Performing several head-down positions while practising yoga, and other exercises like push-ups and lifting heavy weights, may lead glaucoma patients to experience increased eye pressure, a new study has warned.
Glaucoma is a leading cause of irreversible blindness and can dramatically affect the quality of life for patients with moderate to severe visual loss. Damage to the optic nerve occurs in glaucoma patients when fluid pressure inside the eye rises. Elevated intraocular pressure (IOP) is the most common known risk factor for glaucomatous damage. For the study, researchers from the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai (NYEE) had healthy participants with no eye-related disease and glaucoma patients perform a series of inverted yoga positions, including downward facing dog, standing forward bend, plow, and legs up the wall.
They captured the IOP in each group at baseline seated, immediately assuming the pose, two minutes while holding the pose, right after they performed each pose in the seated position, and then again 10 minutes after resting in the seated position.
Both normal and glaucoma study participants showed a rise in IOP in all four yoga positions, with the greatest increase of pressure occurring during downward facing dog. When the measurements were taken after the participants returned to a seated position and again after waiting 10 minutes, the pressure in most cases remained slightly elevated from the baseline.
“While we encourage our patients to live active and healthy lifestyles, including physical exercise, certain types of activities, including push-ups and lifting heavy weights should be avoided by glaucoma patients due to the risk of increasing IOP and possibly damaging the optic nerve,” said Robert Ritch from NYEE.
“As we know that any elevated IOP is the most important known risk factor for development and progression of nerve damage to the eye, the rise in IOP after assuming the yoga poses is of concern for glaucoma patients and their treating physicians,” said Jessica Jasien from NYEE. The findings were published in the journal PLOS ONE.