yoga certificationBy Faye Martins

After you become a yoga instructor, you come to the realization that some of your students should have their doctor’s permission before attending a class. Let’s face it, we constantly give warnings to students just like we were taught to in our 200-hour yoga teacher training courses, but do we understand every ailment and why we give the precautions? With that said, let’s review one of the most common eye problems and why students need to talk to their doctors.

Glaucoma is a diverse disease affecting the eyes. There are several different types of glaucoma, characterized by increased pressure within the eye and causing loss of peripheral vision or damage to the optic nerve. In extreme cases, glaucoma can lead to blindness. Those suffering from glaucoma have treatment options including laser surgery, traditional surgery or medication. 

Depending on the severity of the disease, some patients might find relief from this pressure by performing inverted poses. Contrarily, some inversions should be avoided altogether for glaucoma patients because the added pressure on the eyes can cause further damage. If you have been diagnosed with glaucoma, it is important to speak with your doctor about what yoga poses would be beneficial and which poses to avoid. If you are a yoga instructor teaching a student with glaucoma you should exercise the utmost caution. 

Yoga instructors should recommend a few easy adjustments for glaucoma patients while the rest of the class performs inversions. Glaucoma patients can use bolsters or a chair to rest the upper body on during forward bends or wide-legged forward bends. Students can also substitute reclining hero pose, reclining bound angle pose or bridge pose while the rest of the class performs inversions. Encourage these types of students to transition in and out of poses slowly and be sure to take deep breaths as they come in or out of the pose. Warn them to never hold their breath during transitions.

There is some debate over whether practicing mild inversions can be helpful or harmful for glaucoma patients. However, if one chooses to practice mild inversions it should be done under the watchful eye of a knowledgeable yoga instructor with the complete approval of the patient’s doctor. In this case glaucoma patients could go slowly into mild inversions like Downward Dog.  This sounds pretty radical and I don’t want my students to practice inversions at all. 

Whether you are a yoga teacher or a student, if you are experiencing doubt as to whether a posture is suitable, you should always exercise on the side of caution by not performing the asana. If you are a glaucoma patient and you experience pain during an asana, you should always come out of it immediately. The side effects of added pressure on the eye can have serious consequences.

© Copyright 2012 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division


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