Many people like to use an eye pillow for relaxation in yoga. Some have never tried one.
Pre Covid 19, I used to have a supply which I loaned those in my class during relaxation but those days have sailed and, for hygiene reasons it is wiser for people to have their own.
An eye pillow is simply a slightly weighted, softly textured, fabric pouch filled with seeds. The filling is usually buckwheat, flax or rice that is placed over the eyes and forehead forehead. The weight of the pillow exerts a gentle acupressure over the eyes and forehead supporting a sense of calm, relieving eye tension and strain and soothing anxiety. Covering the eyes in this way also shuts out the light and any visual stimuli that may otherwise distract us.
Neurologists believe that the gentle pressure of the eye pillow stimulates the vagus nerve, so signalling the whole body to let go into relaxation. Even the muscles of the face, neck and shoulders are believed to benefit. The Vagus Nerve oversees numerous bodily functions including: control of mood, digestion, heart rate, and immune response. The vagus nerve makes a connection between the brain and the gastrointestinal tract and sends information about the internal organs to the brain.
The vagus nerve responds to the light acupuncture pressure on the eyelids and sends a signal down the back of the neck to the chest and heart. From there, the message is forwarded to the nervous system or abdomen. This message is one of relaxation and pleasure. It is suggested that this neurological communication gives your whole body and mind receive permission to relax. Other claims are that there is a regulatory effect on the digestive and nervous systems.
“The vagus nerve represents the main component of the parasympathetic nervous system, which oversees a vast array of crucial bodily functions, including control of mood, immune response, digestion, and heart rate. It establishes one of the connections between the brain and the gastrointestinal tract and sends information about the state of the inner organs to the brain.” (Frontiers in Psychiatry of the NCBI 2018).
The final relaxation at the end of yoga class or your own practice, is said to be the most important element of the whole practice. We lie still in the posture Savasana (Corpse pose) - often described as the most difficult posture of all. Relaxation is an assimilation/integration time and even if it is only a few minutes long, it is of huge value. It is recommended that we do not skip this valuable part of the class.
Many people find it really hard to be still, relax and even sleep. It’s like we pride ourselves in being overly productive. We even respond in a negative way towards stillness, sometimes even equating stillness with laziness. Did you know that using an eye pillow for roughly ten minutes daily can actually help train the body, fostering a healthy attitude towards rest, reset, restore, relaxation and sleep. This can only benefit our health and longevity.
Eye pillows aren’t for everyone though. Just because you have read the above, don’t feel you must use one. Often, one of the effects is a lowering of the heart rate. If your heart rate is naturally lower than average, you may not wish to lower it further. Occasionally, people feel anxious with the eye pillow in place. A slight turn of the head and the pillow easily slides off.
So, now we know how useful an eye pillow can be when placed over the eyes and forehead but here are some further uses for this lovely piece of equipment.
Aching wrists due to keyboard work / wrist support
Achy neck, low back pain Soother/heat pack
Heating an eye pillow can be delicious and it might then be nice to use as a soothing heat pack. A warm eye pillow placed over any aching parts of your body can be soothing. Please heat the eye pillow carefully, testing the heat with hands before placing on more delicate areas of the skin/body.
Using a radiator to heat the eye pillow is particularly nice if time allows. A microwave also works but obviously check at 10 second intervals.
Let it help you sleep
Using an eye pillow in bed over the eyes as during yoga relaxation in Savasana can be a lovely way to rest. However, adding a couple of drops of essential oil onto the cover of your eye pillow helps release a nice scent into your bedroom. Pop a couple of drops of your favourite sleepy essential oil onto the eye pillow cover and place on your pillow next to you.
If you wish to explore the benefits of eye pillows in yoga or yoga therapy with me, do get in touch to book a discovery chat by phone or book yourself into a class or private 1:1 session with me. Here is a link that will take you straight to my booking page
My phone number is 07789893467