Headstand Inversions And Glaucoma

There has been a recent spate of eye issues in our family and that presents an opportunity to discuss a serious, negative effect of certain asanas for various eye issues. A of lack of knowledge among practitioners and teachers is a matter of some concern. Contraindications of various asanas and some pranayamas should be a vital part of yoga teacher training curriculum.

It is particularly important to be aware of inversions and their effect on intra-ocular pressure (IOP)–or eye pressure. Look at the case study of a 46-year old woman, Yoga can be dangerous–glaucomatous visual field defect worsening due to postural yoga, in The British Journal of Ophthalmology, October 10, 2007 issue. The woman had worsening glaucoma a year after starting a regular practice of headstand. The effect was reversible after she stopped practicing it. In 10 non-yoga practicing volunteers, the headstand increased IOP two-fold. The study concluded:  “Therefore postural (head‐down) yoga exercises are clearly not recommended for patients suffering from glaucoma.”

To illustrate the point,  the study has pictures of the woman’s visual field some months before starting postural yoga,  one year after starting postural yoga,  and one year after stopping it.

Another study, Progression of glaucoma associated with the Sirsasana (headstand) yoga posture by researchers from the Department of Ophthalmology, University of Texas, Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas concluded: “Transient increases in IOP associated with the yoga headstand posture may lead to progressive glaucomatous optic nerve damage and visual field loss.”

In talking to ophthalmologists and a retinologist, it is clear that they have deep concerns regarding inversions and particularly when the inversions are held for prolonged periods.

Source:

Br J Ophthalmol. 2007 October; 91(10): 1413–1414.

PMID: 17276961 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

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