparently that might not be OK for my eye health. I’m confused.

I received a response notification. I logged into my medical site. My doctor explained he realized yoga has been part of my life for a while and I get regular IOP checks which have not indicated a dangerous pressure level. He wrote he was not recommending I stop yoga at this time. Whew.

I decided as long as I’m not dealing with something else causing sinus pressure–say a head cold or tough day of allergies–I will continue yoga unless my doctor recommends different activity in the future.

The next time I cleared floor space of obstructions and terriers, I took a deep breath and evaluated how my eyes felt. Good. As I moved through familiar poses I continued to blink and breathe regularly. The times I felt blood rush to my head, I noted it and let it go with an exhale. I wrapped up my session with a renewed calm.

At what point does a possible health risk override the well-being you receive from an activity? It depends. I’m not a medical professional. I manage my health in the best way with my personal circumstances. Consult your doctor when you’re unsure about your activities. And maybe tune out occasionally from the 24-hour news cycle. It heightens the difference between unease and balance.

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8 Comments Add yours

  1. Casee says:

    You have done your research and got a sign off from your doctor so yoga away. 🙂 I used to be so paranoid about doing further damage to my eyes until I realized I was depriving myself of things that bring me joy. I let go of some things like roller coasters and playing any games with balls flying at me. My vision and slow reflexes are a recipe for disaster. I now see my ophthalmologist regularly and take my drops as prescribed and wear eye protection. The rest is really the luck of the draw. I try not to take unnecessary risk but I want to enjoy life too.

    1. That’s the goal–managing risk while still enjoying things. Sounds like you are managing well, Casee.

  2. Sensible approach, Susa, and I’m glad you got a sensible response from your doctor. It can be difficult to find ways of tuning out so, If you have found one, it’s not something to relinquish lightly.

    1. Thanks, Bridget! I would like to know how you tune out, perhaps you will blog about it?

      1. Hmmm- it’s not easy to zone out when everything ache so I wish I’d stuck with the yoga. Keep it going. Susan. Nowadays I think I prefer to concentrate on living in the moment.

  3. I had no idea that yoga could affect eye pressure. I don’t do yoga and I have glaucoma (have to have it checked every 4 mths). I’ll have to mention this to my eye doc to get her thoughts.

    1. Our eyes are incredible things, so delicate at times and so mysterious, too.

      1. You’re right Susan. Until I began having issues I never would have thought that eye pain could bring me to my knees. When The iritis flares up It still amazes me how a little light exposure becomes agonizing.

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